On June 12, Kenya will commemorate World Anti-Counterfeit Day, an opportunity for countries around the world to recognize the economic benefits of strong intellectual property protection, especially anti-counterfeit enforcement, and the significant global progress made towards ensuring that ideas, creative products, and innovations enjoy their full value. This is also an opportunity to celebrate the successes of Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA), which is working closely with the Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Intellectual Property Institute, and Kenya Copyright Board, among others, to protect Kenyans from dangerous counterfeit products and safeguard intellectual property.
Much work remains to be done, however, and it is time for Kenya to join the world in boldly addressing its deficiencies in intellectual property protection. All of us in Kenya come into contact with potentially harmful counterfeit products on a daily basis. These counterfeits damage the health and welfare of Kenyan consumers, undercut Kenya’s economy, and support criminal activities both in Kenya and on a global scale. As long as counterfeit goods flood the Kenyan market, both domestic and foreign investors will hesitate before opening or expanding their businesses, leading to slower growth and fewer jobs for Kenyans. Innovation is at the heart of modern economic growth, and strong intellectual property protection provides an environment in which innovators can do their work without fear that their ideas will be stolen. Intellectual property protection is as important a component of national economic infrastructure as are roads, telephones, and banks.
Over the last year, the US Embassy has partnered with the ACA on outreach efforts around the country. With ACA and the “Fagia Bandia” (“Sweep Away the Fakes”) campaign, we are raising consumer awareness of the health and safety dangers of counterfeit products and improving anti-counterfeit enforcement. We are doing this because we and the Government of Kenya have a shared goal: a strong Kenyan economy that provides jobs and opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. Major US companies are supporting this goal by setting up and expanding operations here. But, we could attract more American firms if they knew their brands and investment in intellectual capital would be fully protected in Kenya. Strong intellectual property enforcement must exist before there will be significant technology transfer to Kenya by US businesses in leading-edge industries.
Combating this dark trade is a crucial piece in unlocking this country’s tremendous economic potential. In addition to adequate funding and political support for the ACA’s efforts, real progress against counterfeiting, like many other key issues, will require a serious effort to address endemic corruption, which continues to undermine economic development and good governance from the lowest to the highest echelons of the Kenyan government.
This is a major transition period for Kenya. If ordinary Kenyans and Kenyan leaders put country first, carry out peaceful, free, and fair elections, and take serious steps to address corruption and related criminal activities like counterfeiting and illicit trade, then this country’s potential is virtually limitless.
We are ready to be a partner, but Kenya needs to take the lead. Let’s work together this coming year to build a peaceful and prosperous Kenya.
The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is celebrated every May 17th. On that day in 1990, homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization. This victory of the lesbian-gay-bisexual and transgender (LGBT) cause was a historic step towards considering freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity a fundamental basic human right.
A little background…
May 17, 2005: As a result of a year-long campaign, 24,000 people worldwide and international organizations including International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the World Congress of LGBT Jews, the coalition of African Lesbians, signed and recognized IDAHO. That month the first ever LGBT events were organized in Congo, China and Bulgaria. Josepp Borrell, President of the European Parliament, made a statement supporting IDAHO.
A new campaign was also initiated calling for a universal decriminalization of homosexuality. By May 17, 2006 it had attracted support from several Nobel Prize winners including Desmond Tutu, Amartya Sen, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo, and José Saramago, artists including Meryl Streep, Cindy Lauper, Elton John, and David Bowie, intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, and Bernard-Henri Lévy, as well as the International Federation of Human Rights.
In 2006, the IDAHO Committee and GayRussia co-organized the first GayPride celebration in Moscow, preceded by an International IDAHO conference that brought together many activists, organizations and politicians from around Europe and North America. In July of that year, thanks to the efforts of Foundation Emergence, the Montreal Conference on LGBT Human Rights was organized and included in its Declaration of Montreal a strong recommendation to ALL governments to recognize May 17th as the International Day Against Homophobia.
Homophobia, intolerance for the rights of individuals, and any form of attack against others, physical or verbal, is a form of abuse. All hate speech against an individual based on race, religion, sexual orientation, age, or ethnic roots has no place in our world in the 21st century.
Malaria has afflicted people for centuries, detrimentally affecting not only health, but also impeding educational achievement, worker productivity, and long-term economic development.
It was estimated in 2007 that globally, malaria kills nearly a million people each year, with most of these deaths occurring in Africa in children under the age of five. The disease places a heavy burden on individual families and national health systems. Because most malaria transmission occurs in rural areas, the greatest burden of the disease usually falls on low income families with limited access to health care. The cost to the continent in lost productivity is nearly Ksh996 billion (US$12 billion) a year.
