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Goree Island, Barack Obama and Apology for Slavery
July 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

SENEGAL-US-DIPLOMACYIn his initial run for US presidency, Barack Obama had difficulties connecting with the African-American constituency. Firstly, Hillary Clinton was a formidable political rival who had a reasonable claim on the black vote. After all, it was not so long ago that Black Americans glorified her white husband, Bill Clinton, as their first black President.

Additionally, to the African-Americans, Obama was not black enough sentimentally and in experience to be US president. Granted, his father was Kenyan but his mother was white and he was raised by the mother’s white family. He grew up in Hawaii which is hardly known for its black attributes. Finally, there was not a single person in the Obama’s family tree who had experienced slavery. How could Obama understand the needs and aspirations of African-Americans?

Educationally Obama, shot like a rocket from Hawaii to Occidental College, a small private college in Los Angles. He then proceeded to the prestigious Ivy League orbit of Columbia and Harvard Universities. It is while he was at Occidental College that he gave his first political speech at 19 on the ugliness of apartheid in South Africa.

Obama’s educational trajectory was far removed from, if not alien to, that of a typical black child in America; it was privileged. Despite all that, the African-American community voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, perhaps blinded by sentiments of ‘ebony kinship.’ But it was not long before blacks, including Africans, were musing, ‘would we have been better off if Hillary Clinton had become President?’

That question implied that Obama was seen as failing the black world; he was not delivering. Black people had boosted him into the Promised Land, but he was not distributing the manna. For the African-Americans, the ultimate failing grade was obtained in Africa in 2013, at the recent Goree Island during Obama’s first official visit to the continent.

For Black Americans, Goree Island remains an important symbol of slavery and slave trade. It was here that African captives were loaded into slave-ships for the fateful and inhumane trip across the Atlantic bound for the New World. Upon arrival, they entered a life of permanent bondage and servitude. It was here that the slaves were forced through the door-of-no-return and had one final glimpse of the continent of their birth.

It is here too that few contemporary African-Americans are often unable to hold back tears as they relive moments of deep sorrow, over man’s inhumanity to fellow man.

It was during his March-April 1998 visit to Goree Island that former President Bill Clinton wept in grief and nearly apologized for America’s role in slave trade. But he did not apologize.  It was here in 2003 that another former President, George W. Bush, gave a moving speech on the evils of slavery, one of his most sensitive public statements, ever. On this occasion Bush classified slavery and slave trade as “one of the biggest crimes in history.” He outdid former President John Adams who once dubbed slavery as “an evil of colossal magnitude.”

U.S. President Barack Obama looks out to sea through the 'Door of No Return,' at the slave house on Goree Island, in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013. Obama is calling his visit to a Senegalese island from which Africans were said to have been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean into slavery, a 'very powerful moment. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

U.S. President Barack Obama looks out to sea through the ‘Door of No Return,’ at the slave house on Goree Island, in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013. Obama is calling his visit to a Senegalese island from which Africans were said to have been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean into slavery, a ‘very powerful moment. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

From Obama’s visit to Goree Island in 2013, nothing has been forthcoming other than a presidential statement than it was a “powerful moment.” In more ways than one, in visiting Africa, Obama walked in the shadows of his presidential predecessors who in any case have done much more for Africa.  Was the black world justified in expecting more from one of their own?

During his first US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was asked for his thoughts on the issue of Black reparations. To him, the best that America could do to compensate its African-American citizens was to provide better inner city schools.  This answer was a coded response that black Americans’ socio-economic ‘advancement’ had to be individually earned. Presumably, African-Americans should not rock the boat delving into slavery; they should let bygones be bygones.

That was a rehearsed political response for a racially-mixed American audience. It was also an early warning that Obama considered himself a typical American without attachments and special obligations to any segments of the society. Neither Global Africans nor Africans-Americans had a claim on him as US president.  He steadfastly adhered to that doctrine for his entire first term.

Now Obama is half a year into his second term.  Yet, we still do not know for sure, his stand on the question of reparations for Black Americans, a claim made against staggering historical abuse especially relative to slavery. Yet, in this broad sense, reparations are indeed relevant in the American experience.

Obama is known to cite Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement that “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” Presumably, in situations where a definable group has absorbed ‘collective injury’ from another, historical wisdom has been to amend the wrongs by paying restitution. The first step in this ‘arc of history’ is to acknowledge wrongdoing; to issue an apology.

The most famous case is, of course, that of the Jews in the holocaust. Post-World War II Germany has paid dearly to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

Another case was that of Japanese wrongful relocation and internment by the Roosevelt administration during World War II.  In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. US citizens feared another attack and pressured President Franklin Roosevelt to take pre-emptive action against Japanese descendants on the US West Coast.

Prof-James-KariukiIn February 1942, Roosevelt signed an Executive Order under which 120, 000 people of Japanese descent living along the US Pacific coast were removed from their homes and placed in War Relocation Camps. Presumably, people of Japanese extraction were prone to act as spies for Japan. Yet, during the entire war only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan, and these were all Caucasians.

Forty three years after World War II, the US Government succumbed to domestic pressure and agreed to pay restitutions in the amount of $1.2 billion to the affected Japanese families. That 1988 American decision was accompanied by a moving pledge: “The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”

Ten years after the American commendable decision, in February 2008, the Government of Australia extended full and unreserved apology to its Aborigine citizens for inflicting “profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.” That government did not mention reparations by name, but amends for that purpose have been forthcoming albeit slowly.

It is common knowledge that Blacks in Global Africa, particularly USA, have endured greater ‘collective injury’ than all the other groups combined. Yet, no reparations have ever been paid to them. Legal experts say that the default is due to the enormity of the issue; it is too overwhelming.

Even if he could, President Barack Obama is not obliged to rescue Africa; Americans voted him to power and he is answerable to them. However, slavery ultimately became mostly an American sin.  More than other American presidents, Obama has an obligation as an African-American government official to apologize to fellow African-Americans for that wrongdoing. As a venue, Goree Island was a golden opportunity missed.

**James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya’s Ideological Twists
July 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

KenyaDuring the Cold War, Third World states aspired for ‘neutralism’ in their international relations. The world was then bipolar, divided ideologically between the West and the East. Neutralism was a Third World assertion that it wanted no part in the quarrel between the two global blocs. That thinking crystallized into the Non-Aligned Movement.

Post-colonial Kenya was reluctant to observe non-alignment provisions precisely because its first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was an Anglophile. There is a puzzling contradiction in that assertion. For decades, the same Kenyatta had spearheaded anti-British activities in colonial Kenya. Branding him a leader “unto darkness and death,” the British imprisoned Kenyatta allegedly for master-minding the Mau Mau rebellion.

Kenya became independent in 1963 and contradictions continued to emerge. Firstly, power was handed over to the same Kenyatta whom the British had dismissed as a devilish pervert. Secondly, Kenyatta surprisingly tilted the country to the West.

Outraged, Oginga Odinga objected bitterly to the pro-Western stance and proceeded to write a book, Not Yet Uhuru (1968.)Odinga was no ordinary citizen; he was a major anti-colonial nationalist and Kenya’s first Vice-President. While he was pro-socialism, Kenyatta coddled British capitalism. Conflicting ideologies were asserting themselves in new Kenya.

In the same year that Odinga’s book was published, Kenyatta released his own, Suffering without Bitterness. The book confirmed that Kenyatta was not anti-British; he was merely opposed to their racial discrimination. Indeed, he was even prepared to work with them. Accordingly, he turned Kenya into a towering ‘darling of the West’ in Eastern Africa and, for good measure, built himself into a capitalist tycoon of staggering proportions.

President Uhuru KenyattaKenyatta’s book reeked of forgive-and-forget sentiments towards former colonial detractors. The baton has now been passed to his son, Uhuru. That fact may push Kenya through yet another ideological twist.

