Kenya Government “pranks” U.S. into reassuring on unrequited “partnership” while suppressing protesters (updated)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Kenya’s government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who barely left KANU in form, and not at all in substance. Not surprisingly, as in the past, protests against the government are in general not allowed and protesters are normally teargassed, beaten and arrested. The fact that this is unlawful behavior by the government does not change the facts on the ground, whether under the 2010 “reform” constitution backed by the United States and the Kenyan voters, or under the old Lancaster House constitution as amended. This was the case during the Kibaki interlude when I lived in Kenya in 2007-08, and it has most certainly been the case during the original Kanu regimes and the current Jubilee revival.

The most recent conspicuous episode was on Thursday, February 13.

For people protesting against the Kenyan government to get the attention of the media they need to engage in something especially catchy beyond the usual shedding tears and blood and getting arrested. Last year, for instance, protesters made international news by releasing pigs in front of parliament to protest the extra-legal raises that the MPs, or “MPigs” were giving themselves. Of course the protesters were teargassed, beaten and arrested, but at least they made the news.

Unfortunately, after the fact the use of the pigs became something of a distraction to the issue of the financial avarice in parliament. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital in its own way, and for many, naturally, there is a right way to get teargassed, beaten and arrested, and a wrong way to get teargassed beaten and arrested. Everyone is a lot more used to greedy politicians than to real pigs turned loose in front of parliament. So this time organizers of the February 13 protest assured that they would not use any such animal stunts. (This time they had foam dolls to depict an infantile “diaper mentality”.)

With the build up of publicity and momentum for the announced and pre-cleared protest, the police blinked and announced to the media at the last minute that the protest was purportedly “cancelled” because of unspecified alleged terrorism concerns. Overlapping with this some Kenyan media outlets carried what the Standard headlined: “National Security Advisory Committee Statement on plans to destabilize government”:

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A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki–getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

A priceless bit of diplomatic history, from October 1, 1975, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Kenyan Foreign Minister Waiyaki  at the U.S. United Nations Mission in New York.  You just have to read it:

The Secretary: It is good to see you here.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We are enjoying ourselves very much.

The Secretary: I was in Nairobi before your independence. I went to see the animals. I was there in June. It was very pleasant. How long are you staying here?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope to leave tomorrow. I have been here a long time.

The Secretary: You were here for the Special Session of the UN?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: How did you get into your present job? Were you a career officer in the Foreign Ministry?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: No, I am a member of Parliament. I was formerly Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

The Secretary: The only way I could get into the State Department was to be appointed Secretary of State. I was told that I don’t have the qualifications for entry into the Foreign Service.

The Secretary: What are the major problems in our relations?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Our relations are good.

The Secretary: I can’t understand Foreign Ministers saying that our relations are good. Normally everyone says they are lousy.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Relations are good.

The Secretary: I agree with you. Our relations are good. It is pleasant to hear this. Usually I am told that everything we are doing is wrong. You have a very constructive policy and our intention is to support you within the limits the Congress will go along with.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope Congress will understand the requests which we make.

The Secretary: Congress does not go along with the requests I make, but we are going to get them under control soon.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I am in the strange position where I am a congressman myself, but I still get pushed around by other congressmen.

The Secretary: You have a parliamentary system?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: You have only one party?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes, but I am questioned by backbenchers and also by assistant ministers sometimes.

The Secretary: We have had some talks on arms. We are trying to put together a military assistance package for Kenya.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope you can move quickly.

The Secretary: What is holding things up?

Mr. Coote: We thought we had some F5A aircraft lined up for Kenya. They would have been available immediately at a low cost. This was the big advantage of that package. However, it did not work out.

The Secretary: Why didn’t it work out?

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