As we observe World Malaria Day on April 25, it is encouraging to note that substantial progress has been made in delivering malaria prevention tools and providing treatment to those with malaria. Progress against malaria is one of development community’s most impressive stories. Partnerships with host country governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many others make this possible. The U.S. Government also has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease.
In this respect, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) aims to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 19 target countries, including Kenya, by 2014 through four proven malaria prevention and treatment measures: insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs); indoor residual spraying (IRS); appropriate diagnosis and treatment of malaria with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACTs); and prevention and treatment of malaria among pregnant women.
In Kenya, the United States (through PMI) has supported the Kenya government’s fight against malaria since 2008 investing over Ksh6.6 billion (US$80 million). PMI has purchased and distributed more than three million insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to pregnant women and children. Recently, the U.S. Government and its partners supported the mass distribution of nets to people living in the districts most affected by malaria as part of the Kenya Government’s policy of universal coverage—one net for every two people. An estimated six million people have also been protected from malaria through indoor residual spraying and over 12,000 local personnel have been trained to conduct and oversee these spraying activities.
Investing in malaria control is particularly powerful because malaria accounts for such a high proportion of outpatient visits and hospital admissions in children under the age of five—30 to 40 percent in most African countries—and the impact of malaria prevention efforts is evident in homes and clinics.
Effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria is critical in the control of the disease. By the end of 2012, PMI will have procured about two million Rapid Diagnostic Kits to support malaria diagnosis in low-risk and epidemic-prone districts of Kenya. In addition, PMI will buy and distribute over 20 million treatment doses of Artemether-Lumefantrine (AL), the first-line treatment for malaria in Kenya.
In spite of this progress, malaria prevention and control remains a matter of urgent public health for the world, especially in Africa. Removing malaria as a major public health threat is a key part of the U.S. government’s Global Health Initiative and the collective effort to end preventable child deaths.
The United States remains committed in its support to the government of Kenya’s goal of providing appropriate prevention and treatment to at least 80 percent of those at risk of malaria by 2017. As we observe World Malaria Day in 2012, we strongly believe that together it is possible to eliminate malaria. Pamoja tuendelee kuangamiza malaria!
Secretary Clinton has noted that “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.” These words have particular relevance as we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world and as we continue to make strides for a better future for women and girls.
In December, President Obama released the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, charting a roadmap for how the United States will accelerate and institutionalize efforts across the government to advance women’s participation in preventing conflict and keeping peace. This initiative represents a fundamental change in how the U.S. will approach its diplomatic, military, and development-based support to women in areas of conflict, by ensuring that their perspectives and considerations of gender are woven into the fabric of how the United States approaches peace processes, conflict prevention, the protection of civilians, and humanitarian assistance.
International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to renew the call for action, investment, and commitment to women’s equality. We are at a moment of historic opportunity. Secretary Clinton has referred to this era as “the Participation Age.” This is a time where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their society.
Around the world, we are witnessing examples of the Participation Age. In Kenya, strong women participate in important ways. Kenyan women sit in Parliament, head companies and NGOs, and are active in public service. They are educators and administrators, doctors and nurses, journalists, entertainers, and hold their place proudly among the world’s elite athletes.
Many Kenyan women inspire me to believe that women are the future. I look at Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist who woke the world to the importance of ecological preservation. I look at Woman of Courage award winner Ann Njogu, Executive Director of Centre for Rights Education and Awareness and human rights activist of extraordinary bravery. I look at Susan Mboya, a top executive of Coca-Cola who also runs an NGO to help Kenyan girls get a university education in the U.S. I look at Vivian Cheruiyot, an extraordinary athlete who consistently reminds the world that some of the best athletes are not only Kenyan, but are also women.
I have had the honor to meet Kenya’s new generation of women who are saving lives and making a strong impact on their communities. Wamaitha Mwangi is only 28 years old and has dedicated her life to Kenya’s most vulnerable citizens. Wamaitha founded the Angel Centre for Abandoned Children, to give babies love, affection, medical care, good nutrition, and a place to call home until they find long term families. Alice Odera is the Director of Beauty Logic and the First Impressions In-School program to give young girls guidance on the importance of image, personal branding, grooming and career choices. Alice is also championing the Decade of Action Road Safety Campaign. Catherine (Sonnie) Gitonga is the Founder and CEO of Scars To Stars Foundation, giving hope by counseling, providing school fees, and motivating young adult orphans to achieve their dreams.
