Saturday, November 7, 2009

We're up against more than we care to think

When Johnnie Carson was announcing that Amos "Smiling" Wako was the latest victim of their visa bans, he commented that the official frequently travelled overseas on "business and pleasure".

The pleasure bit was amusing, but probably unnecessary. It brought to mind images of a blissful Wako rollicking across Western capitals consorting at night with gorgeous women as glasses of wine flowed.

On a less pleasurable note, many Kenyans—especially those in government—have come to the puzzled realisation that having a "kinsman" in the White House may not be a great idea after all. For some reason, Barack Obama is determined to show Kenya his meanest face possible.

I believe he wants to do this to counter any notion in Kenya and at home that he is going to play favourites with Kenya merely because he has a family connection with our country. He comes across as being absolutely unyielding on this. The need for domestic reforms is, therefore, something he has seized on handily.

Granted, he is a political animal who has no wish to see this success soiled by the genocidal tendencies of his father's homeland. In today's wired world, whatever happens here will be instantly relayed globally. Questions will be asked far and wide on what he is doing about it.

Let’s face it: a lot of Americans are uneasy with their President’s African roots. For Obama, that is bad enough without having his fellow Americans see on television pictures of Kenya as a country where people chop off their neighbours' heads with pangas during (stolen) elections.

The usual “strategic” reasons that are cited as to why Kenya must not fail certainly have their validity. Yet for Obama personally, such a failure would no doubt affect him in a different way than it would careerists like Johnnie Carson and Michael Ranneberger who have no particular attachment to Kenya and who should not be expected to care either way how we fare.

To compound our problem, the youthful President displays an odd messianism that is unsettling even to some Americans. He dreams of changing the world, and fast. And he is spot-on is on the state of our top leadership, or rather, the lack of it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Obama has hit the global stage at a time when Kenya is at its most vulnerable, burdened with a hopelessly weak leadership that, in a very short time, has done unparalleled damage to our country’s sense of self-worth.

Obama’s own assessment seems to tell him that unless this leadership is pulled by its ears, there will be worse trouble ahead for this country. The iconic status he believes he enjoys with Kenyans leaves him in no mood to defer to our wretched whining about sovereignty.

If, indeed, it is true that he has held meetings in Washington centred on Kenya with one Luis Moreno Ocampo, then we could be up against a lot more than we care to think.

Still, I know what it means when the raw power of the office he occupies is brought to bear. No country is immune, not even Britain, which likes to describe itself as America’s best friend. Britain’s old oppressive policies in Northern Ireland have had to be overhauled under pressure from a succession of US presidents with Irish roots, starting with J.F. Kennedy and on to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. If anything, Kenya has a far weaker hand to play than Britain.

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