Unlike his father, Uhuru’s worldview seems to be: we-may-suffer-but-we-will-not-necessarily-forget. In particular, he appears to have ‘reservations’ about the British for treating his father abusively. Additionally, Uhuru himself has already had an unhappy personal encounter with the West.

 Uhuru is an ICC-inductee allegedly for orchestrating Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. Coincidentally, the charges erupted simultaneously as the credibility of the ICC itself was declining. Critics lamented that engaged in ‘selective justice’ by targeting African leaders unduly. Yet, the greatest human rights violators are Western leaders and they, invariably, walk free.

In the agitated anti-ICC atmosphere, it appeared disingenuous that the West continued posturing as the guardians of human rights in Kenya. In the 2012-13 campaign it smacked of deviousness that Westerners masqueraded as the moral force to constantly remind Kenyans that the Uhuru ticket was comprised of ICC-inductees, unworthy of the presidency.

Clearly, the West believed that their Kenyan interest were safer if left under the care of Raila Odinga, Uhuru’s principal opponent. Once again ideological anomalies were rearing their heads in Kenya’s brief history. At independence Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, was pro-capitalist West. Raila’s father, Oginga Odinga, was distinctly socialism-inclined and pro-East. Half a century later, the sons’ ideological persuasions were reversed.

Discrediting Uhuru’s candidacy by the West has revived a public sentiment that, for Kenyans to align themselves too closely to external powers, is ill-advised. In this instance, the West misread Kenya, persisting to view it as a prime candidate for foreign aid. Accordingly, Kenyans should behave as ‘deserving poor.’ Voting for ICC-inductees into power is alien to the notion of deserving poor.

Yet, Kenyans have abandoned the ‘deserving poor’ status. To them, Kenya is not a ‘failing state’ with a begging bowl looking for aid. Theirs is a country pregnant with economic potential and they are resolved to disembark from aid and engage in trade. After all, Kenya possesses bargaining power; it is East Africa’s business hub, one of Africa’s most connected nations. That self-confidence has been buttressed by discovery of oil and gas reserves.

images (1)Thus Kenya finds itself in a world where it is as equally sought after as it is a suitor. Calling shots is no longer an exclusive prerogative of the West. This realization has prompted a Western journalist to warn that the West “might find it is not missed as it once might have been.”

Indeed, Kenyan strategic thinkers have noted with interest that a mutually beneficial Sino-Kenya interaction has quietly evolved in the past decade with positive impact on the Kenyan economy. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is probably turning over in his grave that the Uhuru’s administration is urged to double its efforts in building on that relationship. China is eagerly poised to undertake the challenge.

It would be the ultimate ideological anomaly if Uhuru consolidates the current surge of nationalism and tilts the country East. That would mean going a whole cycle to negate daddy Kenyatta’s legacy of turning Kenya West half a century ago. Do Kenyans trust the Chinese more or do they now trust the West less?

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

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Nelson Mandela: the Man and His Legacy
July 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

*James N. Kariuki

“If a man doesn’t have a job or income, he has neither life nor liberty… He merely exists.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mandela The image of Nelson Mandela was largely shaped by his three decades of imprisonment for daring to challenge apartheid. While he sat in an apartheid cell, his struggle was continued by his foot soldiers in South Africa and beyond.

Many continental Africans learned about the agonies of SA and Mandela, not from South Africans, but from Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who also detested apartheid-SA for condemning its black citizens into refugees in their own country. Conceivably, Nyerere did more to publicize the inhumanity of apartheid around the world than any of his contemporaries. This was until black South Africans could dispatch their own emissaries abroad.

Julius Nyerere survived long enough to relish first-hand a democratic SA and shake hands with Nelson Mandela as a free man. Meanwhile, in his lifetime, the anti-apartheid mission to which Nyerere had also dedicated himself and his country was embraced by continental Africa. Ghana had come to know and care deeply about the inhumanity of apartheid; so did Nigeria and others. They all swore to its demolition sooner than later.

In Africa, Europe, US and even the United Nations apartheid came to be known as a monster of un-freedom, an evil and racially oppressive system. The outside world did not know many details about the horrors of racist SA; apartheid shielded its ugly face from public view the best it could. Unwittingly, continental Africa also came to feed into that enigma by endorsing a policy of isolation of pariah SA from the outside world as a form of punishment.

Inevitably, Mandela became the most eloquent face of diabolical SA under apartheid, the ultimate symbol of victimhood for black people. His image gave life to the agonies of black folk in SA, Africa, and everywhere. Almost every black child in London, Harlem-New York, Southside-Chicago, Watts in Los Angeles, Havana etc knew the name of Mandela. There were calls everywhere to free Mandela, code words for ‘dismantle apartheid.’

When Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, the entire world held its breath. Most of it expected a feisty, angry, and vengeful man. But the newest prison graduate stunned mankind by declaring publicly that his intention was to build a new SA for all those who lived in it. In quest for a ‘rainbow nation,’ Mandela went to great lengths to comfort his former tormentors. He was serious; he was not playing politics about racial forgiveness and reconciliation.

To substantiate the spirit of suffering without bitterness, Mandela resorted to potent symbolic gestures. Among others, he donned a green jersey of the SA national rugby team and attended the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. That simple act charmed and thrilled millions of Afrikaner rugby enthusiasts. Until then, South African rugby was by tradition a preserve of the whites while soccer was a blacks’ domain.

A year earlier, in May 1994, Mandela had startled friend and foe alike by inviting his prison warden to his presidential inauguration. But it was in August 1995 that many black South Africans felt that Mandela went too far by having tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the unrepentant wife of the main architect of apartheid.

Detractors objected to what to them appeared like appeasement on Mandela’s part to the former perpetrators of apartheid. But admirers saw that generosity of spirit as what made Mandela unique, a global icon. Some even stood prepared to confer sainthood upon him. Inside SA, Mandela’s majestic presence and the force of his personality were seen as the ‘Madiba magic.’ He was truly the ultimate humble giant.

MandelaIt is commonly accepted that Nelson Mandela delivered convincingly to all South Africans a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy. On the other hand, an undercurrent of thought exists that Madiba accepted a bad deal for black South Africans; economically they were left on the outside. Democratic freedom was fine but, it was not enough without removing the shackles of economic deprivation for the majority blacks. As distinguished Professor Ali Mazrui once noted, a Faustian deal was struck in 1994: “the Whites said to the Blacks, ‘take the Crown and we will keep the Jewels.’” As racial apartheid was outlawed, economic apartheid was entrenched.

Mandela was mindful that economic apartheid remained intact, that post-apartheid SA was a society of excessive white wealth in an endless sea of black poverty. As he explained later, this was not an accident, a case of oversight or a quest for personal glory. Rather, the surrounding circumstances compelled him to concede to the dictum of his Ghanaian predecessor, Kwame Nkrumah, who once said, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto it.”

Mandela followed a well-considered strategy. He was aware that, in a racially and economically divided SA, a sudden nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy (i.e. land and mining) was likely to explode into bloodshed and flight of white skills and capital. Post-apartheid SA could barely endure either, let alone both. Mandela thinking was driven, not by ‘sentimental fancies’, but by practical imperatives of a nation’s survival.

Mandela did bring political kingdom to SA, but fusing economic equality into it has turned out to be difficult. Two decades after demolition of political apartheid, Black SA remains horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Indeed in 2009, the country sidelined Brazil as the most skewed society in the world. How to close this gap between the white haves and black have-nots, how to rectify this politically explosive lopsidedness, has been the most pressing challenge in post-apartheid politics.

