By KEVIN J. KELLEY
Kenya has hired two leading lobbying firms based in Washington, DC to push for the country’s agenda in the United States.
Retaining the services of the two firms will cost Kenya Sh48 million ($495,000).
Kenya retained the Podesta Group to advance a general agenda, including gaining direct US landing rights for Kenya Airways.
The government will pay Podesta Group about $360,000 (Sh3million) a year for its work.
Kenya also retained another influential lobbying firm, Squire Patton Boggs, to prevent loss of aid over the country’s poor record in preventing human trafficking.
The government agreed to pay the firm of a fee of $135,000 (Sh13 million) for a three-month campaign directed at the State Department, according to a letter filed last week as required by US lobbying disclosure law.
The letter, signed by Squire Patton Boggs partner David Dunn and addressed to Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, notes that Kenya is facing “a cut-off of all non-humanitarian and other forms of assistance from the US government.”
The threat arises from the State Department’s designation of Kenya as a “Tier 2” country in annual reports assessing governments’ efforts to prevent human trafficking.
Countries assigned to that group are deemed to be failing to comply fully with minimal standards for eliminating trafficking and include North Korea, Iran, Russia, Syria, Zimbabwe and Eritrea.
According to the letter dated March 24, Kenya needs a waiver from the Secretary of State by the time the 2015 trafficking in persons report is issued next month to avoid relegation to Tier 3.
The lobbying firm says it will undertake “an intense three-month effort” to document and inform US officials of Kenya’s “extensive efforts” to address trafficking in persons.
The State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons report found that children are “exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in the Coastal sex-tourism industry.”
The report describes Kenya as “a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.”
“Kenyan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Thailand by Ugandan and Nigerian traffickers,” the report adds.
“Gay and bisexual Kenyan men are lured from universities with promises of overseas jobs, only to be forced into prostitution and sex trafficking in Qatar and the UAE,” the 2014 report states.