Kenyan politics: food prices to rise; more stories from 2008

There is lots of daily “news” in the Kenyan presidential race, naturally.  What of this will matter six months from now?  Obviously it is hard to know, but one current headline that is more likely to impact the day to day lives of most Kenyans is the drought in the United States and the accompanying huge drop in the U.S. corn/maize crop.  From the Financial Times, “Food crisis fears as U.S. corn soars”:

.  .  .  The US is crucial to supplying the world with food: the country is the largest exporter of corn, soyabeans and wheat, accounting for one in every three tonnes of the staple grains traded on the global market.

Prices for this year’s corn crop, deliverable in December, have jumped 44 per cent in a month, wheat has rallied 45 per cent, and soyabeans 17 per cent.

The rise in grain prices has inspired comparisons with 2007-08, when a price surge triggered a wave of food riots in more than 30 countries from Bangladesh to Haiti, and 2010, when Russia banned grain exports, setting off a price jump that some have argued helped to cause unrest across the Arab world last year. . . .

For the immediate present, the Kenyan headlines dwell on former Raila Odinga aide Miguna Miguna’s book launch, of Peeling Back the Maskwith sections being serialized in The Nation.  The basic notion seems to be the argument that at this stage of his career Raila is just another Kenyan politician who is not any more careful than the usual suspects about the company he keeps or the people he brings into public positions.  A large point may be that the book, published in London, was launched this weekend in Kenya itself.  This means that Kenya has come a long way on free speech in campaigns; it also means that the Prime Minister does not in fact have equal clout in government or chose not to use it if one compares the treatment of this book to others in recent years.

Initial serialization does include an interesting story of how ODM reached over Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer’s head to appeal to Secretary of State Rice through Sally Kosgei when Frazer was said to recommend formalizing a “qualified endorsement” of Kibaki’s claim to a second term in January 2008.  This is reportedly the background of Rice’s direct intervention to further push the “power sharing” negotiations in February 2008. Those in Nairobi at the time will remember that Ambassador Ranneberger was immediately advocating “power sharing” once the initial U.S. congratulations on Kibaki’s “victory” were withdrawn.