MandelaPost-Mandela SA remains a nation divided; a viable and united SA is still a dream deferred, a work in progress. Phase one of political freedom is indeed in place, thanks to Nelson Mandela. Step two requires injecting economic freedom for all into it; fusing what former President Thabo Mbeki once called South Africa’s two-nations into one. This is a more difficult challenge than defying apartheid, one that requires inviting to the table more than just a single Mandela. The starting point must be that each of the existing two SA nation-states accepts that it is to its interest that a merger occurs.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

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Microsoft’s Offer and Risk Factor for Kenya
June 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

UhuruSeven months ago, Kenya banned importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) foods because of their potential risks to public health. That move sparked a fierce war of words between local anti-GMO activists and their pro-GMO rivals. The Government stood firm and has so far prevailed over the influential and well-resourced pro-GMO faction. Has Kenya unwittingly walked into the volatile, global GMO controversy?

On June 4, 2013, Microsoft International pledged to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spirited project of free laptops for primary school pupils. At that stage of the game the GMO issue probably did not arise; Kenyans had moved on to new frontiers. But, had we really managed to sneak past the GMO issue?

Last year Kenya’s anti-GMO crusade was spearheaded by Beth Mugo as the Minister of Public Health and Sanitation. This year, Uhuru Kenyatta is the torchbearer for the computer-skills quest. Uhuru is now Kenya’s Head of State and he conceived and articulated the free computer skills idea as his 2013 campaign pledge.

Coincidentally, Uhuru and Beth are first cousins. Their point of convergence is Jomo Kenyatta, father of the nation! Could computer skills and GMO issue drive a wedge between two of Mzee Kenyatta’s public offspring? It gets more involved: computers and GMOs are also akin.

The Microsoft International’s gift to Kenya was in form of training the trainers to implement the computer-to-schools programme by January 2014. That attractive offer was conveyed to Uhuru by Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. Courtois’ official assignment is to guide global sales, marketing and services everywhere outside the US and Canada.

The GMO issue was probably never mentioned when computer skills offer was discussed. In any case, what Kenyan would resist the appetite to acquire computer skills for Kenyan youth from Microsoft, the mother of computer know-how? After all, what matters in contemporary world is not what you own; it is what you know. What do GMOs have to do with computers anyway?

On reflection, enough connectedness crops up to trigger alarm. Microsoft International is a subsidiary of US-based giant computer multinational (MNC), Microsoft Corporation. Ultimately, Courtois reports to the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates. To service his $1.5 million annual income, Courtois must peddle Gate’s will.

The world knows Bill Gates as a computer wizard and the richest man in the world, but he more than that. He is deeply involved in GMOs; indeed he is now a major shareholder in the world’s biggest biotech MNC, Monsanto Company. Additionally, Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation underwrites numerous GMO projects in Africa, including Nairobi-based Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA.) For all practical purposes, he is the face of the GMO universe. GMOs and computers converge on Bill Gates.

GMO enthusiasts are said to envision a GMO world-without-borders. Hence, the obsession to control food production everywhere in quest for the world dominance which that would imply. For the same reason, Monsanto seeks to own seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and food markets worldwide. Meanwhile, the company is hell-bent on destroying food competition around the world, including its American home base.

Most unsettling of the GMO drive is that Barack Obama is now squarely part of it and he has sucked Africa into it. In May 2012, the American President launched the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (NAFNS), ostensibly to save sub-Sahara Africa from hunger in a decade.

Dissenters objected loudly and clearly. They accused Obama of opening up Africa for domination by ruthless American multinationals and pushing controversial GMOs down their throats, literally. Suggestions of “saving” the continent were a smoke-screen; MNCs are profit seekers not NGOs. They are neither equipped nor inclined to engage in humanitarianism, least of all in Africa.

Prof-James-KariukiImagine a ‘misunderstanding’ arising over Kenya’s current GMO policy. Suppose, for example, that it is Bill Gate’s will is to have Kenya’s 2012 anti-GMO importation decision revoked. The opponents would be the Government of Kenya plus a few local anti-GMO voices. The supporters would be Monsanto, Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft International, AGRA, NAFNS and local GMO-enthusiasts. In addition to their deep pockets, the GMO-believers would also have the White House on their side. This would be a genuine David versus Goliath confrontation.

For several years, the pro-GMO forces have had their heydays. But anti-GMO voices, principally the US Organic Consumers Association, have recently also gathered steam. They are angry and have vowed to squash Monsanto to oblivion.
The above is the complex-mix in the sealed package that Courtois presented to Uhuru on June 4, 2013. It would be reckless to underestimate the might of the heartless global corporate capitalist system behind it, its power to seduce and to corrupt. Meanwhile, it is well to remember the American unveiled threat to Kenyans in the last election: choices have consequences.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. The views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

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The Mau Mau Compensations in Historical Context
June 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

Kenyan Mau Mau who successfully challenged the British government, from left, Jane Muthoni Mara, Wambuga Wa Nyingi, and Paulo Muoka Nzili. Photograph: AP

Kenyan Mau Mau who successfully challenged the British government, from left, Jane Muthoni Mara, Wambuga Wa Nyingi, and Paulo Muoka Nzili. Photograph: AP

On June 6, 2013 the British Government pledged to make amends to Mau Mau survivors who had been brutally victimized by the British colonial authorities during Kenya’s war of independence.

 The offered financial compensations were by no means staggering but the wording of regrets for the wrongdoing was refreshing for its sincerity. The forthrightness of the exercise is a relief to the victims and adds significantly to the acts’ historical implications.

Firstly, the moment that the British Foreign Secretary William Hague stood before Parliament and regretted that horrid and excessive abuses had taken place in colonial Kenya, the Mau Mau freedom fighters ceased to be ‘terrorists’ and became nationalists. History books need to be edited.

More broadly, Hague’s words vindicated the claim that historically, the wheels of justice move slowly but they tend to move towards greater justice.

It has taken Britain half a century to accept culpability for the Mau Mau excesses.  Concurrently, another anti-colonial war raged in Algeria. The brutality in the Algerian War was so horrendous that, to this day, Algerians find it practically impossible to forgive their former colonizer.

A hint of regrets would probably ease the intense anger but the French too still bulk at the suggestion of an apology, much less of compensation. After all, the Algerian War nearly tore apart metropolitan France itself.  Hard feelings persist.

Algerian War notwithstanding, however, in situations where a definable group has absorbed ‘collective injury’ from another, historical tradition has been to amend the wrongs by paying restitution.  This has been said before in this blog, but it is probably worth repeating.

The most famous case is, of course, that of the Jews and the holocaust experience. Post-World War II Germany has faithfully made amends to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

A less publicized tragedy is that of wrongful US internment of people of Japanese extraction by the Roosevelt administration during World War II.  When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Americans feared another assault was forthcoming and pressured President Franklin Roosevelt to take pre-emptive action against Japanese descendents in the US.

In February 1942, Roosevelt signed an Executive Order authorizing 120, 000 people of Japanese descent on the US West Coast to be placed in War Relocation Camps. Presumably, Japanese descendants were more likely to spy for Japan. To the dismay of historians, no Japanese descendant was ever convicted in the US for spying for Japan.

Forty three years after World War II, the US Government resolved to pay restitutions in the amount of $1.2 billion to the affected Japanese-American families. The 1988 decision was accompanied by a moving pledge: “The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”

Two decades after the American historic decision, the Australian Government issued an unreserved apology to its Aborigine citizens for historical wrongful treatment, for “the “laws  and policies that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.”

The Australian Government fell short of mentioning reparations for the Aborigines, but amends for that purpose have been slowly coming.

History shows that Africans and their descendants have endured greater ‘collective injury’ than all the other groups combined. Yet, until the mau mau case in June, no reparations have ever been paid to them. Legal scholars insist that this is indeed ‘justice-delayed’ due to the enormity of the Africans’ case; it is too overwhelming.

Prof-James-KariukiThe matter of apartheid victims is exceptional; it is indeed smaller and more manageable. As a legal precedent, it could easily reverberate to the entire Global Africa. But restitutions have not been forthcoming, partly because the post-apartheid government of President Thabo Mbeki once resisted the idea of compensation decided upon outside South Africa. Allegedly, such extra-territorial decisions would infringe upon South Africa’s sovereignty. Bishop Desmond Tutu disagreed with that logic.

