Three senior officials from the British High Commission were flushed out of a hotel in Eldoret where they were scheduled to hold a day-long meeting with several civil society organisations from North Rift region. Second Secretary in Charge of Political Affairs Tom Howe, Director of Political Affairs C Sugden and another officer only identified as Nancy, were kicked out of Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret town, the venue of the aborted meeting, after the county Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno accused them of violating diplomatic protocol.
Mr Chemno who stormed the meeting at around 11.30 am when introductions were ongoing, hit out at the officials to the consternation of participants, claiming that the county government was not informed about the forum. “I have just come to register my displeasure to you the officials from the UK High Commission. How can you come here without having the courtesy of notifying the county government of your presence and purpose of your visit as diplomatic protocol demands. It is wrong.
The deputy governor told them the meeting was secretive noting that such forums should not take place at this time when the issue they were discussing at the meeting was being discussed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with state parties. Earlier on, a team of plain clothes police officers had camped at the hotel after local leaders raised concern over the presence of the British High Commission officials. Some officials claimed they were on a mission to collect new evidence and recruit additional witnesses to testify against the Kenyan leaders facing crimes against humanity charges at the ICC. There was commotion and tension in the hall where the officials and participants were set to hold the meeting forcing the organisers to kick out journalists who had come to cover the event. Wesley Chirichir, the coordinator of Kenya Sports Foundation told the journalists to leave the venue saying their presence was not needed as the meeting was a closed door consultative forum. “We kindly request you not to take any photos or notes as this meeting is purely closed door and therefore your presence is not welcome for now,” stressed Mr Chirchir. Chemno accused the British government of undermining the county government and their leadership terming its action as unwarranted and vowing to notify President Uhuru Kenyatta of the matter.
The deputy governor said the whole issue was done secretively arousing suspicions among the local leadership about the British High Commission’s top officials’ tour of the county. But reacting to Chemno’s accusations, one of the officials, Mr Howe, said that their mission should not arise any suspicion as they had come to have a peaceful forum with various civil society groups drawn from the region. He said before they came to Eldoret, they had tried to contact the Governor over their mission with no success. “We have been trying to get in touch with the Governor for the last two weeks but our efforts did not bear any fruits. We even texted him but he never replied to our inquiries,” said Tom.
Howe asked the local leadership not to harbour any suspicion over their mission in the county noting that they had come to meet with civil society organizations and elders from various communities on matters of peace and reconciliation. Speaking to the Press later, one of the conveners of the aborted meeting Simon Kipkosgey, the coordinator of Kenya Sports Foundation and Stephen Cheboi, the chairman of the North Rift Human Rights Organisation, said they were working with the British to develop sports as a means to enhance peace and unity among local communities. “We were looking for partnership with the British government that could see our youth take part in mini Commonwealth Games as part of the wider campaign to promote peaceful co-existence among communities,” stated Chirchir.