I feel let down by my fellow Kenyans who have been mourning the refusal of President Obama to visit Kenya. The snub, in my opinion, is of little significance. Obama’s Presidency will change nothing in America’s foreign relations with Kenya.
We forget that American Presidents started snubbing us way back in the era of President George Bush Snr. This was when President Moi visited Washington and was reportedly denied audience with the Senior Bush.
Then Bill Clinton became President and he came for his African trip in 1998. Despite our known strategic interest to America, he came all the way to Uganda then turned back without coming to Kenya.
Then came George Bush Jnr after Clinton. He also had a trip to Africa and visited Rwanda and Tanzania. We were left out of his itinerary.
I don’t know why we are surprised that Obama did not come to Kenya. He is just following well laid precedence of American Presidents to try and intimidate Kenya into a subservient relationship with America. It matters little that Kenya is the fatherland of the American President.
Instead, we are now turning on our leaders and blaming them for making Obama snub Kenya. I do agree with Obama that Kenya is fraught with corruption and bad leadership but I wish not to hear it from him.
What instead I would want to hear from Obama is an apology for the many years America spent propping up dictatorial regimes in Africa in the interests of the cold war. A lot of the problems we have today are borne from America’s silence while the Kenyatta and Moi regimes destroyed our institutions.
Indeed, it is insulting to Kenya that all these three American Presidents have visited Ghana as an indication of their admiration as to how Ghanaian’s have run their country. I beg to differ on that.
Ghana, unlike Kenya, is a country with a history of military dictatorial regime all coming to power through coup de tats. Ghana’s governments have been overthrown by the military in 1966, 1969, 1972,1978,1979,1981 and 1983.
Let no one come and trash our democratic credentials based on the example of Ghana. In so far as democratic traditions are concerned, we definitely are not perfect but we are way ahead of many countries being quoted to us as good examples.
In its history, Ghana has had a dictatorial one party system for 6 years, dictatorial military regimes for 21 years and a multiparty system for 16 years. Not the most stunning example of a good African democracy.
Despite the hypocritical disappointment being exhibited by President Obama about our country, he will continue to inject billions of shillings into the Kenya Armed Forces, the National Security Intelligence Service and the Anti-Terrorism Police. He will inject nothing in irrigation, industry or the jua kali sector. Neither will he cancel any of our crippling debts owned to America.
President Obama will not ask the G8 leaders before whom he delivered his cynical homily about his cousin’s inability to get a job in Kenya to freeze the billions of dollars held in their countries by corrupt Kenyan politicians and businessmen.
His appreciation of the complexities of world politics is cynical, hypocritical or shallow. His statements on Kenya reminded me of his earlier statements on Iran. He sweet talked the Iranian leadership and people and beseeched them for a better relationship.
The Iranian Spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dismissed Obama’s overtures and reminded Obama that America still held Iranian assets worth billions of dollars that were frozen by economic sanctions. Any talk of an amiable relationship had thus to begin with America showing goodwill.
We in Kenya also require a show of goodwill from President Obama. We know our problems. We understand them better than him. And we know they shall not be resolved by the simple solutions he is offering. We need genuine help from people who care.
It is going to take more than good speeches to correct the problems of the world and of Kenya. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, that even if he speaks in the tongues of men and of angels, and has not love, he is only a resounding gong.