News 2008


Is political colonialism back?

Business Daily

Written by Macharia Munene

March 11, 2008: Colonialism in full swing and intensity that appears fresh is back in Kenya without calling it so. With many of its subjects claiming huge chunks of prime land in Kenya, Britain seems to believe that its desires should be taken as commands.

Its sable rattling about what Kenya should do to please the masters of the world in Europe and North America has become shrill. It succeeded in forcing a divided executive on Kenya in the same way it had imposed a majimbo travesty in 1962.

The entire process is a study in international pressure tactics, the ganging up of imperial powers against a Third World country.

From the start, Britain, it appears, was clear that it wanted the “winner” of the December 2007 elections to share power with the “loser.” Its task was first to get other imperial powers to go along and then get some prominent Africans to deliver the message.

Strange things then happened to hammer this point. After ECK chairman, Samuel Kivuitu, declared Kibaki elected, the US acknowledged that fact only to do a quick about-turn. Being the strongest supporter of the American fiasco in Baghdad, London seemingly reminded Washington that Kenya was to Britain what Iraq was to the United States.

With the Americans in place, the EU was never a problem. Similarly, when the World Bank issued its report supporting the announced results, it was forced to change in order to suit what imperial powers wanted.

Everything had to fit pre-conceived positions. The EU observers had issued a report containing errors regarding specific constituencies. When the errors were reportedly pointed out to their satisfaction, they did not have the courage to admit publicly they were wrong.

With the imperial powers in one accord, prominent Africans were next. Desmond Tutu showed up, witnessed the consequences of ethnic violence and went back a very sad man.

John Kufuor, a man who seemingly likes protocol and would not do things that would appear to insult a “brother” president, had Gordon Brown’s endorsement, but he waited for an invitation.

President Kufuor would not do such ‘un-protocol’ thing and he showed up only when President Kibaki extended an invitation.

In Nairobi, Kufuor was unable to convince Kibaki that “advice” from London made sense to people with bitter memories of British colonialism. When Kibaki disowned a document stripping him of powers, the situation became embarrassing and so Kufuor flew back to Accra.

Next came Kofi Annan from Geneva. Annan convinced Kibaki that the issue, being political rather than legal, could be solved only by conceding executive powers to Odinga as a prime minister who cannot be fired. In the background, imperial powers repeatedly threatened Government officials, ordering them to accept Annan’s “advice”.

Kibaki, cornered, signed the document on February 28, 2008 as Washington’s man in Nairobi, who seemed to know what the deal would be even before Kibaki had agreed to it, watched.

The reactions were interesting. Many Kibaki supporters were disappointed while Odinga’s celebrated. Annan returned to Geneva and left Nigeria’s Oluyemi Adeniji to continue “guiding” Kenyans.

Imperial powers were satisfied and said they would help reshape Kenya. Political colonialism, though not territorial, is back with a bang.

Munene is a professor of History and International Relations at United States International University (USIU).