Monday, October 26, 2009


Is Kenya opening the door too wide to foreign intervention (meddling) that may in the years to come return to haunt the nation’s right to self determination? Since January 2008 the country has been the subject of concerted international attention: initially in the form of urgent intervention to salvage a fast spiralling situation and in subsequent months in the form of pressure to keep the grand coalition government together and push for essential reforms: these variously administered through blunt threats and coercion many a times celebrated by a public clearly hungry for change.

The latest is the US governments’ announcement of a Visa ban slapped on a ‘high ranking’ government official over his alleged continued frustration of reforms in the country. This announcement was delivered by the US top diplomat on African affairs, assistant secretary of state Jonnie Carson in Nairobi, and widely praised by sections of the local media, as America’s first big step to fighting impunity in Kenya. The Kenyan media barely a month ago was in similar fashion all over itself in its reportage of former UN secretary General Kofi Annan’s trip to Nairobi and his ‘harsh verdict’ on Kenya’s reform record and subsequent ‘reprimand’ on the grand coalition principals: President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Any body familiar with Kenya’s media, will not be surprised to witness a similar spectacle next week, when the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo is expected in Nairobi for a meeting with the coalition government’s top leadership. Is there merit to this foreign frenzy on Kenyan issues and the ultimate prominence it is accorded by the Kenyan media? This is a question that scholars and pundits could debate endlessly and write myriad books while at it.

What is clear however right now is that the patriotism of Kenya’s leaders and indeed the Kenyan people has been called to question. Watching this drama from a distance one is left to wonder are Kenya’s leaders totally lacking in patriotism, that they must be pushed by foreigners to do what is right for their country? Are they so out of touch with the reality on the ground and aspirations of the people they lead that Johnnie Carson has to leave Washington DC to come and spell it out for them?

This foreign frenzy also raises serious questions about the Kenyan public. Are Kenyans so helpless that if foreigners do not come to their aid their aspiration for change will never be achieved? Are the sons and daughters of the Mau Mau and the gallant freedom fighters who kicked out the colonialist forty five years ago a weaker breed, incapable of pushing their leaders to bring the change they desire? In spite of the high levels of literacy and heightened civic awareness could it be that Kenyans today completely lack ideas and the know how to bring their elected leaders to account? Or is it simply that unlike their fore fathers, this generation of Kenyans acutely lack the patriotism requisite to free their country.

One must concede that if convenience is the criteria, it is much easier to listen to Kofi Annan, Jonnie Carson and other increasingly vocal foreign envoys at press conferences tell Kenya’s leaders what Kenyans want rather, than to mobilise Kenyans to voice their demands to their elected leaders. However in this embrace of convenience the Kenyan people may just be giving away their right to self determination and respect as a sovereign people. The foreign voices may sound like music in the ears of the Kenyan today, since their demands resonate with the public interest, but encouraging them on is embracing the derogatory position of the ‘less evolved being’ ‘big brother’ would not mind Kenya settling for.

By allowing, even cheering on, as foreign powers and their representatives bully and push your elected leaders around, the country sets a precedent that could in the future expose it to blatant plunder and abuse. What will stop ‘big brother’ from using the same condescending tone, threats and tactics when seeking to dictate how and who benefits from the exploitation of oil in Kenya, should the ongoing hunt for oil bear fruit. History is replete with lessons that where the fervent advocates of democracy put in their all in marketing this philosophy, it is soon followed by a bill that has everything to do with the economic bottom line. Is it not common knowledge that western democracy and cut throat capitalism are twins rarely sighted far apart?

Kenyans and their leaders must rise to the occasion and cease abrogating their national duties to foreigners who though acting in brotherly good will, wield under the veil vested interests. It is good that one brother help another in his time of need, I would however be twice as cautious if I know that the helping hand is from ‘big brother’ who secretly eyes my wife.