To-date, only a single apartheid case has had limited success.  Last year, General Motors, the American automobile company, agreed to an out of court settlement in which it would pay apartheid claimants. The payments were nominal but they were a back-door admission of liability for past racial-determined wrongdoing.

The USA bears a huge stigma regarding slavery and historical mistreatment of its black citizens. Politically, Barack Obama is not obliged to come to the rescue Africa; Americans voted him into office and he is answerable to them.

However, slavery was ultimately entrenched largely as an American domestic sin and political Obama has a moral responsibility to apologize to his fellow African-Americans for that wrongdoing. That alone is an ideal opportunity to place the first US black president in his rightful place in history for one act of kindness. After all, his presidency is itself an affirmation of history moving towards greater justice

Slavery was also a global sin of the Western world against Africans and their descendants. As the leader of the ‘Free World,’ Obama should take a hint from the British action regarding Kenya’s mau mau and apologize to the entire Global Africa in the name of the USA. That would be a mark of statesmanship.

** *James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. The views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

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Why Is Barack Obama Skipping Kenya in His African Trip?
June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Obama addressing young African Leaders In less than a month, US President Obama will undertake his first extended visit to Africa. Amazingly, the tour excludes Kenya. This is puzzling since Kenya is Obama’s ancestral homeland. Even fellow Americans are wondering: why would Obama bypass his ‘old country?’

The intrigue dissipates when viewed through the prism of Kenya’s recent national election. When the votes were finally cast at the end of that process it was the West, especially the US and Britain that was mystified that Uhuru Kenyatta emerged victorious over their candidate of choice, Raila Odinga. Is the planned omission of Kenya in Obama’s itinerary a form of simple-minded revenge?

This seems to be the case when it is considered that fighting terrorism is a critical priority in US foreign policy. In Eastern Africa, Kenya has been central to counter-terrorism. In this sense, Kenya and the US have a shared interest in tackling a core issue to both. Why would the US president bypass the most prominent ally in the region? It is indeed tempting to believe that Obama’s ill-advised strategy may have nothing to do with US national interests. Is it a case of personal vendetta?

Uhuru and his deputy, William Ruto, are ICC-inductees allegedly for orchestrating Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. But these charges erupted as the credibility of the ICC itself was on decline. There were ‘loud whispers’ that the court targeted African leaders disproportionately. Yet, the greatest human rights enemies were Western leaders and they, invariably, walked free.

Barack Obama himself is considered a case in point. Under his personal watch, thousands of innocent people have been killed by unmanned drones in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The ICC has never even pretended to indict him. But the sins of US George Bush and Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in the Iraq War were more relevant. To-date, thousands of innocent Iranians have died due to Western belligerence on ‘cooked-up’ claims.  The ICC has never gone after the perpetrators.

Sensitive questions thus arose: Has the ICC become a neo-colonial tool of the West? Why the selective justice? Unfortunately, for the court, this view was championed by none other than the continental African Union. The hunter had suddenly become the hunted; the ICC itself was on trial in public opinion.

In this anti-ICC atmosphere, it appeared contrived that the West continued to pose as the guardians of human rights in Kenya. In the 2012-13 campaign in particular, the British and Americans shamelessly masqueraded as the moral force to constantly remind Kenyan voters that Uhuru and his running-mate were ICC-inductees, unworthy of the presidency.

Prof-James-Kariuki To emphasize the point, Britain declared that in the unlikely event that Uhuru won the elections, it would maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with his government. At that juncture the Uhuru’s Jubilee Alliance felt compelled to object bitterly and publicly to the “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.”

Lest it is forgotten, the US is not a signatory to the ICC. Yet, the Americans went beyond subtle hints by issuing a thinly-veiled threat to the Kenyan voters: ‘choices have consequences.’ Implicit in the statement was that, if Kenyans voted the Uhuru-Ruto ticket to power, the Western powers would punish them.

In sum, the Uhuru-Ruto Alliance was denied the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, a legal doctrine that the West otherwise holds dear. Is by-passing Kenya in the forthcoming Obama visit one of the consequences to Kenyans for making the wrong choice in the 2013 election? Would Obama consider by-passing Kenya had Raila Odinga won the presidency?

 Again, many Kenyans believe that Obama’s current dismissive attitude towards Kenya has nothing to do with the American vital interests; it is a personal vendetta against Kenyans for rejecting his preference, Raila Odinga, as their president. Is this nepotism, negative ethnicity or meddling on others’ domestic matters on the part of Barck Obama?  The answer is in blowing in the wind.

What is known is the excessive lengths to which Obama went to boost Raila Odinga’s political chances in Kenya. These included financial, political and campaign support. Unfortunately, the attempts ultimately fell short.

Baba Kabwela has it that the ICC has been under immense Western pressure to prosecute Uhuru Kenyatta and his running-mate for no other reason than to remove them as obstacles to Odinga’s way to Kenya’s presidency. For this purpose, a three-pronged strategy was devised. As a bona fide ICC member, Britain would push the Indictment issue from the legal aspect. Meanwhile, the US would agitate for the same ICC matter in Kenya politically, using its weight as a respectable foreign donor and world’s superpower.

Finally, the strategy called upon Odinga to exploit the same ICC-issue from the home front. In his campaign logic, Kenyan voters would never choose ICC-criminals over the ‘clean’ self. Additionally, it would be impossible for Uhuru and Ruto to rule Kenya from The Hague. After a long and turbulent political career, it would finally be smooth sailing for Raila to the State House.

As the campaign wound down, polls showed that Kenya’s elections were indeed close. But Raila Odinga was not concerned. With all the weight of the Western powers on his side, he doubtlessly would win the election; “it wouldn’t even be close.”

The prediction was wrong on both counts.  The tally was close—very close, but Raila was the loser. He and Barack Obama were understandably stunned and disappointed. Avoiding Kenya on the forthcoming Obama’s African trip is their way of pouting.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. The views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

 

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US Afraid of Nuclear North Korea?
May 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

 Prof-James-KariukiIn recent months the world has been agitated over North Korea’s threats to unleash nuclear weapons upon the US and its Far East allies. But just as easily as the issue arose, it has now subsided. Yet, it raises fundamental questions: Is the US afraid of nuclear North Korea, a third-rate power that it is?  If so, why?

 US President George W. Bush first used the expression ‘axis of evil’ at the turn of the century to refer to Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

According to the Bush, those were the leading world’s rogue states characterized by absence of democracy at home, insatiable appetite for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and commitment to worldwide dispersal of terrorism. It was incumbent upon the ‘civilized world’ to restrain the pariah states. To Iraq, Iran and North Korea, they were ‘marked.’

Skeptics disagree, arguing that what bound Bush’s pariah states was a quest for retaliation for old injuries inflicted upon them by the US. What moved them was a deep longing for reprisal, an aspiration to inflict harm on American national interests everywhere.

Each of George Bush’s three members of axis-of-evil has had deep-seated grievances against the US. When Bush first used the expression in January 2002, America’s latest confrontation was against Iraq.

A decade earlier, George Bush senior had unleashed Operation Desert Storm, a brutal war of ‘unequals’ upon Iraq for invading Kuwait. Was it an adventure for oil or for democracy?  Whatever the case, Iraq’s national pride was deeply bruised by the war.

Henceforth, Saddam Hussein’s subsequent appetite for WMD was probably whetted by more than a temptation to bully neighbors and counter Israeli regional military superiority. Conceivably, Saddam vowed to deter a repeat of the humiliation of the First Gulf War.

Today, it is public knowledge that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq by baby Bush and allies was not prompted by existence of WMD in Iraq; it was driven by a desire to incapacitate permanently revenge-driven and embittered Saddam Hussein. After all, he was poised to inflict harm on the USA.

