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Kenya seeks more in anti-terror fight

Updated: 2014-08-15 09:22
By Philip Etyang (China Daily Africa)

Kenya seeks more in anti-terror fight

President Uhuru Kenyatta's presence at the US -Africa Leaders' Summit in Washington amounted to an attempt to prod Uncle Sam out of his slumber.

US President Barrack Obama's lethargy with his father's home country has grown greatly in recent times.

It has been precipitated by many factors, but the most obvious is the now infamous statement "choices have consequences" that Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state, made in February last year.

"We live in an interconnected world, and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation, on the region, on the economy, on the society and on the world in which they live," Carson said. "Choices have consequences."

He went on to say: "Accountability for political violence, including that perpetrated during the 2007-08 electoral crisis, is an important part of building a peaceful and prosperous country."

He made the remarks to journalists in Nairobi during a 40-minute conference call about Washington's position on both Kenyatta's candidacy and his running mate William Ruto in the general election in March this year.

The two have been indicted and face charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

So when the son of Kenya's first president left Nairobi for Washington to attend the USA-Africa Leaders summit, the question on many Kenyan lips was: Will Obama's administration seek to mend fractured ties?

At the dinner hosted by the first black US president and his wife Michele in honor of the African presidents attending the summit, Obama made a personal toast to Africa.

"I stand before you as the president of the United States and a proud American," he said. "I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa. The blood of Africa runs through our family. And so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal."

Later all the heads of state were given the chance to be photographed in the Blue Room posing with the Obamas. David Ohito, a senior journalist working with Standard Media Group in Nairobi, who was in Washington, referred to Kenyatta's presence at the White House as a diplomatic coup for Kenya. This he linked to Obama's assumed position of not endorsing the Kenyatta and Ruto ticket in the election.

Ohito, the only journalist from Africa later to be chosen among six others to ask Obama questions on the sidelines of the summit at a news conference, was also the only one who asked a question about Africa.

Weakening trade ties between the US and African countries, in which the scales have tilted unfavorably to the East, have left a bad taste in Obama administration's mouth.

Kenya seeks more in anti-terror fight

After the exclusion from the summit of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose country is seen as a pariah state, Jonathan Moyo, the Zimbawbean minister for information, said the US was holding the summit only because it feared China, a view many other African presidents undoubtedly held.

In a move whose aim was seen as limiting China's influence in Africa, Obama generously promised $20 billion in commitments to investments in energy and a further $13 billion from private partnerships.

China's trade with Africa surpassed that of the US with Africa in 2009, and was at a high of $200 billion last year, while that of the US has fallen steeply and was worth just $85 billion last year.

Kenyatta, later interviewed by Richard Quest of CNN, said in a veiled reference to Washington that Kenya felt the world had abandoned it in its fight against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

"We do feel the world isn't doing enough to support us in confronting our challenges." Advisories cautioning people not to travel to Kenya serve to encourage those behind terrorist attacks in the country.

The Kenya Defense Forces, with troops from the African mission in Somalia, are fighting the al-Qaida linked group in neighboring Somalia.

"Richard Branson, for example, has gone out there and said 'No, let's not issue these travel advisories. We should actually face up to the enemy, invest more, be more in Kenya."

The US and Britain have issued travel advisories warning their citizens not to travel to Kenya, following attacks by Al-Shabab militia and sympathizers in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Kenyatta's remarks came despite Britain's assurance that it had not abandoned Kenya in the fight against terrorism.

Interest groups in Africa are still waiting to see how Beijing responds to Obama's largesse and what effect it will have on Africa's strong ties with China.

The writer is a journalist at the Standard Group, Kenya

(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/15/2014 page7)

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