Kenya Struggles

Kenya Struggles

…and inches forward, just a little bit late.

Today, Kenya’s President Kibaki makes an unusual road trip a-la-Obama into some of the areas in the country most effected by food shortages. Kenyan presidents don’t normally show their faces in public, much less in troubled areas. He is desperately trying to prop up the political soul of the country, fragilely held by the Grand Coalition Government.

Yesterday, more than 3000 university students held a demonstration in the city that was mostly peaceful to protest the police shooting of human rights workers the week before. Students have never been given government sanction to protest before yesterday. (It did not end wholly peacefully, which was a real shame, with nonorganizers looting a few stores and blocking downtown traffic.)

Yesterday, the head of the Kenyan Tourist Federation held a press conference that was actually attended by the press to condemn the government’s sanction to grow the number of tourist lodges and camps in Kenya’s most famous big game park, the Maasai Mara. Similar conservationists have been sounding this alarm for years, but rarely if ever got coverage.

Yesterday, all primary schools in the country were closed down in mid-term and the children sent home. The education ministry ran out of money. Kenya has given all children the rights to a free education. They are expected to be called back when money is found, maybe in a couple weeks. They are going to be a little bit late finishing their assignments this term.

Yesterday, the long-rains began. Like everything else in Kenya, a little bit late.

Kenya is struggling, which is not news, but doing so in the midst of the worst global economic recession in memory, with consequences for increasing poverty and starvation unimaginable to us in the west. We are worried in the U.S. that our government might have a budget deficit equal to 15% of our GDP. In Kenya, the government budget deficit this year is likely to be 300% of GDP. They are going to be a little bit later in erasing their deficit than we will be.

The patience of Africa is unfathomable to an American. But Kenya is moving forward, pole pole, slowly, but it is moving forward. And it is in every citizen’s of the world interest to keep them inching along, if only a bit late.