A running feud has also existed between the US and Iran since 1953 when the CIA underwrote the overthrow of Iran’s nationalist and democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mossadeque. Relations between the two countries have ever since remained, at best, chilly.

Subsequent hostile encounters, and the US general support of Israel, have ultimately blended to make Iranians sufficiently angry to wish to incur harm upon their so-called ‘Great Satan.’ Hence, President Obama’s failure to persuade the Iranians to “unclench their fists.”

Finally, North Koreans too have had a prolonged grudge against the US which they hold responsible for the 1950’s division of their country into North and South Korea. Although the Korean War that led to that partitioning was undertaken in the name of the UN, it was executed and sustained by the US.

Nuclear weapons are unquestionably unacceptable tools of foreign policy given the scale of harm that they can inflict. Yet, it is disingenuous to suggest that nuclear proliferation per se determines reactions to it. It matters who does the possessing.

That value judgment entails consideration of additional factors relative to the possessor’s station in life: his race, ideology, wealth, religion, political stability and likelihood of unleashing nuclear power against ‘us or our benefactors.’ In a US-dominated world order, America is central to this equation.

South Africa was once a nuclear power but it was ‘coaxed’ to dismantle its entire arsenal ‘voluntarily,’ the only country ever to do so. Until the early 1990s, white-ruled SA was the world’s pariah state. Yet, as apartheid South Africa developed WMD the West turned a blind eye. Even though SA felt somewhat abandoned by the West, nobody expected white-ruled SA to target its nuclear missiles at Hawaii, Washington or New York.

The Western ‘blind eye syndrome’ changed at the demise of apartheid. While it had been tolerable for undemocratic, white-ruled SA to possess nuclear weapons, it was entirely ‘unthinkable’ for the same weapons to be handed over to a democratic Black government. Were the deadly weapons unsuitable for Blacks, Muslims and children under sixteen?

Barack Obama does not lose sleep over the huge nuclear stockpiles possessed by Britain, France and other so-called ‘legitimate’ nuclear powers. The Europeans have the technical capacity to inflict harm on the US but that possibility is not alarming; it is defused by a sense of ‘global fellowship.’

Russia and China can also inflict unacceptable damage upon the West generally and the US specifically. But, as current members of the nuclear-club-in-good-standing, they have acquired adequate credentials in the contemporary world order to acquiesce to it as it is.

Not so with North Korea. It is too much of an outsider to the global status quo. To the estranged state, Japan and South Korea are guilty by association with the head of the Western ‘monster,’ the USA. And the Obama regime is sufficiently realistic about the nuclear threat that the third-rate North Korea poses to put the world superpower’s military defenses on alert.

Barack Obama should abandon the current apartheid of global military technology on which the world’s nuclear club is based and retreat to his July 2008 logic. He then promised “to make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy.”

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

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Africa’s New Global Opportunities: The Case of Kenya
May 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Last week Kenya’s newly-elected President, Uhuru Kenyatta, travelled to London at the invitation of the British Government. Officially, the purpose of the trip was to participate at a Somalia Summit, a subject of vital importance to both Kenya and Britain.

In all likelihood, Uhuru was skeptical about the trip. He was surely mindful that when his father visited the UK in 1962, he was pelted with rotten eggs by the British public, a show of contempt. After all, colonial authorities had dismissed daddy Kenyatta as a satanic pervert.

Uhuru went to London anyway. The Somalia issue was too critical to Kenya’s national interest to be bypassed. Additionally, Kenya-Britain relations had recently deteriorated; their improvement called for gestures of goodwill by both sides.

During the 2013 visit, no eggs were thrown but the British news media dubbed Uhuru with a hostile title, ‘Criminal President.’ The epithet obviously offended the Kenyan millions who had just voted Uhuru into office. Kenya’s social media was abuzz with objections to the British crudeness.

Was there a story behind this story?

Kenya became independent in 1963 and immediately displayed intrigues. Firstly, Jomo Kenyatta, the uncontested national leader, had always been at the forefront of the anti-colonial struggle. Yet, power was handed over to him, the man whom the British colonialists had categorized as a “leader unto darkness and death.” Secondly, Kenyatta surprisingly proceeded to tilt independent Kenya to the West, the former oppressor.

Soon thereafter, Kenyatta published a book, Suffering without Bitterness. That title, and the book itself, were a vivid affirmation that Kenyatta was an Anglophile poised to entrench Kenya as a prominent ‘darling of the West’ in Eastern Africa. Concurrently, he built himself into a capitalist tycoon of staggering proportions.

Kenyatta’s book reeked of forgive-and-forget sentiments towards the former colonial tormentors. Now the baton has been passed to his son, Uhuru, whose presidency may push Kenya to yet another paradoxical ideological orientation.
Uhuru’s worldview may be summed up as: we-may-forgive-but-we-will-not-necessarily-forget. Personally, he seems to harbor a deep Prof-James-Kariukimistrust of the British, perhaps because of how scornfully they treated his father in the colonial era. More to the point, Uhuru himself has had unpleasant encounters with the same West recently.
Uhuru is an ICC-inductee, accused of orchestrating Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. Those charges emerged almost simultaneously as the credibility of the court itself started to decline on the grounds that it targeted African leaders excessively. Yet, the logic continued, Westerners were the greatest human rights violators and they were never indicted.

Had the ICC become a neo-colonial tool of the West? The hunter suddenly became the hunted; the ICC itself was on trial in world opinion. Tragically for the court, the campaign against it was championed by the continental African Union.
In this anti-ICC atmosphere it appeared strenuous that, in Kenya’s 2013 election campaign, Westerners posed as the ‘chosen’ moral crusaders to remind Kenyans that the Uhuru-ticket was composed of ICC-inductees, unworthy of the presidency. In short, Uhuru was portrayed as a liability to Kenyans.

For its part Britain decreed that, in the unlikely event that Uhuru won the elections, it would maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with his government. Uhuru was obviously offended by the pronouncement and his Jubilee Alliance felt compelled to protest of “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.” The Americans also issued a poorly-veiled threat to the Kenyan voters that ‘choices have consequences.’

Clearly, Western powers were bent on withholding goodwill and friendship to a democratically-elected Uhuru-led government. In effect, Uhuru was denied presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Conversely, the West was actively campaigning for Uhuru’s major political rival, Raila Odinga. Indeed, with the conspicuous Western support on his side, Raila was convinced that he would win the election; “it wouldn’t even be close.” He was wrong on both counts. He lost and the elections were close.

Kenyan voters were irritated by the Western meddling in their domestic political process. In the end, condemnation of Uhuru’s candidacy backfired, triggering Kenyans to support Uhuru in form of sympathy votes.
Attempts to discredit the Uhuru-Ruto candidacy strained relations between Kenya and Britain and left a bitter anti-West taste among Kenyans. Epithet of Uhuru as a ‘Criminal President’ by the British Sky News merely added salt to injury.
What caused the Kenya-British rift?

Regarding the ICC induction, the West saw it in purely legal terms. Uhuru had been indicted; he must face the law. Conversely, Kenyans saw it in context of local politics. Overwhelmingly they believe that, if Uhuru got involved in the post-elections violence at all, it was not a matter of premeditated murder; it was self-defense. Uhuru’s objective was to deter reckless human rights violations against the Kikuyu. Bravely, Uhuru resisted ethnic cleansing where the state had repeatedly failed. Kenyatta reinforced the principle of self-defense.

From this perspective Uhuru is a local hero, a leader who put himself in harm’s way in a bid to save his people from five-year cycles of senseless savagery. To many Kenyans Uhuru Kenyatta is not a villain; he is their favorite son and they said so in the March 2013 election. Neither the West nor the ICC can convince them otherwise.
In the broader sense, contemporary African thinkers insist that the West misreads the realities of current Kenya. It continues to see Kenya as a prime candidate for foreign aid. To maintain that status, Kenya must uphold its credentials of a “deserving poor.” Having an ICC-inductee as president violates good governance, a fundamental requirement for a “deserving poor.”

