more on politics in kenya

Relative calm has returned to Kenya, the Rift Valley saw nearly 1000 people killed and 170,000 flee to their ancestral homes. Business are reopened, roadblocks removed, and armed police patrol the streets. Those who have fled may not face the violence any longer, but life in the camps is made no less difficult by the recent rains. The taxi service has resume, but access to food and medications is a rising issue. The armed patrols that used to be known for ruthless brutality are now seen as protectors. Kisumu, which saw widespread rioting, is back to calm. Maseno University is still not open because it cannot ensure security to its students. The Nairobi slums have remained mostly calm as the negotiations with Kofi Annan are taking place, however the slums saw the worst of the post-election violence. There are some reports that say the slums are now divided by ethnic lines. Mombasa, contributing 15% of Kenya’s economy through tourism, saw no real trouble except for tourists canceling their vacations. While the calm has returned the hopes of the country seem to teeter on Annan’s ability to forge a coalition government. What cannot be forgotten as these talks begin is the political and colonial history of Kenya (read more here).

Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya to broker a deal to bring together the two opposing sides of most recent election. After selling out to large development interests with the Green Revolution in Africa (Gates, Rockefeller) my trust in Annan to work in the best interest of the Kenyan people is not very high. He is calling for a coalition government where both sides will work towards reform for free and fair elections. However, Annan has angered the Kibaki government side in the negotiations. He has made some statements that are said to have undermined the government’s position in the post-election political conflict. The negotiations are now said to be close to an end deal. Annan has said that the idea for a “broad based” government deal is near final stages. Both sides recognize the need for a political solution. However, I feel the call for a coalition or broad based government is not the answer. Along with others I see this as against new and free elections. What is most troubling is that both Kibaki’s government team and Odinga’s ODM party have tabled proposals for power sharing and Annan speaks as if this is the final deal.

Kibaki ran for President with the promise that the government would pay for tuition fees while parents cover boarding and uniform cost in order to provide free secondary education. With ethnic divides flaring up over recent election scandal, 1000 dead and 600,000 displaced, Kenyans now have access to free secondary education. This program now has minimal impact given the recent violence. The government faces an uphill battle to provide this free education access. Children cannot attend school amid conflict and crisis. In 2002 Kibaki’s government provided universal primary education. The Kenya National Union of Teachers has asked the government to first focus on providing for the safety and security of teachers and students as well as reconstructing schools destroyed by the recent violence.

As the violence has subsided, hundreds of thousands displaced, universal secondary education provided, on top of all of this President Bush has begun a tour of Africa. Bush has stated that he is in support of a power-sharing model. The same power-sharing model rejected by both political parties. Bush is set to highlight success in African countries by speaking on democratic reform, economic and military assistance, and combating HIV/AIDS. All of which are topics that Bush has no real place to talk. The notion of democracy in the US is wrought with hypocrisy, economic and military assistance are centered around gaining power and access to resources in Africa, and the Bush administration’s actions to combat HIV/AIDS have been minimal at best (with an abstinence only policy). Bush is using his tour of Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Rwanda and Tanzania to show a compassionate side of US foreign policy. I would argue that no such side exists in our current political system. Bush is supposedly sending the Secretary of State to Kenya to convey his message in support of power-sharing to solve political crisis. The US seems to not be the only international actor concerned with the situation in Kenya. What may be most important here is not to come to a solution that the international community might like to see, but rather a solution that works for the Kenyan people and creates a long-term solution to the political turmoil rooted in the colonial history of Kenya.

dogmatic america

Disclaimer: This is a piece of writing that I did in my sophomore year of High School for a presentation to attend Close-Up in Washington D.C. I rediscovered it and thought how sadly it has remained relevant nearly four years later. It was also an interesting look at how I was reacting to the growing “war on terror.”

11 November 2004

On one hand we are told by some that Bush is pushing war and bent on abandoning the international system of rules and instructions built up by previous presidents. Others argue that Bush has drawn a necessary line in the sand between America and a dangerous coalition of stateless terrorists and rogue nations.

As a presidential candidate Bush stressed the need for America to act like a humble nation in foreign policy and substitute narrow national interests. But, President Bush has led the nation in a less than humble manner. Since September 11th, the Bush Administration has aggressively deployed U.S. troops around the globe or has promised military aid to dozens of countries. Bush seems to have taken a very unilateral approach to global arms-control – all in the name of a “war on terrorism “. In these few months In these few months Bush has pledged or provided military aid and training to over two dozen countries, including Colombia, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in which the U.S. hope to establish a national army.