Women are a cornerstone of America’s foreign policy because the simple fact is that no country can hope to move ahead if it is leaving half of its people behind. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone—the world over. As we honor them today, let us renew our resolve to work for the cause of equality each and every day of the year.
February 28, 2008 is a notable date in Kenyan history. It was on this day that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga pulled the country back from the downward spiral of violence that had consumed the country after the marred elections of December 2007. A power-sharing agreement was reached, establishing a coalition government and ending the bitter disagreement over election results between the PNU and ODM. This critical agreement brought to a close a very dark chapter in Kenyan history, the post-election violence that took the lives of some 1,300 Kenyans and internally displaced an estimated 300,000 others.
The 2008 accord set in motion events that resulted in a successful constitutional referendum and the promulgation of the constitution in 2010. Now, Kenya has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda, with some 35 new laws enacted, and more to come. This has also set new precedents for public participation in the legislative process. Kenyans have spoken clearly—they want a peaceful reform process.
Recently, Kenya has been the focus of international attention as a new election date approaches. It is of vital importance for the prosperity and well-being of this nation that Kenya now demonstrates that the peace-loving people of this country are dedicated to building a bright future for coming generations. To that end, I urge those in power to set an election date to allow the process to move forward.
“United in Support for Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting”
February 6, 2012
By Chargé d’Affaires Lee Brudvig
This week, the U.S. government stands in solidarity with people around the world and here in Kenya who are observing the ninth annual International Zero Tolerance Day to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). Zero Tolerance Day fosters awareness of the harmful effects of female genital mutilation/cutting and renews the call for communities to abandon this inhumane practice. It is estimated that 100 to 140 million women around the world have undergone this procedure, and three million girls in Africa, including many in Kenya, are at risk every year. In the United States, the procedure also takes place among some immigrant communities, and we have worked with health and legal professionals to sensitize practitioners about the negative consequences of FGM/C.
FGM/C refers to a procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. It is a practice that occurs across cultures and religions, although in fact no religion mandates the procedure. The practice is often performed employing no anesthesia and often using such instruments as broken glass, tin lids, scissors, unsterilized razors or surgical blades. In Kenya, while surgeons still hold sway, they are increasingly joined by traditional birth attendants, especially in cases where a woman needs to be cut during birth. Some medical personnel also perform the procedure, often motivated by relatively high fees paid for the operation. In addition to causing intense pain and psychological trauma, FGM/C carries with it severe short and long-term health risks, including hemorrhaging, infection, increased risk of HIV transmission, birth complications, and even death.
FGM/C is a practice deeply rooted in beliefs about women’s sexuality, and involves a rite of passage into adulthood that has extremely negative consequences on the health and overall mental well-being of women and girls around the world. It is a practice that hinders women’s access to equality and violates the rights and dignity of women and girls. Some people still defend this practice as part of a cultural or religious tradition. But as U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reiterated, violence toward women and girls is not cultural. It is criminal.
Around the world, community-based approaches involving women and men, girls and boys, religious leaders, and all members of society are proving to be the only lasting solutions. In fact, community advocates have found that when men come to understand the physical and psychological trauma of FGM/C, they often become the most effective activists for eradication, including fathers who unequivocally refuse to allow their daughters to be subjected to the procedure.
Communities must act collectively to abandon the practice, so that girls and their families who opt out do not become social outcasts. Communities working together to abandon FGM/C can ensure stronger, healthier futures for girls, young women, and their families.
Last year, Kenya enacted the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, which provides for up to seven years in jail or a fine of 500,000 Kenya shillings ($5,882) for anyone who commits FGM. As part of our commitment to help Kenya end this harmful practice, the U.S. government is partnering with Kenyan community-based organizations that focus on addressing sexual and gender based violence, including FGM/C, through integrated services. The U.S. Agency for International Development is helping train circumcisers and traditional birth attendants on the negative effects of FGM and its relation to HIV/AIDS, incorporating anti-FGM topics as a key issue of discussion in community radio messages and in all life skills trainings, and working with religious leaders to disseminate anti-FGM messages to communities through mosques and other social forums in Marsabit Central, Garba Tula, Isiolo and Merti Districts.
The U.S. government is proud to support women and men around the world who denounce this harmful practice and seek to abolish it. It is exciting to see communities here in Kenya and around the world standing up together against FGM/C to overturn deeply entrenched social norms that are not only harmful to women and girls, but also to our communities and societies. We all have an obligation to work together for the equality, well-being, and prosperity of Kenyan citizens of all tribes, ethnic groups, religions, and of both sexes – male and female.
By Ambassador Jonathan S. Gration, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret)
Sunday, January 15, marked the 83rd anniversary of the birth of American clergyman and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia. Each year, Americans honor Dr. King with a federal holiday on the third Monday of January and invite the people of the world to join us in celebrating his legacy.