Yet, Kenyans have now departed from that view. To them, theirs is no longer a poverty-stricken country u-hauling a begging bowl in Western capitals in search for foreign aid. Kenya can no longer be subjected to the intrigues and manipulations of foreign aid. These Kenyans are psychologically eager to abandon foreign aid for trade. After all, Kenya possesses bargaining power. It is East Africa’s business hub and one of Africa’s most connected nations. Recent discovery of vast reserves of oil and gas have reinforced these views.

Finally, Kenya finds itself in a world order that offers other opportunities besides the West. In this setting, Kenya is as a much sought after lover as it is a suitor. Given these circumstances, calling shots in Kenya and Africa is no longer an exclusive domain of the West. To its credit, Britain has quickly realized and accepted that it needs Kenya just as much as Kenya needs it. It was against that thinking that Uhuru was invited to London in May 2013.

There was an element of urgency for Britain to act quickly because non-Western international presence is now “part of the fabric in today’s Kenya.” In particular, China makes no bones about its interest to engage in Kenya. And Uhuru is under considerable domestic pressure to give China a chance.

It would be truly paradoxical if Uhuru’s presidency consolidates the current surge of anti-Western nationalism in Kenya and tilts the country to the East. Should Kenya go East, Uhuru will negate his father’s legacy of turning the country West half a century ago. This could happen, not because Kenyans trust the Chinese more, but because they now trust the West less.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He Is based in South Africa.

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Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya’s New Posture in Global Politics
April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

ByJames N. Kariuki*

Uhuru KenyattaNot so long ago Third World countries subscribed to the notion of non-alignment in their international relations. The world was then bipolar, divided ideologically between the West and the East.  Non-alignment was an assertion that the Third World was not party to the quarrel between the two global blocs. That thinking was enshrined in what came to be known as the Non-Aligned Movement. 

 Post-colonial Kenya observed the provisions of non-alignment mostly in breach. That was so because the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was at heart an Anglophile. This was ironic given that the same Kenyatta was the vanguard of anti-British colonial activities. Finally, Kenyatta was imprisoned allegedly because he master-minded the Mau Mau rebellion. The British dismissed him as a leader “unto darkness and death.”

 Kenya became independent in 1963 and the country’s ironies continued. First, power was handed over to the same Kenyatta whom the British had branded a devilish pervert. Secondly, Kenyatta quickly tilted independent Kenya towards the West.

 Outraged, Oginga Odinga objected bitterly and proceeded to write a book, Not Yet Uhuru (1968). Odinga was no ordinary citizen; he was a major anti-colonial nationalist and Kenyatta’s Vice-President. While he agitated for socialism, Kenyatta welcomed British capitalism. Odinga did not realize then that Kenyatta had fought against colonialism, not because he objected to the British socio-economic order, but because of racial discrimination that accompanied British presence.

  In the same year that Odinga published his book, Kenyatta released his own, Suffering without Bitterness. That title emphasized that Kenyatta had nothing against the British; he was prepared to work with them. To affirm the point, he proceeded to turn Kenya into a major pro-British fort in Eastern Africa. For good measure, he also built himself into a capitalist tycoon of major proportions.

 Kenyatta’s book reeked of forgive-and-forget sentiments towards his former detractors, the British. His son, Uhuru, has now become Kenya’s president which may push the country into the next major irony. Unlike his father, Uhuru seems inclined to the notion: we-may-forgive-but-we-will-not-necessarily-forget. And he does have a grudge against the West.

 Uhuru Kenyatta has been inducted by the ICC as a contributor to Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. Coincidentally, the charges erupted when the credibility of the ICC itself was declining in Africa on the grounds that it targeted African leaders. Yet, critics said, the greatest human rights offenders are Western leaders and, invariably, they walk free.  Is the court a tool of the West? Unfortunately for the international court, this view was championed by none other than the African Union. Suddenly, the ICC itself was on trial in global public opinion.

 In this anti-ICC atmosphere, it was suspiciously provocative that the West continued posturing as the guardians of human rights in Kenya. In the 2013 campaign, at least, it seemed reprehensible that Westerners became constant reminders that Uhuru and his running-mate were ICC inductees, unworthy of the presidency. Indeed, Uhuru’s Jubilee Alliance was compelled to object bitterly and publicly to “the shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.”

 On their part, the Americans went past hints and issued a poorly-veiled threat to the Kenyan voters: ‘choices have consequences.’ Implicit in the statement was a resolve that Western powers would withhold friendship and goodwill to an Uhuru-led government. Similarly, Britain stated that, in the event that Uhuru won the elections, it would maintain only essential contacts with his government. For all practical purposes, the West denied Uhuru the assumption of innocence before proven guilty.

 In effect, the Western powers were now campaigning for Uhuru’s major rival, Raila Odinga. For his part, Raila stated that he would win the election; it would not even be close.  Kenyans took exception to the Westerners meddling in their domestic affairs. Condemnation of Uhuru’s candidacy backfired, prompting Kenyans’ impulse to give more votes to him. Sympathy votes flowed in abundance.

 Regarding the ICC case, many Kenyans believe that Uhuru’s was not a matter of premeditated murder; it was an issue of self-defense. If he got involved in the post-elections’ violence at all he did so, not to harm innocent people, but in defense of reckless human rights violations by others against the Kikuyu. He bravely countered ethnic cleansing where the state had repeatedly failed to do so.  Self-defense is an acceptable principle of the law, is it not?

 Indeed to many Kenyans Uhuru is a hero, a leader who put himself in harm’s way in a bid to save his people from five-year cycles of senseless savagery. To millions of Kenyans, Uhuru Kenyatta is not a criminal; he is their favorite son.  Neither the West nor the ICC can convince them otherwise.

Uhuru’s victory reflects a bewildering self-assertion in Africa, one reminiscent of the non-alignment movement. The popular mood during Kenya’s 2013 election was anti-Western; westerners felt mistrusted and unwanted. Most importantly, Uhuru’s Jubilee Alliance was triggered to protest publicly against Western political intrusion.

 Western exploitation of the ICC indictments to discredit Uhuru’s candidacy has left bitter taste in Kenya. This reality has occasioned a public consciousness among Kenyans that to align too closely to the West is ill-advised. It would be the ultimate irony if Uhuru eventually tilts Kenya to the East. He would negate his father’s legacy of turning Kenya West. That is the stuff of history.

 *James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

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Political Succession in Africa: Opponents versus Enemies
March 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Prof James KariukiBarack Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009 was by far more glorious than the one four years later. It captured the initial dramatic affirmation that America was sincerely loosening its grip on politics of racial hatred. To Africa, the same inauguration should have had an equally poignant message that political differences should not invariably degenerate into personal or ethnic hatred.

At the Obama’s first inauguration, bitter political rivals sat side by side united in their American-ness. The contest between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination was bitter. Yet, despite her stunning defeat, Clinton sat immediately behind the new president at the inauguration. And yet this honorable act paled in comparison to Republican John McCain’s graciousness in his short concession-of-defeat speech two months earlier. Is such remarkable political sophistication worthy of Africa’s notice or emulation?

Philosophically, the US Republican Party does not have much to offer to the international community but, in context of American national the politics, it does play a significant role.  For example, in the 1996 presidential campaign the Republican contender, Robert Dole, was urged by his campaign subordinates to make some unflattering remarks against his Democratic rival, Bill Clinton. To his eternal credit Dole declined, stating that Clinton was his opponent, not his enemy.

