President Obama’s Trip To Kenya, Economic Development, And The Al-Shabab Challenge

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Jul 26, 2015

She is as the paradox of East Africa, or the punctual syntax in a statement that carries the presupposition that all African nations are failed states. Animated black panther manufactured from sparkling porcelain with a golden collar laced with spectacular emeralds around her neck. It provides light for a glimmer of hope in international studies. As a paradigm that will rest in the midday shade, and a short sprint of economic burst to start the day. The nation rests in the branches like a success in comparison to her geographical neighbors. The collar tends to serve as a sort of tracking device to monitor the economic expansion of her GDP. According to World Bank figures, with a population of 45.55 million denizens, and a GDP of $60.94 billion dollars, Kenya is certainly a hit by African standards. She is tantamount to a Third World nation’s success story in Sub-Saharan Africa, and her annual fiscal growth is expected to project a real GDP growth rate at 3.8% which is higher than most African nations. That track is expected to continue towards the 2017 period. Of the 54 nations the continent hosts, Kenya has traditionally been one of the blessed African nations: For the best part of its existence, the country has not been compelled to budget its resources to fight an internal rebellion. That has changed. GDP per capita income is $694 (USD). According to the World Gold Council, which measures gold reserves for Kenya, their amount stands at 0.03% tonnes.

The chief exports are predominantly agriculture products, and they include goods based on horticulture and tea. An expanded list must consider coffee, tea, textiles, petroleum, iron, steel, and cement. Major trading partners involve trading with the United States, the UK, Pakistan, the Netherlands, and the surrounding East African nations of Uganda and Tanzania. $45966.00 million in KES (Kenyan shillings) is the actual figure in trade exports. Primary imports are mostly machinery imports pertaining to transportation equipment, motor vehicles, steel, resin, and iron. Other important imports are petroleum and plastics. Major import trading partners are Saudi Arabia, India, the United States, China, South Africa, the UAE, and Japan. $144039.00 million KES (Kenyan shillings) is the actual figure in trade imports, while the current figure for external debt is $1361.00 billion (KES).

Kenya, like any other nation also has its share of problems. In July 2014 inflationary levels stood at a high 8.36%, but today nearly a year later that rate is down to 7.03%; however, food inflation is 13.39%, which is slightly up from a previous 13.2% (+1.44). Unemployment levels are at a high 40%, and poverty levels hover at 45.9% overall, which is, of course significantly high. Life expectancy is near 62 years old. To enjoy the benefits of better economic conditions education is a must, and Kenya has one of the highest scholastic enrollments in Africa at 114%. As a nation, Kenya is considered lower middle income. In order to track the performance of large companies in Kenya, the Nairobi Securities Exchange 20 (NSE20) is used as an indicator, and the current stock market index is 4539.47, which is down from 4578.62, and for now it is still sliding down (It has its fluctuating periods of peak performances).

The primary purpose for President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya was to discuss security issues, and the need for the government to focus on combatting corruption. During his discussion with his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta, stood unmoved by President Obama’s appeal to allow his nation to ease restrictions on gay rights. Today, gay couples or those accused of homosexuality can be imprisoned in Kenya. Nevertheless, the Kenyan president rightly informed his American counterpart, whom is still considered a local by-product of Kenyan heritage, that there were many more important issues that Kenyans face. Personally, I cannot comprehend why he would mention such a thing, during a major diplomatic discussion of such a magnitude. The poverty rate in Kenya is at 45.9%. Is one supposed to be walking around as hungry unemployed homosexuals?

In the year 2007, Kenyans saw widespread ethnic violence during, and after participation in their presidential elections, which were accused by voters of being rigged. While Kenya has roughly 70 ethnicities, the largest ethnic groups consist of five groups: Kikuyu – 20%, Luhya – 14%, Luo – 13% (The ethnic group that reportedly sponsored Christian prophet Johanwa Owalo, who in 1912, allegedly prophesied a son of Kenyan heritage will cause America to burn), Kalenjin – 11%, and Kamba – 11%. The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was supported by Luhya, Luo, and Kalenjin groups, but the Party of National Unity (PNU) gained popular support from the Kikuyu ethnic group. On December 27, 2007, voter turn out was at approximately 70% of the legal voting age population, and European Union monitors were on hand to check for a free and fair election. Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, of the PNU was reportedly losing the vote to ODM leader Raila Odinga (a first cousin of U.S. President Barack Obama). Yet, Samuel Kivuitu, Kenya’s Electoral Commission Chairman, announced President Mwai Kibaki, as the presidential legal winner on December 30, 2007. EU monitors felt ODM figure Raila Odinga, had been cheated of the election result, and apparently his supporters agreed. Widespread fratricidal ethnic violence, and murders plagued supporters of both political parties, and Kenyan police were also accused in taking part in much of the violence.

