Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Africa News On Line
Nairobi, Kenya

By Jerry Okungu

Barack Obama knows how to exert pain where it hurts most. The American President is livid with Kenyan political leadership. This is in spite of the fact that his late father worked with President Kibaki in the Ministry of Finance in the 1960s and ‘70s. Never mind that he is a distant relative of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

When Barack Obama last visited Kenya in 2006, he was still a senator from Illinois with ambitions for the White House. Nobody really knew whether he would make it to the White House considering that he was black, a real roadblock to the presidency in America.

However, he was already massively popular with Kenyans , hence the packed University of Nairobi Great Court with Kenyans of all walks of life that had gone to hear and have a glimpse at the son of a Kenyan who was causing commotion in American politics back in the United States of America.

However, when it was all over, it was not what he discussed with Kibaki at State House that carried the day, nor what he said at Kogelo where his step grandmother still lives; but what he said at the Great Court that shook the establishment to its bones.

He treaded on the State’s sore thumb when he bluntly told the government to deal decisively with corruption and wastage of public resources among other social injustices that Kenya was famous for.

No sooner did he board his plane back to the US than government operatives, some too junior to criticize a visiting foreign dignitary, started wagging their tongues about his lack of respect for the Kenya government he had no idea about.

At that time, Obama’s crime was to have told Kenyans to love their country more than they loved themselves by putting their country first. His only crime was to have talked about glaring inequality in Kenya, landlessness and rampant lack of opportunity for young Kenyans to find jobs. His only crime was to have told government officials to stop stealing funds, plundering resources and grabbing every parcel of land at the expense of the less fortunate commoners.

Yes, he implored the Kibaki regime to be more tolerant, practice fairness in the distribution of resources and build and strengthen democratic institutions. At that time, he hoped that the then coming elections in Kenya would be free and fair and would usher in a new generation of visionary leadership. Alas, it was not to be. We plunged in unprecedented bloodbath soon after the elections were disputed.

Let’s give it to Obama. Soon after he won the elections, the first head of State he called in Sub-Saharan Africa was Mwai Kibaki.

He called to thank him and the people of Kenya for the massive moral support they had shown him during his grueling campaign. In that phone call, whose contents were generously shared with Kenyans, he promised President Kibaki that he would visit Kenya soon. The same exciting message was delivered to Raila Odinga in his capacity as the Prime Minister and a principal signatory to the coalition government.

Now, more than a year later, the situation is different. Instead of coming to Kenya, the son of a Kenyan is instead heading to Egypt and Ghana, avoiding Kenya like a plague because we have refused to learn from our blunders of the 2007 elections. He is avoiding Kenya because we have refused to implement the over-arching issues that the APRM process pointed out to us as early as June 2006.

Had we implemented the programs of action as recommended by Dr. Graca Machel in her report to the AU Summit in Banjul in June 2006, Kenya would never have had a bloodbath in 2007. These programs of action asked the Kenya Government to urgently implement acceptable land reforms, reform the electoral system, give women a greater voice in the affairs of state, provide healthcare, job opportunities, fight graft and reform parliament so that it is not seen as an institution that is there to exploit public resources.

Had we gone the Ghana way soon after we threw KANU out of office, Kenya would today be the model state in Africa.

However, as Ghana strove to exploit its Peer Review results and used it to market itself worldwide, we were busy recoiling into our tribal cocoons. Yes, we became too busy identifying who came from Mt. Kenya, Lake Victoria, Mt. Elgon, Miji Kenda or Mau Forest. We forgot that we were one nation that should move together.

Now that our leaders have refused to hang together to the extent of embarrassing one man who is proud of his origins in our land, they have only themselves to blame if the world community hangs them separately.