*On the corruption front, the US is seeking extradition of a UK lawyer for allegedly trying to induce a colleague to give false evidence in the prosecution of the case that led to the $579M fine against Halliburton for bribes to Nigerian officials. In the meantime, the UK Serious Fraud Office seems to be moving forward in matters involving BAE which could include the alleged Tanzanian bribery.
One commonly hears statements like the “Kenyan economy is bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined.” Yes, but that was 20 years ago.
Kenya’s gross domestic product in 1990 was $11 billion. Tanzania’s was $5.4 billion, and Uganda’s $4.03 billion. Kenya’s economy then was bigger than Tanzania and Uganda combined; twice that of Tanzania, and nearly three times Uganda’s.
By 2008, Kenya’s GDP was $31 billion. However Tanzania’s was $21 billion, and Uganda’s $15.8 billion. It’s no longer bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined; it is not double that of Tanzania; nor is it three times bigger than Uganda’s. Indeed, depending on the GDP figures you look at in three or so years, Tanzania could be East Africa’s largest economy.
The story of the past 20 years in East Africa, therefore, is not how large Kenya’s economy is compared with those of its neighbours, but rather how much the others have closed the gap.
More confusion–BBC News reports that Kenyan authorities reported that “Jamaican Hate Cleric” al-Fairsal had once again been expelled and had departed for Jamaica. Or maybe he hasn’t left the country after all.
Check BBC News on the feed below for reports that Kenyan authorities are losing their appetite for the role of host to Somali politicians, as reflected in the brief arrests of Somali MPs in the Eastleigh raids today following the Jamia Mosque protest Friday. The comment is that perhaps Somali politicians should either enter the country as refugees and stay in the camps or stay in Somalia.
One more messy and complicated situation handled with characteristic subtlety by what Ben Rawlence of Human Rights Watch has aptly called Kenya’s “State within a State”–the police and security forces and key security ministries that were “off the table” in the Kenyan election and formation of a coalition government.
Kenya, if it is to become stabilized and return to democracy, must learn to tolerate political expression by citizens which continues to be regularly suppressed by force. This would create a climate in which security forces could hope to become trusted and gain public cooperation. There are conflicting reports about the protests last Friday and I can’t really weigh in on the details of that specific situation, but until I see otherwise I have to assume that the actions of the police and GSU are more likely to inflame than secure.
The questions raised are real, however, of how helpful to either Kenya or Somalia is the role of Nairobi as the back office for both Somali politicians and for the diplomatic and aid infrastructure for Somalia. In the case of United States government specifically, doesn’t Kenya warrant its own ambassador, rather than having to share one who is also in charge of the US role in ungoverned Somalia?
I’m sure with the situation in Yemen and the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing, Somalia will continue to distract the US from the unfinished and “overripe” situation in Kenya. I think that it is a shame that we focus on the places that we really can’t fix or do a lot about to the detriment of more realistic opportunities. Nairobi is in some ways unfortunate to be the diplomatic base for the US and others addressing Somalia–as well as the “back office” for aid organizations for NGOs, QGOs, etc. for both Somalia and Sudan. Not only does it mean that Kenya doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, or adequate funding for a country its size for a lot of programs to operate effectively outside Nairobi in a country of 40M people–it also gives a lot of direct and indirect leverage to “the powers that be” in Kenya.
I will say that it is good to see Hussein Ali, now Kenya’s postmaster after being moved out of his position as head of Kenya’s police, denied a US visa. Small thing, but at least a start in a direction that we haven’t followed through on in the past.
It seems that anyone looking into anything sensitive in Nairobi is subject to threat these days. This will be a good test of where things stand on impunity. If people can make death threats against people dispatched on behalf of the U.N. Security Council without getting arrested it wouldn’t seem to bode well for the rank-and-file journalist, lawyer or activist.
AFRICOM took over the Djibouti-based Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) from CENTCOM in October 2008. Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) includes the US portion of the military effort to combat piracy at sea and commenced operations in January 2009. The Navy ships and sailors in CTF 151 are part of the 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, which is under CENTCOM. CENTCOM is headquartered in Tampa, Florida and AFRICOM is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
Presumably this makes sense for historic and cultural reasons, given the greater connection of Tampa Bay to buccanners and such.
For those wondering about the legal role of AFRICOM, the US federal statutory definition for such a “combatant command” is “a military command which has broad continuing missions” and in the case of the regional commands involves more than one military service. The missions are to be reviewed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (in otherwords military rather than civilian leadership) “not less often” than every two years, with recommendations then reported to the President.
I highly recommend this article which I have referred to several friends. The author was the program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy who worked with our Kenya program funding and I met her briefly on the way to Africa in June 2007. From my perspective, she seems to have it right and I would simply add that the consequences of the US support for first the invasion by Ethiopia, and then the African Union force to try to uphold the Transitional Federal Government have included the US incurring debts to be paid to other governments in the region, including Kenya and Uganda.
Somaliland’s general election was scheduled for spring 2008 during my tenure in East Africa. Due to delays in the voter registration process all three political parties were able to agree on a postponement of the election date, but the matter of extending the president’s tenure in office after the expiration of his term was always a bit ambiguous. A year-and-a-half later, this really needs to be brought to fruition.
I always greatly admired the ability of Somalilanders to pull and keep a meaningful form of governance together with so little to start with, and such little help. Certainly the economy is hampered in many ways by the isolation resulting from the lack of formal diplomatic recognition. While I was there it was extremely difficulty to get US permission for official US travelers (for instance, we were unsuccessful in getting US Gov’t permission for USAID consultants sent to Nairobi to evaluate democracy support programming to actually visit the country). At the same time, the isolation has given them some space to work through their own challenges without some of the pitfalls often seen from international involvement, and a little breathing room in the lee of the winds of a globalized economy.
As a practical matter, it always seemed to me that Somaliland was a country of equal legitimacy and coherence with many others in the general area, whether the diplomatic community was ready to speak in that language or not. The US always said it was waiting on the AU, and the AU was always going to act in accordance with the interests of its current players. And of course the Bush Administration was heavily invested in that particular iteration of the TFG in Baidoa at that time.