I spent the past month, on and off, in Nairobi and left the city on Thursday, flying via KLM to Amerstam and then San Francisco. Reading today’s New York Times piece on the country’s flawed election one year ago, I am reminded about how even the best journalism often suffers from a lack of context — and especially a lack of love and sincerity. The Kenyan failure to hold an honest presidential election one year ago was not, strictly speaking, a failure of law or process, but rather flowed from a poverty of imagation. Kenya’s leading ethnic group, the Kikuyu, remain unbelievers in the ability of the nation’s other “tribes” — most notably the Luo — to govern the large, sprawling and terribly diverse Kenya. The Times piece, which appeared on page one, suggests that had American election observers, who believed Odinga was winning handily, spoken out, the eventual official winner, Kibaki, would not have succeeded in declaring himself the winner. The explanation is simple-minded. The Kikuyu, who dominate Kenya economically and professionally, were simply unwilling to cede power in the last election. To deny Kenya’s leading ethnic group the dominant position in government doesn’t require a fair and free vote only, but rather the recognition of at least some important fraction of the Kikuyu themselves. Only through the active alliance of Kikuyu and other important ethnic groups, can Kenyan politics become freed of the specter of violence and the reality of ethnic partisanship. The Kikuyu must somehow rise above their “sectional” interests. If even a minority can do so, Kenya will show itself to be the most important of all African countries — if only because, in the eyes of the successful and the brightest, love of country will have replaced community self-interest as the paramount value.
Feb 01 2009
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Feb 01 2009
One reader named this blog among the ten best in world on the subject of Africa, generally. Based on her other nine selections, she has good taste — and I am encouraged!
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