Martin Luther King, Jr., embodied the quest for justice for oppressed people by using peaceful means for peaceful ends. He became famous for his contributions to the civil rights movement in the United States, but his impact and legacy extend around the world and have influenced subsequent non-violent movements from Tibet to Wall Street.
It was his non-violent actions that continue to inspire us today. Dr. King possessed remarkable courage to face dangerous adversaries without a knife or gun, bear death threats against his wife and children without threatening others, even face prison and insults without striking a blow. He never stopped fighting for justice, but he also never abandoned his commitment to the principles of non-violence.
Dr. King also acted with urgency, imagination, and persistence to achieve his admirable goals. He did not wait for others to act first or for unjust laws to change: he and many of his generation risked their lives to organize boycotts and marches which, over time, caused attitudes and laws to change. In his famous “I have a dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr. King talked about the “fierce urgency of now” to achieve democracy, justice, and racial equality. If he were in Kenya today, he would enthusiastically support the democratic reform process and call on Kenyans to “urgently” put aside negative ethnicity and come together as one people to achieve a common destiny of justice and peace.
While Dr. King lived most of his life in the American South, his struggle transcended America’s shores. He recognized a connection binding all non-violent human rights movements in what he called our “world-wide neighborhood.” His struggle against specific unjust laws in the United States was based on a fierce opposition to civil rights violations in general, and he took responsibility for speaking out against injustices wherever he saw them.
Dr. King had this world view because he believed all life is inter-related. He said: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” Dr. King believed that the destiny of one person—an Indian, a Russian, a Kenyan—was linked to his own destiny, and that the destiny of any one country was inextricably tied to the destiny of the United States.
We are all even more inter-related in the age of the Internet and instant communication. That is why the United States is working with Kenya to support this country’s efforts to achieve its destiny. We firmly believe this can be a nation where good governance and justice prevail, a nation where corruption and violence have no place, a nation with an educated population with good jobs. Only then can the United States realize its own destiny—a safer and more prosperous nation, interacting with Kenya—a proud nation that shares in this security and prosperity.
If Dr. King were alive today, he would join us in unwavering condemnation of militants and terrorists who, out of frustration with their current condition, resort to violence. He would join us in support of basic human rights for everyone, including the right to free speech and the right to assembly. He would defend these rights for everyone regardless of gender, religion, nationality, tribal affiliation, or sexual orientation, to deny belligerent citizens an excuse to incite violence against others. He would reiterate that “non-violence is more than the absence of violence,” and reinforce the notion that conscientious, persistent work towards peace is the only way to defeat violence and war permanently.
We celebrate Dr. King’s legacy every January because the lessons that we learned from him are universal and timeless. Yes, we still confront poverty and injustice in this world, and we still use violence too often to resolve our grievances. However, as we remember him, let us actively support the ideals for which he stood and died, and apply them to our lives and our world today.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Professor Wangari Maathai. She was known to the world as a recipient of the Nobel Prize. She was known to Africa as a leader, educator, environmentalist, and mother. To many Americans, she was a role model and colleague. I am honored to have called her a friend.
We celebrate the life and the extraordinary contributions of Professor Maathai because she made a decisive difference in the lives of so many. She worked tirelessly — to the very end of her life — to overcome poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation by empowering and mobilizing marginalized members of society, especially women.
Professor Maathai studied in the United States in her youth, and retained close ties with many Americans. She was a frequent visitor to the United States and engaged extensively with our leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
Her legacy is a solid foundation for others to build upon throughout the world.
I extend my condolences to the family of Professor Maathai during this difficult time.
Ambassador Jonathan S. Gration, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret)
I am delighted to be in Nairobi and to take up this post as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya. Kenya is really a second home to me, and my wife Judy, and we are very pleased to have come full circle, to be able to live in the country where we both grew up. I first came to Kenya in the early 1950s, and I’m grateful that I grew up in an environment where my first friends were Africans, my first language was Swahili, and my first foods were those that were cooked on an open fire. For me, growing up in Africa was a blessing that has helped me throughout my life to be able to see the common bonds and linkages that are created when people understand each other’s cultures and the strength that comes from differences and diversity. My early background in Africa has given me a world view that I’m deeply grateful for.