Those simple words were loaded with political wisdom and maturity. Bob Dole disagreed with Bill Clinton on almost every political issue. Yet, more fundamentally, he knew and understood that both were comrades-in-arms in a shared interest in America’s welfare. The same sentiments were clearly there when McCain conceded to Obama.

That was patriotism; it was what bound them together as Americans.  In other words, Dole implied, it was important to be a Republican but it was more so that he, like Clinton, was American first and foremost.

In Africa, there is a prevailing tendency for presidential incumbents and contenders to view political differences as personal affronts. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has repeatedly shown personal loathing for the country’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Could it be the case that Kenya’s J.M. Kariuki lost his life in 1975 for questioning the moral authority of the country’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta? What about Tom Mboya and Robert Ouko?

When public issues are personalized, visions of ‘national interests’ become blurred. Put another way, since African leaders have habitually fallen short of putting national visions above personal interests, they have betrayed the continent and their respective countries. This legacy is uncommon in the US experience.

In the American political history, Richard Nixon is remembered as the most ambitious politician at the presidential level. But this ambition was mitigated by national loyalty.  In 1960, Nixon lost in the bid for US presidency against John Kennedy. Yet, the margin was so small that Republican advisors urged Nixon to demand a recount.  Nixon dismissed the suggestion outright on the grounds that such a recount would have plunged the nation into a constitutional crisis.

While the so-called ‘ambitious’ Nixon could smell the pinnacle of power, he loathed the prospect of ripping his country apart constitutionally in the interest of his quest for personal power. His sense of being American left no room for distortion of national interests in pursuit of his ambitions.  He thus made the honorable choice: my-country-before-my-ambitions.

It is true that in the years to come, Nixon ambitiousness brought his presidency to grief when he resigned the presidency in disgrace because of the Watergate Scandal of the 1970s.  However, this does not minimize that his decision not to contest the 1960 election results was a measure of remarkable leadership and patriotism.

In Africa today, it is almost a fashionable trend to challenge election results. The ‘political disease’ first erupted in Angola’s 1992 national elections in form of what came to be known as the ‘Savimbi Syndrome,’ the claim that “either I win or the elections were not free and fair.”  In his ambitions Jonas Savimbi had popularized the notion that, if he did not win the 1992 elections, the voting process was faulty.  Question: if the election results were so clear even before the voting, why bother to vote at all?

Raila and OdingaCritics of the Savimbi Syndrome reject it because, inherently, elections presume that there will be losers and winners. Those who suggest otherwise merely are bent on destroying.  Savimbi himself did lose the 1992 national elections and, sure enough, he plunged Angola into the next phase of its protracted civil war. Yet, the Savimbi Syndrome virus had slowly drifted North-East to Kenya.

Just before the 2007-08 elections, Raila Odinga visited South Africa and was asked about his prospects in the impeding elections. He stated on national television, “In the absence of rigging, I will win.” Odinga did not win. All he did was repeat his self-proclaimed prophesy that if he did not win, the elections were rigged. That is all it took to plunge Kenya into senseless violence that verged on a civil war.

Five years later, in 2013, Raila Odinga repeated his political forecasting, that he would win the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta, that the election “wouldn’t even be close.”  He was wrong on both counts: the elections were close and, again, he was the loser.

Once more, Raila Odinga has failed to accept principle that elections presume that there will be winners and losers and has challenged the announced election results in court. Meanwhile, he holds the nation at ransom: fulfill my ambitions or I will unleash disaster upon you.Raila Odinga has been a great political tactician but he has fallen short of becoming a genuinely patriotic Kenyan.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

 

 

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Pan-Africanism and ‘Africa’s World War’
March 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

The year 2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.  In the black world, the same year is also celebrated as the 60th birthday of Afro-centric Pan-Africanism.

This tier of Pan-Africanism, otherwise known as continental pan-Africanism, got under way in 1945 in the British city of Manchester, when a small group of indigenous Africans met and collectively decided that European colonial domination of Africa had to come to an end. For the first time since its beginning in 1900, the Pan-African movement came under the stewardship of continental Africans.

Shortly after the Manchester Congress, the mau mau armed revolt was in full swing in Kenya. Its core message to the British colonizers was, “Give me liberty or give me death.” A decade  thereafter, the British relinquished their grip on the East African country.

Six year earlier in West Africa, Kwame Nkrumah had emerged triumphant in the bid to free Ghana.  Both Nkrumah and Kenya’s liberation leader, Jomo Kenyatta, had been sent off by the famous 9145 Manchester Pan-African Congress to ensure the demise of alien rule in their respective countries.

By 1960, the demands for independence in Africa became virtually a chorus.  As a result of shared Pan-African sentiments, colonialism was on its deathbed; unstoppable winds of change were truly blowing across the continent.

These winds of change were not prompted exclusively by continental forces.  Pan-African feelings rose sharply just about the same time in the African-American world, triggered in part by the death of Patrice Lumumba’s of the Congo.  The African-Americans suspected that their own government had a hand in the assassination of the uncompromising but popular Congolese nationalist. For a while, overflowing outrage among them prompted the UN to close its doors to the public for security concerns.

Meanwhile, demands among African-Americans for their own civil rights escalated to heights unheard of before.  Indeed, it was not long before black civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X became household names around the world. Almost without exception, these newly-found political stars in America declared their fellowship with African causes.

King was projected as a peace-loving, reasonable leader. Malcolm X, on the other hand was portrayed as radical and provocative.  Yet, despite differences of strategy, their message was identical: that Black Americans wanted their civil rights and they wanted them immediately.  They were no longer willing to wait.

Interestingly, by the early 1960s, African-Americans were citing Africans’ anti-colonial successes to inspire their own demands for equality and justice. “All Africa shall be free,” it was said, “before a black man in America can buy a cup of coffee.”  Continental and universal tiers of Pan-Africanisms were fusing in the USA.

At independence, Africa tended to focus attention on the state, the trappings of which had been usurped by colonialism.  African leaders were understandably excessively possessive of the security and inviolability of the state.  On the other hand, perhaps by default, there was substantial neglect of human rights. Unsurprisingly, post-colonial Africa became the global symbol of war, disease, hunger and massive human suffering. These two extremes were captured in the continental organization that emerged, the OAU.

The Congo, which prompted global pan-Africanism of the early 1960s into action as a result of Lumumba’s death has remained a constant reminder of Africa’s colonial heritage and enduring human suffering.

Critics have tended to attribute the woes of post-colonial Africa to the OAU.  Yet, it is well to remember that the organization had two mandatory purposes: to consolidate the ‘political kingdoms’ that had just been wrestled from the colonial powers and to expand anti-colonial successes all over the continent. On both these counts, the OAU was a classic success.

Winning freedom for South Africa was by far the greatest Pan-African challenge. The liberation movements from Southern Africa did most of the actual fighting in the bid to make the racially-controlled country ungovernable. But they did not act alone; they received support—political, moral and military, from the rest of Africa through the OAU and the Frontline States.

From Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and elsewhere, Africa spoke in one voice in declaring apartheid must go! What Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere once referred to as the ‘monster of un-freedom’ (apartheid South Africa) stood eyeball-to-eyeball against an entire continent. But the anti-apartheid support was derived from further afield in the pan-African world.

As the most politically influential black constituency outside Africa, the African-American community spoke out against apartheid.  To them, condemning any black person anywhere for being born who he was, was to condemn black people everywhere for being who they were. They objected to that view.  In practical terms, they pushed and saw the passage of the Comprehensive Congressional Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, despite the resistance of unsympathetic president, Ronald Reagan.

From the start the Anti-Apartheid Act was black-driven and it took years to galvanize bi-racial political support for it in the US Congress.  But behold, ror all practical purposes, the passage of the Act was the kiss of death for apartheid.

