On Kenya and... :: 2008.02.03 14:42

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Kenya's ethnic groups

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crisis in Kenya


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For anyone who's been following the Kenyan crisis, one might get the feeling that the word 'tribalism' has become quite a cliché. It looks (prima facie) that tribalism is the main source of the conflict, while in reality (though I'm not an expert), there are so many layers behind it. Layers of colonial history/legacy/independence, clientelistic patronage networks, corruption and, resource looting, inequality, standards of living.....It's just surprising why, with all these factors latent for decades, crisis did not erupt earlier. It's such a pity to see yet another (once thought to be stable) African country fall prey to conflict...How do you go about in explaning democracy in Africa then? If pluralism promotes demands for liberalisation, and if libersation is conducive to democratisation, where does the picture in Africa fit in? Is it about leadership? Are African leaders failing them?

It's really incredulous flipping through the history of leaders in Africa. I found myself gaping when I was reading about Gabon. Gabon is an equatorial nation with population more than one million, and abundant natural resources including petroleum. El Hadj Omar Bongo has ruled Gabon for four decades since 1967, after the death of the independence leader Léon M’Ba. In a nutshell, nearly all his government relationships are based on kinship. His son, Ben Bongo, holds the strategic portfolio of minister of defence, while his daughter, Pascaline, is the director of the presidential office, and has been married to many big men, including the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Budget. Pascaline’s younger siblings are equally well-placed in government and state-owned enterprises. Jeff is the regulatory head of the State Treasury; Christian is director-general of the Banque Gabonaise de Dévelopment (BGD) and president of the Transgabonais Railroad; Alex is chief financial officer of Gabon Télécom, and Nadine is director-general of the luxury Hôtel Atlantique. Despite the country’s strong per capita GDP, about half of which comes from the skyrocketing oil reserves, most of the people in the country remain mired in extreme poverty. Approximately five percent of the population receives over 90 percent of the national income, and this is viewed as natural as it is the means to support political allegiance. The case is similar with Kenya, with Daniel arap Moi who'd ruled Kenya for more than two decades, favouring mainly the Kikuyus.  In such systems, development policies cannot but be oriented towards pursuing personal/allied objectives rather than the collective welfare of the masses. With no effective institutional measures to curb this kind of practice, I strongly think that politics in Africa becomes vulnerable to controversies and conflicts...

Gosh, and what about Chad? Darfur? Somalia?......
Is violence the only way forward?