Some say it is because the Democrats had eight years to deal with challenges posed by Al-Qaeda and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and largely failed.

But, the real debate on Bush’s foreign policy is not discrediting Democrats or between divided political parties. Some argue that America is gaining overwhelming power and we strike out on our own with no allies. Unilateralism is putting the interests of the U.S. first in foreign affairs. This steps on the toes of our enemies as well as our allies. This policy produces anti-American sentiment which most recently has occurred in the Middle East.

Unilateralism and bypassing the UN are not new, however, there is a dramatically accelerated military build-up in response to September 11th, almost hidden from detection there are now U.S. armed forces all over the globe.

All these events go along well with a Pentagon document that was leaked. It plans for the world order enforced by the U.S. preventing the emergence of another rival world power. American military intervention will be seen as a constant and although the U.S. cannot become the world’s policeman it will assume selective responsibility for threats to American interests and that of its allies.

What is all this leading to? We know the Bush Administration can wage war well – what we don’t know is whether it can produce peace as well. Can Bush translate power into influence?

Israelis and Palestinians kill each other without American interference. North Korea marches on towards nuclear weapons as we argue who will negotiate with them. The conflict in Kosovo of ethnic cleansing is still not resolved. In the African country of Sudan hundreds of thousands are being murdered by their own government. Where is American intervention now? Today many countries fear American power more than anything. Our failure in international public diplomacy most likely is the cause for failure to build a UN supported coalition against Saddam Hussein. There is a rising violence in Iraq and it seems we are torn between being the sole player in establishing a democracy and letting outsider’s impact the politics of the small yet diverse country of Iraq.

The Bush Administration needs to apply the same energy and focus to peace making as it has, since September 11th, to war making. The transition may not be easy, but the greater risk our country now faces is the world population will become convinced that the U.S. is the enemy of positive progress and change. We need to show the people of our interdependent globe that America is not a risk.

We must demonstrate that we can be as unified and directed in the pursuit of peace as we have proven in war.

taking another lesson from the french

Our long time allies, in this day is added to the long list of former friends, the french have not surprisingly been turned away by the near idiotic foreign policies of the Bush Administration. However, yet again we stand to learn a lesson from the French. The newly elected leader of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is setting a shining example of a how to build a foreign policy with meaning. Even as the leader of a former colonial power, he is showing the US how to have a policy in the African continent that is not all words. A policy that is not bent on capitalist gains and military conquest in the name of fighting terrorism.

All this as President Bush is attacked at the UN General Assembly for being a hypocrite of upholding human rights and promoting democracy. Bush is railed for furthering the ‘industry of death’ with his wars and ‘arms race.’ I hope that the calls of a new arms race are inflated, but world leaders make a valid point that Bush, who is supposed to represent freedom and equality for all as President of the USA, has come to represent a harbringer of death and a squanderer of basic freedom. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who by no means has a clean record, called out Bush saying that he had, “much to atone for and little to lecture us on.” While Mugabe is not a great leader by any stretch of the imagination, he does make a good point and thankfully was not afraid to call Bush out on his hypocrisy.

Bush’s lack of a foreign policy is challenged as France builds with positive steps. Sarkozy, elected in May, promised to “rupture” every issue. This rupture has been made very clear in ending the corrupt dealings with former African colonies. In his campaign Sarkozy called for a “healthier relationship” with Africa. When he traveled to the continent in July he called for a “partnership of equal nations.” While he goes along with the typical pitfall of referring to Africa as a monolithic mass, he has made great strides to create this health relationship and build the partnership of equals. He has not limited his Africa focus to former colonies and welcomes the interest of the US and China in Africa, saying that it was a good thing. I am not so sure how I agree with that statement, but maybe he can lend some advice.

From the BBC News article:

“This policy – derogatively called “Francafrique” and epitomised by Mr Sarkozy’s immediate predecessors Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac – was in many ways an extension of colonial rule. Personal links between French and African leaders bound Paris to friendly regimes which were given protection in exchange for political allegiance, votes at the UN, and deals with French firms that were lucrative for all concerned.”

Many are not so sure that Sarkozy will act the way he speaks and a secret arms deal in Tripoli, Libya reminded many of the African policies old ways. However others take Sarkozy’s words seriously. Unlike past presidents and policies, Sarkozy has no personal connections in Africa. This had made past presidents reluctant to call out corruption or to work on an equal footing with their African counterparts. France definitely has a shift in their African policy. Over the past decade France withdrew peacekeeping troops from Africa and cut aid to failing economies. Now France is supplying over half the troops for a UN-EU peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic. France has a military base in Chad. The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, was reluctant to allow the UN force, but agreed when France became involved. Sarkozy has also taken a strong stance on the genocide in Darfur and called world leaders to step up.