The United States has had a deep and strong relationship with Kenya and Kenyans, and we believe that Kenya is a regional engine for development. It is my goal to forge a partnership with Kenya with a shared vision for the future. In doing so, we will not focus on one issue, but rather, we will seek a comprehensive understanding of what Kenya is trying to accomplish, both domestically and internationally, and how we can be partners in making that happen. Although reform is at the top of the agenda, we know there are many important issues, such as helping Kenya bring social services to its people, achieving full access for education, health care, and the benefits of infrastructure development. And we want to help Kenya with security issues, so that Kenyans are safe from harm by terrorist acts and so that Kenya can secure its borders. All these things we want to do arm-in-arm with Kenyan leadership and the Kenyan people, so that our work together represents partnership and the joint commitment we both have to making Kenya a strong nation.
I bring several strengths to my role as Ambassador. I have a military background, so I understand security. I am very familiar with Kenya’s security issues, dating from the time I flew with the Kenyan air force. I also bring a background in diplomacy. I was the head of the Air Force’s International Affairs Office. When I was in Europe, I was responsible for plans and policy for 93 different countries in Europe, Eurasia, and Africa. I most recently served as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan. I’ve had a great deal of diplomatic experience as well as experience in the political world, both in the United States and internationally. So I believe that diplomacy is one of the keys to building our partnership with the Kenyan government and people.
I was also the chief executive officer for a humanitarian organization aimed at eliminating extreme poverty. In addition to that, I worked with the safe water network, trying to save lives by providing access to potable water. So I understand the role development plays in strengthening the nation. I understand that development initiatives need to be affordable, sustainable, and scalable. I understand that it is only when development projects focus on what people need and want that they become integrated into society. So I have a background in defense, diplomacy and development, and combined with the strengths of our government and our Embassy, along with Kenya’s priorities, I know that this partnership will bring our relationship along in a very positive, strong and effective way.
As I engage with the Kenyan public, you will see similar themes as those of my predecessor, Ambassador Ranneberger, because the policies we are implementing are not his or mine; they are the policies of the U.S. government. In implementing these policies, I will emphasize partnership between America and Kenya and the priority I place on working together as equal partners. I am a guest in your country, and I will act as a good guest should, and I know that Kenya and Kenyans will be good hosts. As we work together and build trust in each other, I know that we will have an extremely strong partnership that will greatly benefit both of our great countries.
On May 3, 2011, we marked the 18th observance of World Press Freedom Day. And this year, there is much to celebrate. Thanks to new forums for public opinion, such as the internet and social media, voices have been heard in countries across North African, and repressive regimes are crumbling. It is as if Thomas Jefferson’s words from 1823 are echoing throughout the world, “The formidable censure of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise have been done by revolution.”
A fundamental axiom of democracy is that citizens must have information and knowledge. People must be informed if they are to play an active role in the life of their country. Free and responsible media are critical sources of information for citizens who want to choose the best leaders for their country and make sound decisions about the issues in their nation and in their communities.
The information the media provide is just as critical for intelligent economic and personal decisions as for good political choices. There is a strong relationship between open media and free and effective economies. In fact, recent studies conducted by the World Bank have shown that free media are essential for successful economic progress in developing countries.
The Human Rights Report on Kenya, released on April 7, says the following, “The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but [in 2010] the government sometimes restricted these rights. Unlike the previous year, there were no reports that security forces killed members of the media. However, during the year security forces harassed members of the media, and journalists practiced self-censorship.” What Kenya needs to support the reform agenda is a free and professional press corps that can work unhindered by harassment to bring necessary information to the Kenyan people.
The failure of the Kenyan media to report accurately and responsibly both before and after the election often had less to do with malicious intent than with lack of experience and training on how to report on conflict. Vernacular radio stations in particular, often identified as being most at fault, are often staffed by highly motivated but untrained volunteers. “Reporting for Peace” and “Land and Conflict Sensitive Journalism” are USAID projects to train journalists to create a more professional Kenyan media.
The Nairobi Media Resource Center, a place where journalists can come to access equipment, mentorship, information, and apply for travel grants, was established through USAID-support. Following its success, another center was opened in Eldoret in the Rift Valley. This area experienced horrific ethnic violence during the post-election period. The area remains one of the most vulnerable to violence and ethnic tension in Kenya. The U.S. Embassy is focusing on training local journalists in conflict sensitive reporting. The Eldoret Media Resource Center better equips local journalists to produce stronger and more balanced stories.
It has long been the policy of the U.S. government to support the development of open and responsible media abroad and to assist in building the infrastructure needed for a free press to operate—legislative infrastructure, financial independence, transparency in government, and journalists trained in objective and fair reporting. Achieving a free and responsible media is a constant, challenging, vital and ongoing activity. We must keep in sight the ultimate objective—a citizenry able to make informed decisions that shape their lives.
I want to close with another quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The only security of all is in a free press.”