Katherine Tai

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai during an interview in Nairobi on September 13, 2022.

| Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

US official Katherine Tai refuses to meet CS Moses Kuria over foul mouth

The nasty public tirades and social media posts of outspoken and unapologetic Industrialisation, Trade and Investment Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria have landed him in trouble.

This time, the Nation has established that the visiting United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai cancelled two scheduled meetings with Mr Kuria to discuss the trade ties between the two countries.

Sources said Ms Tai was to meet Mr Kuria on Monday at his Two Rivers office but cancelled, labelling him an ‘extremist’ over his unpalatable remarks against individuals and institutions.

Ambassador Tai, who has been in the country from Monday to co-lead a meeting of the US-East Africa Community Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) council, is reported to have expressed her reservations with the conduct of the Trade CS.

Mr Kuria was supposed to attend the Tifa council meeting alongside his East Africa Community and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands counterpart Rebbeca Miano but he was reportedly locked out.

Mr Kuria is said to have been labelled an ‘unwanted’ host.

“The ambassador cancelled her planned engagement with Kuria at his office. Today (yesterday), he was blocked from the scheduled meeting with the US official but CS Miano proceeded with her meeting,” disclosed multiple sources within government who spoke to the Nation in confidence.

The isolation of Mr Kuria comes at a time the US is on a charm offensive in Africa and views Kenya as the East Africa Community (EAC) entry hub and affirmed by US Ambassador Meg Whitman as the next Silicon Valley.

Bilateral trade

President Joe Biden’s administration is focused on expanding markets for US goods and services in sub-Saharan Africa and to facilitate efforts to bolster Africa economic development through increased global, regional and bilateral trade.

On July 14 last year, Ms Tai and former Trade CS Betty Maina issued a joint statement launching the US -Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership on eleven areas of mutual interest.

According a communiqué from the Ms Tai’s office dated July 13, her visit marks the 15-year anniversary of the US-Tifa.

During the trip, the visiting diplomat was expected to meet with senior government officials, including President William Ruto, Mr Kuria and Ms Miano.

Apart from government officials, Ms Tai is scheduled to meet with labour stakeholders, members of the civil society, local businesses and private sector representatives to explore available opportunities for increased cooperation with the US.

She is also expected to meet youth and women entrepreneurs and discuss how the two countries can promote inclusive trade and economic prosperity for all.

Mr Kuria’s ‘offensive tongue’ has rubbed many the wrong way, including when he posted about the warring factions in Sudan and how they should be dealt. The latest is his vile attacks against the media and the opposition.

Mr Kuria has had several run-ins with the media, most recently threatening to stop all government advertising going to the Nation Media Group. This followed an investigation by this newspaper and NTV into an edible oil scam.

Defamatory words

Late last month, the High Court restrained Mr Kuria from uttering any defamatory words against any media practitioner until a petition filed by lawyer Charles Mugane seeking an order declaring the CS unfit to hold public office is heard and determined.

“There stands to be a grave risk of intimidation and harassment of journalists, media and members of the Fourth Estate in general by the government and in particular CS Kuria and consequently breach of fundamental freedom of media guaranteed under Article 34 of the Constitution if the prayers sought herein are not guaranteed,” part of the petition reads.

Mr Mugane argues that the use of derogatory words by Mr Kuria is a gross breach of Chapter Six of the Constitution and the Leadership and Integrity Act.

Further, the lawyer wants the court to find the Cabinet Secretary guilty of contravening the mandatory constitutional provisions of Articles 1,2, 3(1), 10 (2), 34 (1) and (2), 47, 73(1)(a), 75 (1) and 232 “which underpin the substantive and procedural constitutional and statutory requirements for public service”.