“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.

THE GOOD AND THE UGLY OF FOREIGN MEDIA COVERAGE

Kenya rarely receives positive coverage in the international media, but during the recent terrorist attack at Westgate, international media – with the exception of a few establishments – went to great lengths to present an objective picture of an aggrieved nation straining to deal with one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country’s history.

The CNN led the way by sending correspondents to Nairobi – one of them, our own Zain Verji; while Al Jazeera, Sky News and other international broadcasters stayed on top of the story, giving regular updates and broadcasting video tapes of Al Shabaab training activities in Somalia. Foreign correspondents – dozens of them – converged in Nairobi and filed regular stories, some  of the stories reaching the front pages of such highly positioned newspapers as the Washington Post and the New York Times. In a limited way, Kenya’s story is still hot overseas.

Only this Tuesday – a month after the Westgate – the New York Times, in its National Edition, carried a front-page lead photo of a Kenyan school girl preparing to lay two stems of roses at a memorial of those killed during the attack. The picture elicited a tinge of patriotism and nostalgia from Kenyans in the Diaspora.

Some media organisations, however, courted controversy as they reported Kenya’s misfortunes. BBC, for example, did not even want to call the attackers – already identified as members of the Al Queda affiliate group – terrorists, preferring instead to call them “suspected Al Shabaab militants.” When British MPs objected to that description, the only explanation the BBC gave was: “we always think very carefully about the language we use.” How insensitive! The once respected news organisation had lost touch with its audience, I thought.

The Arab-owned Al Jazeera, on the other hand, tried to attach a hate card by reporting that gangs of people were attacking and looting buildings owned by Somalis, something that was not entirely true. Without quoting any sources at all, one of its reports said “we have heard reports of Somalis being beaten up.” The Kenyan reporter who filed this story failed the first cardinal test in journalism: that facts must be confirmed by two reliable sources.

But there is one report that particularly caught my attention:

Even before the country ended its three days of official mourning, one American news station went on air with a vitriolic campaign, spitting out bizarre conspiracy theories meant to insult the integrity of Kenya and its leadership and to incite Christians against Moslems. The coverage was distasteful and insulting.

The person behind the unfortunate onslaught was none other than Jerome Corsi, the aged ultra-conservative trouble-shooter. To refresh your memory, Corsi was the American who was kicked out of Kenya in 2008, hours before he was to launch his venomous book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.

In a radio interview with Alex Jones, a self-styled libertarian and radio host, Corsi made some serious allegations, implying that a conspiracy of some sort existed between US President Obama and Raila Odinga on one hand, and jihadists on the other, to launch attacks in some selected countries, Kenya included. The implication of that report was that the two leaders were involved in the Westgate attack, an astonishing theory.

Speaking on an internet news show broadcast from Austin, Texas, and reportedly syndicated to 100 radio stations in the US, the man who has made a habit of attacking Obama alleged the two leaders had a pact with radical Islamists “to allow Al Queda (militants) to come from Somalia into Kenya” to commit terrorism….”

“They (Obama and Raila) are going to turn everything over to radical Muslims. So Obama is lowering the drawbridge from Egypt to Syria to Kenya to Libya, to Central Asia to everywhere to bring Al Queda. This is high treason,” he fumed, as the interviewer, fellow right-wing conservative, Jones, looked believingly.

Corsi also alleged that Odinga was an Islamist and a tribal clansman, references Kenyans know have no basis at all. Corsi gave no evidence to support any of his allegations.

This is just one example of people out there who wish Kenya ill will. This is why there is a need for Nairobi to undertake a vigorous damage control initiative overseas to clean-up the country’s name soiled by the terrorist invasion and the ICC matter.

Before that, however, President Uhuru Kenyatta must first re-open the accreditation process so that foreign envoys, now cooling their heels in Nairobi, can present their credentials. The envoys, mostly from the West, must be cleared as quickly as possible to signal Kenya’s wish to promote better relations with the rest of the world. Reports had said that Uhuru was too busy at the moment to process any incoming envoy. With the ICC issue hanging in the air, relations between Kenya and most of the Western nations are at their lowest ebb. This situation must not be left to linger on.

