Détente in Nairobi

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US Secretary of State John Kerry during a CSO meeting at Pawa 254 Nairobi | Photo via Pawa 254 Hub

In the run up to the 2013 General Elections in Kenya, Johnnie Carson, then Assistant Secretary of State and top ranking diplomat in charge of Africa quipped that choices have consequences. A phrase I think the State Department regrets in foresight. This is because this statement was one of the clarion calls used by the then presidential candidates Uhuru and Ruto to mop up support for their election to the highest office in land in Kenya.

At that point in time, both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were facing charges at the International Criminal Court for their actions and/or inactions (presumably) for the Post Election Violence that begot Kenya after the 2007 disputed polls.
Fast forward to today. The president’s case has been withdrawn by the prosecutor for lack of evidence and the stepping down of witnesses in some rather bizarre circumstances plus disappearance of others. The Deputy President’s case however is still on going at The Hague.

Once Uhuru Kenyatta was elected as president the west which had indicated before the elections that should the duo be elected as President and Deputy President, they would have what they referred to as ‘essential contact’. What that meant in the diplomatic language! However, this did not stop the newly elected president from discharging his duties.
In one of his best appointments to date in my opinion, the new administration tapped Amina Mohamed as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign affairs. Previously, she had been an assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Programme. Basically, she had a good understanding of how diplomacy works.

In the first year of the UhuRuto administration, we witnessed high level diplomacy from Kenya, where the country went full throttle to lobby the postponement of the then president’s case at the ICC. The African Union spearheaded the adjournment of the ICC cases at the United Nation’s Security Council which was unsuccessful.

However, the president in his first year in office visited key strategic countries, Russia and China, the two permanent members of the UN Security Council. China which has had substantial investments in the continent welcomed the president in Beijing with open arms. China, which also is an exponent of non-interference policy, seemed to take up the cue from African Union and they voted for the postponement of the cases when the matter came up for a vote at the UN Security Council.

Also, in the first year of his presidency the president seems to have developed a gravitas which unified the African heads of state and in the process his predicament brought some unforeseen fortunes in his doorstep. The president was seen by the rest of Africa as a new voice of the continent partly due to his excellent communication skills in front of the camera and also partly due to his rhetoric. The president also developed a very cordial relationship with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The two gentlemen have been preserved as the new generation of African leaders and in turn the continent a changing continent and thus taking up from the well thought former South African President Thambo Mbeki.

Détente in Nairobi
Enter the second year of Kenyatta presidency, the diplomatic offensive and his rising clout seems to have convinced the west in my opinion the funders of the court to drop the case and as such be able to engage with the president without any hindrances.

As was expected the case was withdrawn by the ICC prosecutor early this year. As a consequence, Nairobi has seen a fair share of high ranking western leaders. This train, if I may call it so has seen the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair come to Nairobi. News of the Prime Minister being tapped to be an advisor of the president have percolated through, although how he got appointed and the remuneration he receives is still a mystery.

The other notable figure to come to Nairobi has been the former US President Bill Clinton. The former president was in town for his foundations business but he had time to meet the president at state house.

Then early last month word came in from the White House that President Barack Obama would be coming to Kenya in July this year. This initiated the recent visit by the Secretary of State, John Kerry who was in town to prepare for his boss’ visit and also try and offer support to Kenya in fighting terrorism. However, ultimately the recent détente can be attributed to the west seeing the enormous gains which has been made by China and as such America seems to be trying its fair share of remaining significant to the continent and also checking the Chinese influence in the region.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Burundi: The Arithmetic’s (mostly the lack of it) of Two Terms in Bujumbura

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Two years ago, the celebrated columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo penned down an opinion piece in the East African titled, Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed. As expected this piece did not go down well in Burundi though it did ask an quintessential question;

What can Burundi do to get East Africa’s attention?

It seems the President of Burundi unwittingly and all for the wrong reasons decided to put Burundi squarely on the world map!

In the last couple weeks we have heard and seen disturbing news emanating from Burundi which has been precipitated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s attempt to run for a third term. Though I am not an expert in the affairs of the great lakes region I have tried to keep myself a breast with the events leading to this situation, as most of us have been. This has been made much easier by my friends and YLF alumnae who are living this horrendous ordeal. We can only hope this situation ends soon so that they can go back to their usual life.

What is more baffling has been the response (mostly the lack of it) to this crisis from the neighboring countries and Africa at large. The current crisis in Burundi did not ‘just happen’ as one would put it, the writing has been on the wall for a considerable amount of time. The regional and continental bodies in which Burundi is a member have been passive to say the least in trying to address the unfolding crisis. Which makes one question the role and need of such institutions – the AU has an early warning mechanism yet its hands seem to be tied in proactively addressing situations such as this when they are unfolding.

Initially, when the issue came to the fore the African Union through its president announced on Twitter that it preferred the issue of the third term to be addressed through the constitutional court (the Senate had taken this matter to the court for interpretation). The African Union had come under considerable criticism especially on its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and this time it tried to show where it stood on this matter. However, as would have been expected, and the African Union should have known better! The administration in Bujumbura exerted pressure on the court and as such a ruling (unanimous for that matter) was struck in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

As this was happening people have been fleeing the country, mostly relocating to Rwanda and Tanzania. It is only after reeling to the unfolding humanitarian crisis have the two countries come to the fore on this crisis. One might not be privy but perhaps the East African countries were trying to reach out to President Pierre Nkurunziza through diplomatic channels.
However, the quintessential question which begs is when does the sovereignty of a country end and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle set in? Although Nkurunziza administration has cut down access to social networks, the citizens of Burundi like in any other country in the world have found means of by passing these restrictions.