International observers on human rights, the United Nations Security Council, The International Criminal Court in the Hague, the African Union, and several other prominent international organizations pressured the political parties to end the violence, and the judicial-political process in Kenya introduced a series of reforms to prevent election oriented violence to ever commence in Kenya again. However, the ICC eventually brought criminal charges against the “Ocampo Six” which was portrayed as instigating the violence. At one point, the ICC even ignored disagreement with the UNSC to pursue the charges. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (the son of Kenya’s founding father whom was the first president of the nation), was also one of the Kenyan Ocampo Six, and he fought the charges for years. On December 14, 2014, the charges against him by the ICC were finally dropped. He was also declared the free and fair winner in the 2014 elections in Kenya.

Why did President Obama visit Kenya now as opposed to before? I believe he answered that a few years ago. In 2009, during a visit to Ghana to meet with his Ghanian counterpart President John Atta Mills, President Obama said, “We think Ghana can be a measure of extraordinary success throughout the continent”. Later, in an interview with AllAfrica.com he declared, “For many years we made excuses about corruption, or poor governance insisting this was somehow the consequence of neocolonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism”. In other words, President Obama shuns those nations that engage in what is perceived as senseless violence from those who lack the basic intellectual discourse to peacefully handle disputes via negotiated settlements. On Saturday July 11, 2009 he said in his address to Ghana’s parliament “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.” When addressing the reason he chose Ghana to visit, and not Kenya he further explained. “Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or the need for charity. The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana’s economy has shown impressive rates of growth.” President Obama believes Kenya has finally reached that level of acceptability when it concentrates on economic growth, democratic ideals, and stabilizing its markets to attract investment, but it must continue to shun war, instability, and corruption which retards fiscal growth.

As for Kenya and Ethiopia, a letter signed by 13 signatories sponsored by Amnesty International stated, “Both countries face real security threats but we are concerned by the way in which each government has responded, often with abusive security measures and increased efforts to stifle civil society and independent media.” The letter went on to state there is a need to “address both new and longstanding challenges with which the country continues to grapple – from security force impunity and the need for criminal justice reforms, to an increasingly restrictive environment for media and civil society, and growing pressure on Kenya’s Somali refugee population and its Muslim communities.” I imagine this is a portion of the corruption President Obama recognized worth mentioning. If the aforementioned reports are accurate, both countries have reasons for behaving in this way.

In October of 2011, Kenya sent soldiers across the border to battle al-shabab militants, after accusing the group of kidnapping Kenyans. In 2012, the Somali based Islamic terror group Al-Shabaab (The Youth – A splinter group from the ‘Islamic Courts Union’ whose members were defeated by a joint Somali-Ethiopian military venture in 2006) publicly declared its allegiance to Al-Qaeda. The group has since instigated a series of high-profile attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia. The most notorious of these attacks came when they sent in teams of terror cells to attack the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on September 21, 2013. The town of Mpeketoni, was another place the group attacked in a two day siege that led to the slaying of 60 people from the Kikuyu ethnic group. The murdered were believed to have been killed as a symbolic strike against the ethnic group of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The latest attack was on July 07, 2015, in the Kenyan town of Soko Mbuzi, of Northern Kenya, where the group is believed to be responsible for killing 14 Kenyans. Al-Shabab is also known for murdering Christians in cold blood after separating, and singling out known Christian worshippers from other groups. The last presidential strong man in Somalia was the government of President Muhammad Siad Barre, and since his fall in 1991, Kenya has taken in many ethnic Somali refugees. I imagine they are tested in government sponsored campaigns to root out suspected collaborators of the Al-Shabab group.

Last, President Obama pledged support towards counter terrorism efforts, but stated “If in reaction to terrorism, you’re restricting legitimate organizations, reducing the scope of peaceful organization, then that can have the inadvertent effect of increasing the pool of recruits for terrorism.” I really hope not! President Obama seemed to have a good time with family members he knew, and some he never met before. Good! Some Kenyans felt critical that he waited for so long to visit the nation that bore his paternal family, and some even felt President Bush contributed much more towards Africa’s medical and economic development. I second that. Security concerns forbade him to visit the village his father is from. However, before he moves on to Ethiopia, he gives Kenya a big emotional hug. She is as the paradox of East Africa, or the punctual syntax in a statement that carries the presupposition that all African nations are failed states. Animated black panther manufactured from sparkling porcelain with a golden collar laced with spectacular emeralds around her neck. It provides light for a glimmer of hope in international studies. As a paradigm that will rest in the midday shade, and a short sprint of economic burst to start the day. The nation rests in the branches like a success in comparison to her geographical neighbors. She is the Republic of Kenya.

William Tisdale – The Exquisite Writer – All Rights Reserved – 07/26/2015 (c)

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