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February 22, 2019

Take heart, this too shall pass


First a word about the just-ended presidential election, which has caused the country so much grief: On this, the best I can do is to repeat what I had to say, exactly two weeks ago:


No Kenyan president seeking reelection has yet faced an opposition as strong and as united as NASA. And there can be no denying that the President is in a tight corner.

But there is plenty of consolation for Uhuru in considering that virtually every Kenyan president has once or twice been in even tighter corners – and they have all the same gone on to win reelection, one way or another.

The return to a multiparty political system in 1991 was widely celebrated as marking the end of the tyrannical Moi regime: Yet Moi still went on to win two presidential elections.

Kibaki suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of his own Cabinet ministers…who opposed the Draft Constitution of the 2005 referendum. It seemed like it was the end of the road for Kibaki. But just two years later he was yet again sworn in as president.

So, strong as NASA undoubtedly is, it would be a mistake for its top leadership to underestimate Uhuru, even this late in the day.


That is all I will say about that election itself for now.

So, turning to other related matters, I would like to provide recent evidence for my longstanding position that Kenyan leaders really need to get over their petty insecurities and instinctive hostility towards “interfering foreigners” – a term which applies as much to Western Europeans as it does to our fellow Africans.

 Back in 2007, it was first the former Ghanaian President John Kufuor and, subsequently, the former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, who came in for unjustified criticism during their attempts to help put an end to the spiral of post-election violence which was getting out of control.

Powerful figures in the administration of President Mwai Kibaki mocked Kufuor as someone who had come to Kenya “on holiday” at that time, insisting that his help was not needed. Annan had equally unkind things said about him by the same group when he arrived in Kenya shortly after Kufuor had left.

This year it was former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama who got to hear such thinly veiled insults. And this time it was from prominent opposition leaders who said he should have been “vetted” before being allowed to lead the Commonwealth Observer Group. And the suggestion here was that if indeed such vetting had taken place, Mahama would immediately have been disqualified from any such responsibility.

Yet, you only need look at some prominent African countries struggling with their internal rivalries and divisions to realise that we are really very lucky that we command so much global attention; and that we have so many distinguished men and women eager to help us resolve our most bitter differences, as and when these arise. 

Consider Nigeria, for example, currently faced with a determined secessionist movement. Here is an extract from a leading Nigerian website, ThisDayLive:

“Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has condemned peddlers of a trending hate song denigrating Igbos, warning that the country risks relapsing into genocidal war, akin to what occurred in Rwanda in 1994. The former vice-president's warning coincided with the failure of a 10-man committee of a coalition of Northern youths and Igbo leaders, over the expulsion notice given by some Northern youths to Igbos to leave the North by October 1, 2017, to reach an agreement….

The committee had been set up to find a common ground between the feuding groups and make peace…The Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has declared August as the deadline for the mass return of Igbo living in the North to beat the Arewa youths' quit notice.”

We may not yet be in a very comfortable place as concerns the aftermath of our recent general election. But I am confident that we will not have any former VP warning of mass evictions and genocidal war within our borders anytime soon.

Kenya’s leading politicians, by and large, are wealthy moderates, deeply invested in our continuing stability. And for that we should be grateful.

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