Now one might ask why a president who has already served two terms would be interested in extending presidential term limits (through dubious interpretation of the constitution) so that he can serve another term. Aren’t there qualified people in his party who are a position to take the reins? If not why did he not mentor a successor?

Equally baffling has been the international community response to the crisis, case in point was the recent request by the United Nation’s Secretary General. The UN Sec. Gen. requested Uganda’s President Museveni to intervene in the ongoing crisis. In my concerted opinion, the UN Sec. Gen should have requested the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to mediate the crisis since the presidency of the East African Community currently rests with him. We have also seen the foreign affairs ministers of EAC going to Burundi and currently COMESA seems to have sent elder’s to access and possibly intervene.
The problem with this is, if there are many focal points trying to mediate then chances of success are minimal since the president might be bidding his time till it is too late. This concept is well laid down in Back from the Brink – the 2008 mediation process and reforms in Kenya.

This week the EAC heads of state will meet in Arusha to deliberate on the crisis in Burundi. One can only hope that the EAC leaders will come up with a road map to the current crisis in Burindi and that they are able to appoint one focal point to handle the crisis. If the EAC leaders are not in a position to convince President Pierre Nkurunziza to rethink on his candidacy the one can expert more volatile times in the great lakes region.

Recommended readings
1. An idiot’s guide to the Burundi crisis by Daniel K Kalinaki – The East African
2. Raila wants East Africa Community, world leaders to act on Burundi by Moses Njagih – The Standard

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Xenophobia

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By: Davis Wesley Tusingwire

“Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders.
Claustrophobia – the fear of small/tight/enclosed spaces.
Xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

However individuals who are afraid of spiders do not go around killing spiders, rather they avoid spiders. Equally, individuals who are afraid of small and tight spaces do not go around trying to eliminate the existence of small spaces.

Thus, xenophobia does not by definition imply the killing of foreigners. Yet, we continue to label this current wave of killings and murders in South Africa as xenophobic – and now the cooler term – “Afrophobic” attacks. Can we please just get real? What is happening in South Africa is genocide, a genocide fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for which no single foreigner is responsible.” – Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi is a Nigerian. Born in Nigeria to two Nigerian parents and raised in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa by those same parents.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi goes further to indicate in this post here that if we think what she is putting forth is too extreme, then we need to revisit what Genocide is, which happens to be the systematic/targeted killing of a specific tribe or race.

Is this not what is happening in South Africa? Is it entirely true that when you have a phobia, you avoid it. But what triggered the killings in South Africa, where even the sight of a pregnant mother or her baby doesn’t stir compassion? A little baby is burnt to death, alive. Its crying goes unheard, for it’s drowned out by the songs of hatred of its attackers. Trying to figure this all out, in my little head and trying hard not to feel the pain stabbing at my shrinking heart, my mind drifts away to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. We felt it here too, and we still do. But what really triggers these moves across the world?

Countries attacking each other, as are almost normal in the Asian countries. The world watched in shock as the Hutus hacked their fellow countrymen, the Tutsis in a bloody genocide in Rwanda. In a space of about 100 days, thousands of people; children, women and men were murdered in cold blood. Families were wounded and broken or separated as the United Nations intervened. In 2014, the BBC released an in-depth report on the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame which implied that he could have fueled the genocide. His former close associates confessed so, in the story feature titled Rwanda: The Untold Story.

Is it the same thing happening in S.A? Did the leaders of those people insight this genocide on foreigners? It is ironical, that while they kill their African brethren, their white oppressors walk free in the land. The closest they could go to attacking them, was bringing down Cecil Rhodes’ statue. Cowards! Or should I say; hypocrites! The leaders denied having any involvement, the Zulu king to begin with, for it started in his township, and then the S.A President … begged his citizens to stop the killings.

As Africans, we are heartbroken. We cannot believe the nation we stood with while they suffered apartheid could turn against us. We could work out a few assumptions, basing on a few of the facts;

The actual people who carried out the brutal killings were actually the poor, the minority. It’s very easy to stir whatever emotion you want from such a group of people, because they are desperate. That need doesn’t allow them to think through their actions. They are like a greedy person biting off more than they can chew, unaware they will soon choke on it. Who said what?

The Zulu king, who was said to have said something that triggered the killings, and later denied any involvement, could have actually said something, but without such intention. Well, you see, he being king means he lives off the contributions from his people. And these people are the poor majority. The really well-to-do usually do not just give away their hard earned wealth to anyone. Meanwhile, professional foreigners are coming in to the area and doing what brought them, earn the most they can. This leaves the indigenous people poorer and unable to contribute as much to the king. Probably somebody pointed it out to him and in a bid to advise his people, it sparked more fire than he envisioned.

We could go on and on. But what form of justice can undo this? Families across Africa have lost their beloved; some have lost the sole bread earners, in such a manner that they can’t even have their bodies given a proper burial.

With globalization, we trade and live as one. The world is one global village! We acknowledge that not all South Africans agreed to or participated in these xenophobic attacks. There is a reason this happened and we pray that the souls who started this and those who still think such levels of violence are a solution to their problems, find peace in other hearts and feel the love from across the world. May they be moved by the gravity of their mistake and seek reconciliation with their African brethren. God is for us all.

For God and My Country!

Excerpts used in this post from Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi can be accessed on this link

Davis Wesley Tusingwire is a member of FESYLF (Uganda), you can follow him on twitter @w_tusingwire.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES