Can an African country defy America

and get away with it? – An East african perspective

Published on The New Vision, by JERRY OKUNGU (E-mail), 21st February, 2008.

2 excerpts: In my village, we have a say when a village strongman steps on your mother’s smoking pipe, you dare not challenge him to a fight; or if a government official arrests your mother, it is time you turned a blind eye lest you be locked up too!

President George Bush has been in the neighbourhood for six good days; a very long time for the most powerful man on earth to be next door. And by the look of things, he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to go home. He started with Benin, came dangerously close to Kenya in Tanzania from where he dispatched his Condoleezza Rice with a special message to Kenya before flying to Paul Kagame’s Rwanda.

The question on everybody’s lips all this time has been: why did Bush seem to have a special interest in Kenya’s political crisis? What is so special about Kenya that can make an American President talk about it so much, send two top American diplomats to Nairobi and finally write a personal note to Kibaki and Odinga? How come when civil wars were raging in many countries in the region, no American president showed as much concern? …

… While Saddam and the Talibans were engaged in public rhetoric, Bush was assembling his war chest. For those who have lived longer to witness the outcome, the Taliban regime, Saddam Hussein, his sons and allies are no more. They were bombed to smithereens.

Kenya is strategic to the Americans and the international community in more ways than one. In fact Kenya does not belong to Kenyans anymore. When it became a member of the East African Community, the AU and the United Nations, it ceded part of its sovereignty a long time ago. When it offered to host numerous UN Agencies in its capital, the whole world invested in Kenya.

But perhaps the two most important factors why Bush and the world cannot afford to let Kenya slide into statelessness is the fact that Kenya is the lifeline of several states in Eastern Africa.

The economies of at least seven countries in the region directly depend on Kenya?s stability. If Kenya goes up in smoke, the whole region burns too. More importantly, Kenya must remain stable for international humanitarian operations in Sudan and Somalia can go on. It must remain stable for Americans to manage terrorist cells in neighbouring Somalia.

If the regime in Kenya cannot listen to George Bush, he may do to them what Americans have done to the regimes in Kabul, Baghdad, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia and Philippines! Mark my words. (full text).

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