“They may be powerful and rich but so were the colonialists…They may disrespect even hate us. We have defeated their ilk before….The West sees no worry preaching justice to a people they have disenfranchised, exploited, taxed and brutalised.”
“We have dealt a stunning blow to imperialism…We refuse to accept that these Western detractors have the right to define democracy and freedom for us…We paid the ultimate price for it and we are determined never to relinquish our sovereignty, and remain masters of our own destiny. We will never be a colony again.”
Can you guess the authors of these two paragraphs? If you guess Uhuru Kenyatta as the composer of the first and Robert Mugabe as the writer of the second, you are absolutely right.
The quotes were contained in recent speeches by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe – the former remarks made by Uhuru during the Extraordinary meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa early this month and at Mashujaa Day on October 20; and the latter by Mugabe during the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.
Looked at together the two paragraphs could as well have come from the same person. Do you see any difference in content and sting? No! That explains why some foreign publications are already comparing our President to the Zimbabwean leader.
While the world has been used to Mugabe’s explicitly hostile anti-West outbursts for years and learnt to ignore them, it is only now that the international community is seeing the brash side of Uhuru.
Before he became president in March, Uhuru was methodical, good-natured and ebullient. He was relaxed and casual. When he lost to Mwai Kibaki in 2002, he quickly conceded defeat. And when he was declared winner in 2012 and the matter was contested in the Supreme Court by an angry Raila Odinga, Uhuru maintained a non-combative and unshakable calm.
When he was summoned to the Hague for a status conferences on ICC charges related to the post-election violence of 2007/2008, he went without grumbling.
In March, he entered State House supremely confident and full of smiles, and at press conferences, he shared jokes and invited journalists to tea, something not seen during Kibaki’s reign.
But as state duties overwhelmed his diary and as the ICC trial approached, Uhuru’s transformation from a relaxed, easy-going person to a flustered, angry individual began. He publicly reprimanded the likes of Sonko and Shebesh for trying to sideline Waititu in the Nairobi Governor’s race, and began to show a combative defiance of the ICC. He travelled to China on a State visit that many saw as intended to slight the West for its seeming disapproval of the new Kenyan leadership.
By the time of the horrific Westgate terrorist attack – when Ruto’s trial at the Hague had already started – it was obvious Uhuru’s patience with the ICC and the industrialised West had reached a boiling point. While he talked about cooperating with the ICC, it was obvious he no longer had confidence in the global court.
He canvassed the African Union to call an extra-ordinary meeting of the Heads of State to discuss Kenya’s intention to withdraw from the Rome Statutes, and at the meeting in Addis Ababa, he issued a blistering attack against imperialists and colonialists, opining that the “philosophy of divide and rule which worked against us (Africans) all those years before, cannot shackle us to the ground.’
And at the Mashujaa Day celebrations to honour Kenya’s heroes and heroines, the Kenyan leader once again pummelled the West.
It is my view that this anti-West bashing will not take Kenya anywhere. History is full of examples that show that political tirades such as the ones we are seeing from Uhuru are counter-productive.
Although Kenya boasts that it finances 95 percent of its budget locally, everyone knows the country suffers from a 356 billion budget deficit.
Our whole agricultural industry is dependent on the European Union. Kenya earns approximately 200 billion Kenya shillings from exports of flowers, vegetables, tea and coffee to Europe. This may look small considering the 22 trillion shilling European market for agri-based products, but our goal should be to increase not to shrink this market.
We look to the West for foreign investments and tourists; for military training and hardware; for security support; and for food and health assistance. Our trade imbalance with the US is huge. If we antagonise America and the rest of the Western world, our EPZs will shut down; our tourist hotels will close and farmers will have to find other means of survival; and much more.
That is why I strongly feel the sooner Uhuru stops incessant, unprovoked attacks on the West the better.
Leaders who make the habit of assailing the West expose themselves to serious political and economic retribution. We all remember Idi Amin next door, Muamar Gaddafi in Libya, Fidel Castro in Cuba, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and of course Mugabe in Zimbabwe – just to name a few.
We can neither match the West economically nor challenge them militarily. A belligerent approach towards the industrialised West is pointless and self-destructive and will only suck Kenya into a “cold war” it cannot win. So far, the West has maintained a conspiracy of silence, and is keeping Kenya guessing about its next move.
Kenyans do not want Uhuru to behave like Mugabe. True, we suffered from colonialism but that is a matter of history now. Yes, we defeated imperialism, but do we have to remind the world about it all the time?
It is my view, therefore that Uhuru should tone down his anger and work towards forging friendlier relations with the nations that have stood by us since independence. And he can start by re-opening the door to State House for those new diplomats who have been cooling their heels for weeks waiting for an appointment to present their credentials. After that, he can begin a process of healing our relations with the rest of the world.
Anyone who thinks the world needs us more than we need it is day-dreaming.
And that is my say.