the epitome of sensationalist journalism….

I am not a blind apologist. I am usually very critical of African governments and Africans in general for their failure to guarantee most of the continent decent, humane existence. That said, I am totally against depictions of the African continent, as a whole, as an incorrigible dystopia. I just read an article written back in 1994 by one Robert D. Kaplan, a journalist with the Atlantic Monthly.To say the least, some of the stuff he says is laughable. Now even I would find it hard to defend West African peace – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, not to mention the countries of the Sahel are all “peaceless” places. But this guy goes overboard. It’s a rather long piece, but please read it.

Here is just one of those offending paragraphs:

Africa may be as relevant to the future character of world politics as the Balkans were a hundred years ago, prior to the two Balkan wars and the First World War. Then the threat was the collapse of empires and the birth of nations based solely on tribe. Now the threat is more elemental: nature unchecked. Africa’s immediate future could be very bad. The coming upheaval, in which foreign embassies are shut down, states collapse, and contact with the outside world takes place through dangerous, disease-ridden coastal trading posts, will loom large in the century we are entering. (Nine of twenty-one U.S. foreign-aid missions to be closed over the next three years are in Africa—a prologue to a consolidation of U.S. embassies themselves.) Precisely because much of Africa is set to go over the edge at a time when the Cold War has ended, when environmental and demographic stress in other parts of the globe is becoming critical, and when the post-First World War system of nation-states—not just in the Balkans but perhaps also in the Middle East—is about to be toppled, Africa suggests what war, borders, and ethnic politics will be like a few decades hence.”

And here is one that gives you food for thought:

“Slums are litmus tests for innate cultural strengths and weaknesses. Those peoples whose cultures can harbor extensive slum life without decomposing will be, relatively speaking, the future’s winners. Those whose cultures cannot will be the future’s victims.”

This article left me wondering: does anyone in any government on the continent ever read some of this stuff? And if they do, how do they react ??

out with these ‘regional’ leaders

A while back I contemplated becoming a life member of KANU. This was when Uhuru Kenyatta was a rising star in the party and seemed poised to change the direction of the country and its politics. Although I could not vote in the 2002 election, I outwardly supported the NARC alliance but secretly hoped for a KANU victory. I simply had a bias for younger leaders. But Kibaki won. And many Kenyans seemed pleased by the outcome. Almost seven years on and we are yet to see real change take place in Kenya – but that is another story for another day.

For now let’s talk about the regionalization of our young leaders. First it was Uhuru Kenyatta, openly showing that he wanted the title of leader of Central Kenya. And then it was William Ruto, a man who has been having a lot of trouble lately, openly admitting that he is first a leader of the Rift Valley, national responsibilities come second. These new developments have left me jaded. I always used to think that this regionalism was an idea of the Moi-Kibaki-Raila generation. But it seems to be creeping into the Ruto-Uhuru generation as well.

These two men are shamelessly being tribalistic right now. Ruto is hiding from the corruption cases in his ministry and power struggles in ODM by receding back to his ‘tribe’. Uhuru is doing the same in order to sideline Karua (kudos to Karua though, she seems to have a more national outlook to politics, at least that’s how I see it from this end).

What this means for Kenyan politics is that we shall continue having tribal political parties and regional leaders. Every single politician will keep fighting for his ‘people’ at the expense of the national agenda. Meanwhile more Kenyans will remain hungry, sick and uneducated. To borrow from Achebe in his book The trouble with Nigeria: The trouble with Kenya is simply and squarely a problem of leadership, although sometimes I wonder if we are getting our just deserts because of our having disengaged with the state.