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ELECTION FEVER SHADOWS SECRETARY BLINKEN AND AMBASSADOR GREENFIELD AFRICA VISIT

Sunday, August 14, 2022

In the current political trends of our local by-elections the NRM again blunted the boisterous opposition groups in Gogonyo (Pallisa) where Derrick Orone and Eddie Kwizera Wa-Gahungu in Bukimbiri (Kisoro) regained their parliamentary seats, and close shave polls in Kenya, it’s understandable if people got carried away by the euphoria for which, congratulations are in order for the winners as we console the unsuccessful. It was so humiliating for FDC and NUP in Gogonyo where, apparently in an attempt to put a false show of unity, they couldn’t even know the mettle of their supposed candidates who both withdrew in favour of NRM as soon as nominations were done. NRM takes the bouquets while NUP and FDC get the barbs even as they cry foul play.

In Kenya, regardless of who eventually wins, 77 year old Raila Amolo Odinga of Azimio la Umoja found it very difficult to put the icing on a cake he has chased almost all his adult life. Voters, especially in the populous Mount Kenya Gikuyuland have sent a strong rebuke to retiring president, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta that they couldn’t buy their historical nemesis, Raila, derisively called Kimundu.

Uhuru apparently followed on his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s legacy of the 1970s when he ditched then Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila’s father by spurning his deputy of ten years William Samoei Arap Ruto 55 of Kenya Kwanza. But it turns out that even Uhuru’s intervention couldn’t earn Raila much affection among the Kikuyu where Ruto has dominated the presidential vote and legislative seats.  And generally, the nail-biting margin and cliff hanger shows that Raila, now on his firth bid for president had perhaps overstayed his welcome on the electoral scene.

These elections also blunted the visit by the two United States (US) top diplomats, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield who last week swooped like eagles on Africa in a whirlwind apparently to counter Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who had come earlier. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has rightly maintained that if have embraced former tormentors who traded in African slaves, colonialists and economic exploiters, but there are no valid reasons as of now to discard old friends Russia and China who helped us fight colonialism and the subsequent liberation wars. And in any case, China and Russia provide more accelerated efforts to Uganda’s socio-economic transformation through industrialisation without meddling in our internal affairs by dictating terms.

While Greenfield toured Uganda, Egypt, Republic of Congo and Ghana where she gave a public speech outlining US foreign policy on Africa, but instead focusing on Ukraine, Blinken went to Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Africa where he delivered a similar speech extolling US “Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa.” The two visits were seen by most analysts as attempts to extend their disputes especially over Ukraine and counter blame games over the ongoing global economic meltdown.

In an attempt to draw a distinction between the US and Russia, Blinken claimed that his country was a better partner for Africa listing fighting terrorism, recovery from Covid19, climate and energy crisis, building working democracies, inclusive economic growth and prosperity, and in strengthening free and open international order. These are mostly hollow rhetoric considering that the US has been the instigator of major conflicts in Africa since independence to-date. From entrenching Apartheid in south Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and wars in Angola, Mozambique, Zaire, Ethiopia, Somalia and through France in much of West Africa.

The US has also been the most obtuse in shaping the sloop-sided global economic, political and economic order especially at the United Nations, World bank and International Monetary Fund where it uses its strength to cajole, intimidate, blackmail and in many cases strangulate those that don’t tow its line of thinking, and hence rendering those bodies not very relevant to Africa’s real needs. US-Sub-Saharan Africa two-way trade currently stands at only 1.2% in spite centuries of interaction. 

It smirks insincerity for Blinken to claim that the US which undermines and actually instigates wars with bigger powers like China and Russia can treat third rate African countries as ‘equal partners’ when throughout its two and a half century history it hasn’t behaved as such preferring bullying.

Yes Sub Saharan Africa might have shaped US past as a black slave trader and owning society, racism, and continues to be a major source of raw materials especially extractives, but isn’t yet in position to shape US’s good behaviour globally, where other powers in Latin America, Asia and Arab World have failed. If indeed Blinken’s visit represents a major and positive shift in US Africa foreign policy he should convince the Biden administration to abandon threats, and use of sanctions as first tools in international affairs.

Otherwise, by-elections in Uganda and changes unfolding in Kenya are more heartwarming than half-clever charm offensive by the US which is never shy to sacrifice principles in furtherance of its strategic expedience to isolate Russia and China, and wants Africa to blindly follow.