Two, Uhuru must fill the 15 or so top vacant positions in our Embassies and High Commissions abroad. Some of those positions like Washington DC, London, Ottawa and Brussels are very important in advancing our international relations and in promoting economic development.

And finally, the Kenya government must stop its belligerent talk against the industrialised West and concentrate on the critical domestic issues. We do not need to spend all our time and energy fighting a “cold war” with the West we know we can’t win. Let us concentrate on security as well as on bread and butter issues presently afflicting the country.

And that is my say.

MATSANGA: A REALIST OR POLITICAL OPPORTUNIST?

In recent days, Kenyans have been treated to boisterous theatrics from a chunky, rambunctious individual called David Nyekorach Matsanga. No, he is not a Mluhyia from Ingo. He is  a Mgisu from  Uganda; a resident of London; and a former Spokesman of the Lord’s Resistance Movement (LRM), the political wing of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.

Matsanga says he is a specialist in African history, governance, democracy, media impact on Africa, international management and lobby work; a former public relations consultant of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe; a witness buster (he claims he’s responsible for the withdrawal from the ICC prosecution list of witness number four, James Maina Kabutu, who was to testify against Uhuru Kenyatta; and a number one defender of the President and his Deputy William Ruto on ICC matters.

Matsanga also carries the title of Doctor. No, not a Medical Doctor. A Doctor of Psychology, a title, he says, he earned from the London Guidhall University. Some call him a lawyer but  I have not found any evidence of that anywhere. On his CV he only lists a Master’s Degree in Political Science/International Relations and an MBA. He makes no reference to his undergraduate studies or qualifications at all. He also claims to be a journalist only because he lists himself as a “consultant” with Britain’s Sky News and the Evening Post.

When I checked Guidhall University where he says he graduated from, I found out the institution existed only from 1992 to 2000 before it was merged with the University of North London to form the London Metropolitan University. My efforts to get someone at the Met to confirm whether or not Matsanga actually graduated from Guidhall bore no fruit.

What I have found out is that Matsanga went to London around 1986 after the overthrown of Obote and after he had spent time in prison. When Joseph Kony, the fugitive from the ICC was butchering, raping and maiming innocent people in Uganda and lying to his ragtag militia that some mysterious oil rubbed on their chests would shield them from bullets, Matsanga was the LRM’s chief propagandist in London, spitting venom against President Museveni’s regime.

What amazes me is how the Kenyan media have chosen to treat him as a celebrity. With the Westgate adrenaline having dried up, the media find in Matsanga a person with the capacity to raise ratings given his uncontrolled, gobbledygook and repetitive rapport, more suited for a saturday morning market environment than a talk studio that requires intellectualism, sobriety and discipline. The interview with Jeff Koinange, and a few days later with Larry Madowo, may have raised his profile as one of the fastest-talking newsmakers; but it surely exposed him as an enigmatic, egocentric blubber, whose background requires interrogation.

Even as the media stumble all over themselves to get an interview with him, Kenyans know almost nothing about the real Matsanga. What is he doing in Kenya? Who invited him? What kind of visa does he have? Who pays him? What is his agenda? Why do authorities allow him to interfere in the affairs of this country? What connection does he have with the Jubilee leadership?

Maybe these questions should be directed to his Nyumba kumi kumi overseer. But his presence in Kenya and the way he carries himself in public should be a matter of interest to Kenyans, especially at this time when the country is facing increased threats of terrorism.

This is a man who is said to have worked with the intelligentsia as a youth winger of Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress; a man who spent 12 years promoting a terrorist group; and a man who declared war against Museveni, a neighbour and friend of Kenya. Way back in 1998, Matsanga told a public meeting in London that LRM wanted to overthrow Museveni’s dictatorship and establish a multi-party system in Uganda.

