America must act to bankrupt business-as-usual culture in Kenya – New Brunswick Home News Tribune, NJ
Images of burned-out cars blocking roads, burning churches, machete-wielding gangs and looters making off with huge refrigerators — or displaced people queuing for food — are unusual for Kenya. In fact, I thought I was seeing television footage from Iraq or Rwanda. Or maybe Afghanistan, Bosnia or Somalia. (more…)
Images of burned-out cars blocking roads, burning churches, machete-wielding gangs and looters making off with huge refrigerators — or displaced people queuing for food — are unusual for Kenya. In fact, I thought I was seeing television footage from Iraq or Rwanda. Or maybe Afghanistan, Bosnia or Somalia.
But that was Kenya in the aftermath of the disputed Dec. 27 elections that “returned” Mwai Kibaki to power for another five-year term, with his opponent, Raila Odinga, coming in second after a vote “tally” that foreign and local observers and Odinga’s Orange Democratic Party say was rigged.
According to the government, Kibaki “won” 4,584,721 votes, or 47 percent of the ballots cast, against Odinga’s 4,352,993, or 44 percent.
Odinga asserts his party won the elections — a fact that has been supported by election observers.
But the irony of it all is that the man who was in charge of those elections says he is not sure Kibaki won. He even questions the figures he announced!
What is playing in Nairobi is a repeat of the Al Gore-George Bush election dispute in Florida in 2000. In Kenya, however, the votes were “topped” to give the incumbent victory.
Obviously, today’s war on terrorism has replaced the Cold War of the 1960s through the 1990s. You’ll remember those were the days when the United States looked the other way as dictators around the world plundered democracies, in the process violating basic human rights in the name of fighting communism.
The Bush administration must not look the other way in Kenya.
It is an open secret that the Kibaki government was crucial to the U.S. war against terrorism in the Horn of Africa region. We also know that American forces operate from Kenyan bases. In fact, Kibaki turned over dozens of people to the U.S. and Ethiopian authorities as suspected terrorists. Why Ethiopia? So that the U.S. could waterboard the suspects — without being accused of violating the United Nations Convention against torture.
That kind of relation could explain why the Bush administration was quick to “congratulate” the Kibaki government, a move that the U.S. State Department has since rescinded.
On the other hand, Britain and the European Community have not recognized the new government.
Americans must not allow the culture of business as usual to continue in the Third World countries.
You may be wondering why I’m calling on the United States to put pressure on Kibaki to respect Kenyans’ democratic rights. You may even be tempted to say it is none of your business.
Well, to paraphrase English philosopher Edmund Burke, evil triumphs when good people do nothing. If we sit down and do nothing, the more than 600 people who have been killed in the ensuing post-election violence, which has displaced 250,000 people in Kenya, could increase.
Reports from Kenya indicate that the police have used tear gas, water cannons, batons and live bullets to control the crowds.
You can do something. Call your lawmakers — your senator or House representative. You can do something to stop evil from triumphing.
The post-election violence in Kenya isn’t about two tribes going after each other’s throats, as it has been portrayed in sections of international media. More often than not, African political disputes are easily explained away in terms of “tribal conflict.”
With the 1994 Rwandan genocide in the backdrop, one would understand that thinking. But beneath the conflicts are socio-political and economic factors.
As a matter of fact, Kenya has more than 42 tribes. Kikuyus — Kibaki’s tribe, make up about 22 percent of Kenya’s 34 million people. The Kalenjin make up 12 percent, and the Luo — the tribe of presidential challenger Raila Odinga — about 13 percent.
So, my friends, Kenyans voted, and voted in large numbers for a president of their choice — Raila Odinga. To steal that victory from Odinga would be to spit in the faces of millions of Kenyans who voted. It is like telling them their votes do not count. Do something.
Erick Wakiaga may be reached at (732) 565-7330 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.