Yours truly is about to embark on a much awaited summer vacation back home. Nothing beats the annual summer trip back to the bustle of Nairobi and weekend trips to my “ancestral homeland” of Siaya. The only difference is that unlike back in my undergrad days this time vacation doesn’t really mean no work. Grad school tends to follow you everywhere.
Expect stories of my experiences in Nairobi and Siaya. I am especially looking forward to being home for the Kenyan referendum on August 4th.
One Item Vacation Reading List: Tolstoy’s War and Peace (this is the only non-academic book I am bringing along, I have got to finish reading it this time… hopefully)
I have great respect for Kenya’s retired President Moi. The man from Baringo had many faults but he deserves credit for letting go when the time came in 2002 due to a constitutionally mandated term limit. He could have pulled a fast one on Kenya like many a dictator have done on the Continent even in the post-1989 era of pretend democratization. That said, his 24-year tenure was nothing to sing about. Kenya’s per capita income declined under his rule. The 1992 and 1997 election-related ethnic clashes occurred under his watch. Moi played the ethnic card more than any other Kenyan politician on record. Detention without trial was the norm for anyone who dared disagree with baba (father). Moi banned political parties in the early 1908s. In 1988 he rubbished the secret ballot and required that voters queue behind their preferred candidates. In short, Moi’s Kenya was nowhere near being a liberal democracy.
So when the former president runs around Kenya being characteristically anti-reform by campaigning against the proposed constitution and claiming that “I was not a dictator. People wanted peace” we can only sit back and ask: really Mr. Moi, really?
The African Union Summit in Uganda resolved to send an additional 2000 troops to Somalia. 5000 Ugandan and Burundian troops are already stationed in Mogadishu to prop up the beleaguered transitional government. The same summit resolution also sought to change the rules of engagement to allow AU troops to preemptively attack suspected terrorist al-Shabab strongholds.
Nice and dandy, except so far we can’t make much of Museveni’s threat to take the fight to the Somali insurgents. There are no details as to where the additional 2000 troops will come from within the region. Ethiopia and Kenya share porous borders with Somalia and have large populations of ethnic Somalis and so are highly unlikely to send troops. Tanzania’s large Muslim population may not take well the idea of their troops in Somalia. My guess is that the additional troops will come from either Uganda, Rwanda and/or Burundi or some country from farther afield.
At the same summit current AU chairman President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi took fault with the ICC’s indictment of the genocidal Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. This is yet another proof of what kind of club the AU is. I may not fully agree with the political wisdom behind the indictment of a sitting president (because sadly, justice is highly political) but the likes of Mr. Mutharika should visit Darfur and UN camps in eastern Chad before defending al-Bashir.
As the January 9th, 2011 referendum draws closer the international community is getting concerned about the consequences of Southern Sudanese independence. Many fear that the north, led by the strongman Omar al-Bashir, will not honor the CPA and let the Southerners go. Southern stability is also a concern. Once in the early 1990s the SPLA/M split along ethnic lines (Machar, the leader of the splinter SPLA-Nasir, eventually came back to the fold). Recent skirmishes in the South are testament to the fact that ethnicized civil war may yet visit an independent Southern Sudan.
This post has pictures on some interesting way to use bed nets…. It seems like the only way we shall ever eliminate malaria on the Continent is by getting rid of all the mosquitoes. Other tropical places have done it. Why can’t it be done on the Continent, at least in the urban areas??
This is progress. I hope PLO does not go the way of most idealists and get sucked into the vortex that is Kenya’s corruption and patronage networks. Relatedly, the latest TI ratings suggest that corruption may have declined a tiny bit in Kenya. Rwanda still leads the pack as the least corrupt country in the wider region, although critics argue that this has come at the price of basic civil liberties as the mountainous country transmogrifies into an unapologetic police state.
Bankelele has a nice post on medical investment in East Africa.
For the business-minded, here is one more reason for Kenyans to vote YES in the August 4th referendum for a new constitution. I remain apprehensive about the size of government that will result from a victory for the YES camp. But as a student of history I am also hopeful that effective government, i.e. creation of grassroots administrative and TAXATION apparatuses in provincial counties, will lead to faster Kenyanization of ALL of Kenya. And who knows, may be the need to finance government will give officials incentives to formulate policies that promote growth and generate revenue.
In other news, EASSy, the third international fibre optic cable to land on the Kenyan shores, will soon roll out, hopefully helping lower the cost of internet connectivity not only in Kenya but in the wider East African region as well.
And lastly, being only nine days away from a short vacation back home I join Magical Kenya in saying JAMBO!
Rwandans go to the polls on August 9th. There are no prizes for guessing who the winner will be. President Paul Kagame, who is credited by most to have ended the Rwandan genocide in 1994, has recently had to resort to his darker tendencies to continue his stay in power, even as he walks the tight rope of political liberalization. Given the instability that the whole process has created in the country (grenade attacks in Kigali, murder of opposition leaders, attempted assassinations in foreign lands, ever rising ethnic tension etc etc) one wonders whether Mr. Kagame should stop trying to have his cake and eat it.
Political liberalization means being willing to give up power. But it is obvious that Mr. Kagame is not ready for this. Instead he wants it both ways – by holding sham elections to keep the liberal international community happy and singing his praises while he continues to muzzle the Rwandan domestic democratization movement. He may yet succeed at this, or in the more likely scenario go the way of the proverbial man who tried to ride two donkeys at the same time.
As Bratton and van de Walle have pointed out, “Liberalized authoritarianism…. is an unstable form of regime. Its political openings are easily and summarily shut as strongmen place ever heavier reliance on a shrinking circle of military loyalists. In the worst-case scenarios, blocked or precluded transitions lead to an intensification of political conflict, to anarchy (a regime without rules of any kind) and to the implosion of the authority of the state.”
President Kagame came to power in 1994 after leading the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front in the conquest of Kigali. Since then he has had a largely positive role in an attempt to heal Rwandan wounds and spur economic development. But 15 years is a long time and it is increasingly becoming clear that Mr. Kagame has overstayed his welcome in State House, Kigali. Like Uganda’s Museveni, Ethiopia’s Zenawi, and other Continental autocrats, he seems convinced that he is an irreplaceable God’s gift to Rwanda. Someone needs to disabuse him of this belief.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is 92 today. To mark the occasion scores across the world will celebrate the Nelson Mandela Day, created in honor of Madiba’s service to humanity. The man surely has a special place in the pantheon of the greatest sons and daughters of the Continent who ever lived.