In March 2005, another Pan-African conference of major historical symbolism was held in Jamaica.  Its preoccupation was: now that Africa is virtually free from formal colonialism, what can global Africa do about its current problems of underdevelopment and marginalization? This was a ‘talk shop’ for the governments of global Africa to discuss the human rights of their people, not the security and rights of their states. Freed South Africa was a major participant of this event, indeed its major convener to celebrate ten years of its freedom.

The African Union was formed to attend to African human needs more so than the OAU had done.  But the commitment quickly faced a challenge in the case of Libya’s invasion of 1911.  On the face of it, the intention of Resolution 1973 of the UN Security Council was to protect Libya’s civilians from senseless slaughter by Mummer Kaddafi’s military forces. In this context, South Africa had no difficulty voting for the resolution of the Council. After all, South Africans had endured more than their share of human rights violations from various apartheid regimes.

However, in application Resolution 1973 turned into something different from enforcement of a mere no-fly zone in protection of innocent civilians. Before long it was clear that the adventure was actually an imperial ambition for the resources of the country in form of oil and gold.  That ambition explained why the Western invaders preferred military action rather than dialogue. After all, their scheme required the removal of Mummer Khadafy, a regime change. Since the AU preferred dialogue to bullets, it was sidelined, bypassed and ignored by the militarily mighty.

Not so long ago, the Americans told the world that they would remove Saddam Hussein and rebuild a peaceful Iraq. That Iraq has so far been evasive. More recently, we were promised a peaceful post-Khadafy Libya.  We have not seen it yet.

Post-colonial Congo has never known peace since its inception in 1960. Its curse has been its bottomless natural resources and the appetite that they whet. Now African leaders in the region, accompanied by the United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States have signed a peace framework that provides a starting point in the effort to end the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.  Perhaps this is the answer that has dodged the Congo, this sick African giant for so long.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

 

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Monsanto: A Repeat Offender
February 6, 2013 | 1 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

On November 6, 2012, Californians voted on Proposition 37, a statewide initiative. Had it succeeded, it would have required labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The initiative was narrowly defeated at the polls, but it cost the big anti-labeling agribusinesses a whopping $47 million to campaign against it.

The California vote was a big issue but it was overshadowed by the bigger presidential election that took place concurrently. However two days later on November 8, 2012, the Kenya Government banned importation of genetically-engineered foods effective immediately, until their safety to humans was scientifically confirmed. Well-funded pro-GMO forces in Kenya were up in arms against the importation ban; but it is still in force.

In mid-January 2013, another food outcry erupted, this time in Europe. Irish food inspectors had uncovered in their supermarkets almost 30 percent horsemeat in beef burgers intended for human consumption. Further tests revealed that burger products elsewhere in the country had traces of horse and pig DNA.

The horsemeat issue in Britain triggered considerable public unease in South Africa which imports some foods from the United Kingdom. The issue slowly died down when SA’s food companies issued assurances that they were not involved in the British food scandal as they did not import any of the implicated foods.

Thousands of kilometers away from Kenya, Britain, SA, and the USA, the Catholic Medical Association of Nigeria (CMAN) was constantly busy nagging Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, not to sign into law a proposed bill that would allow GMOs to be imported into the country.

According to the Association, such a move would have the potential of destroying the lives of Nigerians. The Association thus advised the Nigeria’s Federal Government not to allow introduction of GMO products into the country because, overall, uncertainties about their benefits have led to their rejection in Europe.

What is the link between these stories? Put simply, it is that people worldwide have become increasingly conscious and protective of what they ingest. Hence, the uproar in Ireland about horsemeat in their foods, public outcry in SA to the British meat contamination, Kenya’s ban on GMO importation, and Nigeria’s reluctance to allow importation of genetically-engineered foods. And, lest we forget, there was Prop 37 in California, USA, on food labeling.

When I first approached the Pan-African Vision to write for them, there was one clear proviso: to promote positive aspects of Africa. In my view, it is the best news of the 21st century that Africans have joined the rest of the world in opposition to food contamination, no matter how well concealed.

Today, public-interest news media is engaged in the never-ending debate over gun control. Those against uncontrolled private possession of firearms insist that, background checks must be conducted on applicants for gun ownership. Presumably, if an applicant has a criminal record, he is of suspicious character and, therefore, disqualifies from owning a firearm. In short, what you do today will haunt you later.

Why isn’t the same logic applied to businesses, especially the multinational corporations that touch upon human lives around the world? Should the global community not ensure that previous business offenders are restrained from roaming the world ravaging mankind? Some anti-GMO groups are now thinking in those terms regarding the US-based Monsanto Company.

Monsanto is the world’s biggest food-engineering and genetically modified seed company. In addition to being the leader of the contemporary agribusinesses, it also has the dubious distinction of owning the most repulsive history.

Monsanto’s history is one steeped with controversial products, deadly consequences; massive cover-ups political sleight of hand, and culminates as a modern day plague on humanity, a plague that is about to peak to biblical proportions.

The America author of this statement goes on to outline Monsanto’s anti-social activities which include contribution to building the atomic bomb. But that is another story.

More recently, Monsanto has been involved in manufacturing other hazardous chemicals including DDT, an artificial pesticide, which was banned in the US in 1972. Subsequently, the same Monsanto got into the act of manufacturing Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant herbicide used in the Vietnam War to kill jungle growth and destroy growing crops (food.) Contact with the defoliant substance contaminated Vietnamese people and US troops indiscriminately, earning itself the nickname, the Merchant of Death.

In the early 1980s, US victims of Agent Orange and their families brought a class-action suit against the producers of the lethal herbicides, companies that supplied the lethal substance for the Vietnam War. The applicants sought compensation for injuries suffered from exposure to toxic Agent Orange. An out of court settlement of $180 million was reached in May 1984. Monsanto was a defendant in the case but continued to refuse to accept culpability even after the settlement.

Remarkably, Monsanto’s reputation as a danger to life and environment is not a new phenomenon; it goes back to its early beginnings. From the late 1920s to the early 1970s, the company manufactured PCBs in Anniston, Alabama and left a gory story.

PCBs are man-made organic chemicals once used to prevent fire explosions in electrical equipments and other industrial applications. Originally, PCBs were considered a life-saver, but ultimately, they turned out to be more than that: a highly toxic product, causing birth defects and potentially carcinogenic.

In the four decades (1929-1971) that Monsanto manufactured PCBs, it had a monopoly in the US and made hefty profits. Yet, it routinely dumped dangerous toxic wastes into a creek and oozing open-pit landfills around Anniston. The dangers of those chemicals were withheld from the town’s residents.

The consequences of PCBs to the Anniston community were devastating. Over time, thousands of children developed cancer, cerebral palsy and other health complications directly linked to exposure to PCBs. When these health damages initially surfaced, there was a specter of an explosive political reaction when innuendos of racism were floated. Rumors had it that Monsanto’s intentions were genocidal because west Anniston was primarily a black community.

Genocidal claims cannot be substantiated. However, it is true that the health dangers associated with Monsanto’s toxic activities in Anniston were visible. More specifically, those dangers were known to Monsanto’s officialdom.

Back in 1966, Monsanto’s officials knew that “fish turned belly-up in ten seconds’ when submerged in Anniston’s creek water, spurting blood and shedding skin as if they were dunked in boiling water.” Subsequently, Monsanto’s files were uncovered clearly marked, “CONFIDENTIAL: Read, Learn and Destroy.”

Against this background a rhetorical question is posed:

If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is the company hiding from the public now? This question seems particularly important to us as this powerful company asks the world to trust it with a worldwide, high-stakes gamble with environmental and human health consequences of its genetically modified foods.

Today, Monsanto has tentacles spread around the world, preaching the gospel of saving mankind from starvation. Yet, a quick background check reveals that the same company is a repeat offender against humanity everywhere. Critics are indeed justified in categorizing Monsanto as evil, unethical, poisonous and a killer. No wonder it has been dubbed a Modern Day Plague.

*James Kariuki is Professor of International Relations and a private consultant based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are his.

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