Sarkozy is all about using diplomacy to get things done and it seems that this policy is working for France. He does not need to call an executive war and send in the troops when things don’t go the way he wants. Our foreign policy could take a lesson from this new french president, his diplomatic policies, and his efforts to build a better partnership with African governments and the world. France would be a great ally to have back after the Oval office is wiped clean.

the US policy on africa

What is the US’s policy on Africa? Do you know? Many people do not and now is your chance to find out. On the US government page on African Policy the first thing I notice is the picture displayed on the top, not just because it is a picture, but because it is President Bush and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia at a ‘Partners in Democracy’ forum. As you can see Bush is pointing off into the distance and Ellen looks quite fed-up and dismayed. First, is this the US policy on Africa point to the distance and not involve the African leadership. Second, did we forget that Africa is not a country and that there are 54 countries within the continent. Africa as a whole does not have one policy on the US, each different country has a policy – why doesn’t the US have a policy for each country in Africa? Maybe it is just not strategic enough or worth the US’s time? Whatever the case I find the picture very telling of the US goverment approach to Africa. They then jump right into the Darfur conflict and the subsequent peace agreement in the works. This I find very disturbing as all the US government has done for the Darfur conflict is give it lip service and some nicely written statements. After scrolling down the page, to what is almost the bottom, you will find the outline of the US policy on Africa:

“In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war, and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States—preserving human dignity —and our strategic priority—combating global terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace, and growing prosperity. Together with our allies and friends, we must help strengthen Africa’s fragile states, help build indigenous capability to secure porous borders, and help build up the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure to deny havens for terrorists. An ever more lethal environment exists in Africa as local civil wars spread beyond borders to create regional war zones. Forming coalitions of the willing and cooperative security arrangements are key to confronting these emerging transnational threats.”

Bush’s Africa policy has three pillars which mostly are comprised of holding lots of meeting with various groups and on different issues affecting African countries (ie: AU, malaria, HIV/ AIDS, growth and opportunity act, etc.) Meetings a indispensible when one does not want to act. I am afraid the US’s policy on Africa is just a bunch of words, no action.

Another great site that I found helpful in my search of US’s African policy was Africa Action. Each year they write a full report on the US policy for Africa. They critique and offer potentials and what needs to happen in years to come. Africa Action opens the report with this quote, “2006 will help clarify whether the compassionate concern for the African continent, worn like a badge by western leaders last year, is a true determinant of Africa policy, or whether it merely masked other, more ‘strategic’ and less ‘benevolent’ impulses and interests.” 2005 was a great year for more focus and interest in African issues. It was a year of more advocacy and awareness about Africa and thus there was more talk of doing something on the continent. I find this is a beautiful quote to begin critiquing the US African policy. What has 2006 shown? It seems that US policy is focused only on strategic advancement and leans no where to the benevolent side. Africa Action begins by outlining the year from Live 8 to Live X. Concerts which raised funds and awareness for Africa to US military sweeping into the continent to be sure America is secure. This comes with the development of the Africa Command as well. This military shift in Bush’s Africa policy obviously speaks to the ‘War on Terror’ focused on intelligence gathering and keeping al-Qaeda out of Africa. Yet even with this upswing of troops and US intelligence in Africa a genocide continues and conflicts spread, threatening regional security.

Another development to note in US policy is the potential of African oil. It is estimated that over $10 billion a year will be invested by the US in African oil activities. Many policy analysts say that the US needs to shift its oil dependence from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Guinea, however as many analysts fail to realize, African oil is a creates a great deal of conflict by itself without the US involvement. The US may only intensify conflicts and make themselves a target. Lastly, the Africa Action report notes the slim mention of security in the US Africa policy. With the growing threat to public health and differences on global issues, a great disparity is enlightened between African priorities and American interests. The report also highlights the hypocrisy of the current Administration focused on showing its humanitarian side and not its creeping military and strategic involvements. The US African policy is also not within in the lines of what most Americans would like to see as the US policy towards Africa. The US needs to adapt its policy to involve African leaders and to include the voice of the American people. I encourage you all to read the site on US Africa policy and the Africa Action report. After reading let your politicians know how you feel and what you want to see happening in Africa from the US.