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We are safer when might isn’t right

Fifth Columnist – We are safer when might isn’t right

Publication Date: 4/20/2008

It is an old question. But, in the circumstances, we must pose it again. Can Kenya hit its development target without foreign assistance? Perhaps not. But Raila Odinga is surely right to say that Kenyans must develop primarily through their own bootstraps.

In an interview with Citizen Television soon after he was sworn in on Thursday, the Prime Minister asserted, correctly, that all foreign injections can play only an auxiliary role here.  Why? Because external inputs are rarely altruistic.

In the medium or long run, the investor hopes to – and does – reap from you much more than his investment can ever contribute to your economy and your people.

That is why the recipient must be extremely careful not to allow the mighty dollar to lure him into mortgaging away his country’s strategic resources and his own sovereignty. That was why I was so uncomfortable during the power-sharing negotiations. Although I was interested in an agreement, I was not happy about the manner in which the two Anglo-Saxon envoys conducted themselves. For they made no attempt to conceal their own official self-interests in the matter.

As usual, the Europeans showed that they are much better schooled in diplomacy than the Americans. Even British High Commissioner Adam Wood was slightly more careful with his words than was American ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

Ever since James Monroe (the “Monroe Doctrine”), Abraham Lincoln (the plot to settle freed slaves on other people’s lands) and Woodrow Wilson (the cynical promise of “national self-determination” to other societies), American diplomacy has been characterised by this moral duplicity.

A dire threat is always remarkable in the double entendre which attends every policy statement. It goes something like this: If you do what we command, we shall shove greenbacks into your pockets (“the Dollar Diplomacy”). But if you don’t, the consequences will be terrible for you (“the gun-boat Diplomacy”). If you know the history of America’s foreign policy, you could not fail to be intimidated by Condoleezza Rice’s statement that the White House would make up its own mind about whoever was hindering an agreement between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga — and act accordingly.

IF YOU RECALLED AFGHANISTAN, CAMBODIA, CHILE, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran,  Iraq, Korea, Kosovo, Laos, Libya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Somalia, Turkey, Vietnam (the list is long), you probably trembled. Most of the regimes were overthrown with bloody ruthlessness to be replaced – as in Haiti (the Duvaliers) and Chile (Augusto Pinochet) – with docile but horrendous human butchers. The Australian journalist John Pilger tells this spate of horror stories in his book Hidden Agendas.

Yet these countries have nothing to show for democracy, human rights, social order and economic growth — even though these were what the propagandists gave as Washington’s purpose of invasion. More blood, more chaos, more graveyards, more tyranny (and fatter corporate bank accounts north of Rio Grande) – that is all they can show.

That was why, during our talks, I found myself between the horned devil and deep blue sea. I really wanted the talks to succeed and an agreement to be signed. But how could I be sure that it would not be a gunpoint agreement? I was saddened whenever the President seemed to slide back from an earlier position. But, equally, I hated to imagine that every time Mr Kibaki seemed to yield some ground, he was merely bowing to the Rice-Ranneberger threat.

How much ground did Mr Kibaki cede merely in fear of drastic cuts in aid or even of an invasion? Perhaps none at all.  It may be that he yielded only because he at last saw its national importance; only because he saw that it was the only way that Kenya could avoid another Eldoret, Kisumu and Naivasha.

Indeed, we must accept the argument that the local and international pressure helped to nudge both sides into seeing the need to give up more and take less so as to avoid bloodshed and catalyse national reconciliation and reconstruction.

But, in the end, countries must make such decisions in freedom and independence. For, if a state like the United States or Britain imposes its will through self-serving economic and military threats, it makes a travesty of Kenya’s membership in the so-called “comity of nations”.

More generally, it belies the doctrine of “national self-determination”. That Wilson borrowed it from a Comintern (Communist International) meeting is the probable reason all denizens of the Oval Office — Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes — have crudely trampled it underfoot.

Pressure helps. But when it issues like a threat – as with Rice and Ranneberger  – it  amounts  to  a superpower ordering a sovereign state about. When might becomes right, the world is in terrible trouble.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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