“We are fighting a war for fredom of conscience in Uganda; fighting for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedom of every person in Uganda. We cannot talk peace if there is no freedom.”

Does he sound like a man who cherishes conflict resolution?

That Matsanga has wide connections in Africa and abroad is not in dispute. In fact it is those connections – some dubious – that we should be worried about. Publicly he comes out as a very ambitious person who tries to grab every available opportunity to promote himself, but they say, ambition is a hungry beast. Kenyans need to step back and check out this man to find out exactly who he really is.

And that is my say.

THE AFRICAN UNION: MUCH BARK, NO BITE

The high-octane extra-ordinary meeting of the African Union (AU) ended in an anti-climax over the  weekend. Africans expected a bombshell from the heads of state’s conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. What they got were cluttered “save my face” resolutions that fell short of one of the organisation’s  principles; promoting and defending African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its people.

Once again, the AU like the OAU before it, proved it was just a toothless bulldog: too much bark, no bite.

In the weeks preceding the meeting, spin doctors made Africans believe the top AU guns would withdraw from the International Criminal Court en masse to protest the hauling of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to the Hague. They made it look as if the decision would be unanimous, in order to send a strong message to the world that sovereign African countries no longer wished to be singled out unilaterally as perpetrators of international crime.

Excited at the prospects of the AU approval, some Kenyan legislators even told the world that the Kenyan Parliament would fast-track legislation to facilitate the pull-out; and will also to try save former journalist Walter Barasa from being flown to the Hague to answer charges of manipulating witnesses in the ICC trial of the Deputy President. Kenyan parliamentarians must now feel embarrassed and deflated.

In order to save face, African leaders issued a set of meek resolutions one of which was to urge Uhuru Kenyatta (and William Ruto) not to avail himself at the Hague. They made that decision without saying what collective measures they would take to deal with the consequences of such an action. They know very well that such an absence would attract a warrant of arrest. They also know our leaders would not longer be free to travel the world and attend to State functions for fear of arrest. Already relations between Kenya on one hand, and the United States and Europe on the other are frosty ,and any one of those countries would be happy to arrest and repatriate the two.

By advising Uhuru and Ruto to skip the international trial, the AU has demonstrated lack of common sense.  That African leaders also resolved to send a 5-man delegation to the ICC president to ask for the postponement of Uhuru’s trial is no different from closing the gate after the horse had bolted. The move offers too little too late.They could as well have sent a Note Verbale that would have cost only a few shillings in postage.

Who doesn’t know Africa is a continent of dictators and human rights abusers? Some of the heads of state in attendance in Addis Ababa could themselves end up at the Hague for the atrocities they apply against their people.

Passing a resolution that no sitting heads of state should be tried at any international court including the ICC is selfish and promotes impunity. Let every case be handled individually. After all, when African countries signed the Rome Statute they didn’t first call a meeting of the regional body for endorsement. Each country signed based on its own understanding of the implications involved. That this has now become a collective matter is mind-boggling.

Kenyans know what happened in 2007/2008. They know who incited wananchi to go out of their homes to protest’; and while out there, looted property, killed children, raped women and burnt churches. I tend to think the ICC prosecutor got the wrong people.

What is annoying even more about the AU is that the heads of mission did not make a single mention of the thousands of victims of the post-election violence who have to carry the pain and memories of those dark days. In its eyes, these people do not exist.

In my article last week, I advised Uhuru to go to the Hague. I do the same again today. Kenyans want him to be present to clear his name once and for all. This will entail some sacrifices but the price to be paid for this sacrifice is nothing compared to the price we will pay for him not showing up. This is a challenge we must face squarely as a nation because Uhuru and Ruto are our leaders. I would not want to see our leaders being hunted down like El Bashir in neighbouring Sudan.

We have heard the voice of the AU heads of state. Now, let us hear the voice of Kenyans.

And that is my say.

