U.S. WARNS KENYA

U.S. WARNS KENYA

Our president meets Tanzania’s president, and nobody cares. Not even the Kenyans over which it was all about.

You probably didn’t know that a week ago President Obama met with Tanzanian President Kikwete, the first African head-of-state to meet with our new president.

In fact, the only mention of the meeting in the U.S. came in an Associated Press release whose topic wasn’t this important meeting, but “Life in the White House.”

It was an important meeting at several levels. There haven’t been that many heads-of-state to meet with Obama, worldwide, yet. And it came on the same day as Obama’s detention plan was released followed the controversy with losing funding to close GITMO. It was probably a pretty busy day for Obama.

The hour-long meeting was twice as long as scheduled.

The meeting, according to reports in East Africa, was entirely about Kenya. The Obama administration is growing increasingly worried about the Kenyan coalition government.

Former President Bush also used Kikwete as a go-between to get messages to Kenyan leaders without going public.

The message was clear: get back on track, or face “serious actions” by the U.S. These serious actions will most likely start with a refusal to give Kenyan politicians visas to enter the United States. This relatively benign sanction bites hard and has been used often before, since most Kenyan politicians’ children study in the U.S. and many have investments, here.

There is a lot that isn’t secret: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Johnny Carson, and our current ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, have publicly expressed increased alarm at the pace of implementation of the Kenyan reforms that created the current coalition government. There are two specific actions that the U.S. (and its partners) are waiting for: (1) create and adopt a new constitution; and (2) develop a mechanism for discovering and possibly punishing those who promulgated the election violence of 2007.

These issues are in the forefront of the Kenyan public’s universal criticism of the current government as well. The dynamic Kenyan newspapers are filled every day with details and commentary, mostly rebukes of the current political leadership. It just doesn’t morph into violence, as it did during the election.

What does all this mean?

This is par for the course. Except for very vociferous newspapers, the public doesn’t seem disturbed. Regarding this single aspect, it’s probably not a good sign for Kenya’s future, but I do know that for tourism it’s very good… at least for now

The Kenyan public gets disturbed or elated only during elections. (The one exception to this has been the students, but remarkably at the moment, even the students are quiet.) The complaints and expressions of dissatisfaction are never-ending, but never erupt into any kind of disruption until the election cycle nears its end. We’re still 3 years away from another election.

Hopefully, the U.S. pressure will work. Three years is not as far away as it might seem.