I SAY UHURU SHOULD AVAIL HIMSELF TO THE ICC

The ICC jinnie continues to haunt Kenya even as the trial of Deputy President William Ruto and former Radio presenter Joshua Sang continues in the Hague.

Two critical decisions have to be made in the next few days and weeks. One, is whether or not to hand over freelance journalist Walter Barasa, the first person ever to be summoned to the world Court to answer charges of witness tampering; and two, is whether or not Uhuru Kenyatta should honour the ICC date and travel to the Hague to answer charges against humanity related to the 2007 post-election violence.

Unless these issues are tackled with tact and sobriety, Kenya could find itself in a messy quagmire as it prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence in December.

Let me say from the onset that it would be foolhardy for Kenya not to deliver Barasa to his accusers. Similarly, it would be an exercise of extreme defiance  for Uhuru to skip his trial at the Hague.

This week, legal authorities in Nairobi will be busy looking at the ICC bundle that seeks to have Barasa extradicted to the Netherlands for allegedly influencing witnesses lined up to give testimony in William Ruto’s trial. In issuing the summons, the ICC Court ruled it had reasonable grounds that Barasa “corruptly influenced” or tried to influence witnesses in the Ruto case.

It is understandable that Kenya must be allowed to apply its own laws before surrendering Barasa to the Court, but that process must not be delayed. It must be undertaken expeditiously for the good of the country, Barasa and the ICC.  Any filibustering will only suggest that the country is unwilling to cooperate, a presumption that could have far-reaching consequences to everyone involved.  Because we signed the Rome Statutes willingly, we should not be seen to be a stumbling block even as we try to untie ourselves from the Statutes.

A word of polite advice to Barasa: Don’t be cheated that the summons will go away. And don’t think there is anyone else who will wiggle you out of this dilemma other than yourself. Nor should you think for a minute that the frantic efforts in Parliament to repeal the International Crimes Bill will save you from your predicament. The Hague Court ruled on the arrest warrant based on the evidence in its possession. But you are still innocent until proven guilty.

The bottom line is that this is your case, and you alone. If you dont show up at the Hague you will just be inviting an international hunt. If convicted it will not be Kenyans or any one government official or politician who will sit in that cold prison. It is you.  So, listen to external voices but eventually make a decision that will be good for you. If I were you I would have left for the Hague voluntarily the moment the summons were issued.

Having said that, I find it extremely intriguing that some of our legislators are trying to persuade Uhuru not to go to the Hague for the start of his case on November 12.  Do they realise the serious consequences such an action would pose? The price for such a defiance would be too big for Kenyans to pay especially that this is not actually a Kenyan case.

Jubilee legislators are trying to fast-track the withdrawal Bill – that is their decision –  but that is a race to nowhere. Article 127 is very clear. Once the Bill passes, the government will have to dispatch a letter of withdrawal to the UN Secretary General, and that withdrawal will not be effective until one year after the date of receipt of the letter at the UN. The reality is that the withdrawal will have no bearing on the ongoing cases.

If there is one potent mixture in political discourse, it is the combination of sycophancy and ignorance. By failing to tell the King that he is naked, the legislators are exhibiting an obsequious tendency.

How come the legislators did not show the same level of concern for Deputy President William Ruto who obediently honoured his summons and is availing himself to the Court without protest? It is said what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Ruto is in the Hague. Uhuru should go too.

If Kenyans truly understand the seriousness of the charges facing our leaders they should stand up and oppose those who are trying to mislead our President. The whole idea of going to the Hague is for Uhuru to exonerate himself from those serious charges. He cannot do that unless he subjects himself to a hearing before the Court?

I have confidence in the ICC Court. I hope and pray the Court will exonerate all the three accused because I believe they are innocent. I also have confidence in my government, and I hope it will make the right decision on the Barasa case, and offer sound advice on the Uhuru issue, for the good of all Kenyans, and not for the convenience of anyone or a few individuals.

And that is my say.