Friday, January 04, 2008


Kenyan Pundit indirectly characterizes recent events in Kenya by describing his trip to the airport en route to South Africa.

We arrived safely in Joburg earlier this evening. The trip to the airport was one of the scariest moments in my life. Though we had planned to leave for the airport early in the morning even though the flight left late in the afternoon, winding up took much longer then we expected and we found ourselves left with only one route to the airport - Lenana Road to Upper Hill - then Uhuru Highway past Nyayo. Arwings Kodhek, Mbagathi, area around Kenyatta Hospital were already no go areas by 10:00 am with groups engaged in running battles with the police and walking around back roads harassing people. The drive was tense, each landmark felt like a small victory (actually the whole thing felt like an evacuation) - past DOD phew, past Nairobi Hospital phew, into Upper Hill phew, down Uhuru Highway phew, then we got to the roundabout that takes you into West when we saw a big mob approaching from Industrial Area and just about to walk right into a confrontation with GSU and police who are all over Nyayo Stadium. There was no conversation in the car until we reached the airport. If we had left the house even two minutes later we would have driven right into that mess. Five minutes after we passed by, there were gunshots in the area and Mombasa Road was a no-go area. Crazy.

If that account sounds crazy then read the comments from his readers describing their own experiences in the capital and elsewhere. This article from the Baltimore Sun provides the background to understand Kenyan Pundit's post with its references to Bishop Tutu and pleas for cell phone companies to provide ways for overseas Kenyans to get in touch with their relatives.

NAIROBI, Kenya - Postelection chaos swirled like a hurricane over this African capital yesterday, with a strange eye of calm reigning over an abandoned downtown while a storm of tear gas, hurled rocks and arsonists' smoke swept across the city's ring of slums. Heavily armed police blocked tens of thousands of angry marchers from attending an opposition rally in a central park, while the two leaders locked in the bitterest presidential election in Kenyan history showed no intention of negotiating their way out of a deepening political crisis that has killed at least 300 people.

Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, the declared winner of last week's vote by a razor-thin margin, lashed out during a hastily called news briefing at "the senseless violence instigated by some leaders" driven by "personal agendas." That charge clearly was aimed at Kibaki's archrival, opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who insists - and his claims are bolstered by the reports of independent poll monitors - that the election was stolen.

"I have no power to change what is happening right now," Odinga said, swatting away flies in front of a Nairobi morgue packed with battered corpses of scores of Kenyans, most of them impoverished slum dwellers beaten or hacked to death over the past four days of political rage. Asked whether he would consider a power-sharing arrangement with Kibaki, Odinga retorted, "Who wants to share power with a thief?"

Kenya's morgues could grow more crowded if a stream of peacemakers fails to bring either politician to the bargaining table. The latest to try was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who left the opposition Orange Democratic Movement party headquarters in Nairobi yesterday, apparently empty-handed. The U.S. government announced it was dispatching its Africa troubleshooter, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, to Kenya, a country once hailed as one of the continent's most promising democracies.

Here's one famous American with connections -- and relatives in Kenya from an AP story in 2006.

Hundreds of U.S. Embassy employees and their families cheered and sang to greet Sen. Barack Obama after he met Friday with President Mwai Kibaki during Obama’s first trip to his father’s homeland since taking office. ...

The Illinois Democrat and his family are headed Saturday to the western village of Nyangoma-Kogelo, where Obama’s father grew up and where his grandmother still lives. ...

On the streets of the capital, Nairobi, reactions to Obama’s arrival Thursday were mixed. “I consider him a hero, [a] bright and real politician who has made it to the U.S. Senate despite the hurdles facing African aspirants there,” said Jonathan Mutisya, 36, a legal clerk. “But, however, I don’t think his tour will bring much benefit to Kenya’s common man. Perhaps his relatives will benefit from him.”

Obama has often claimed the world would look more sympathetically upon an American leader with an African or "world" background; someone "like" them. But identity politics cuts both ways. The hypothetical question is whether Kenyans, currently wracked by tribal conflict, would interpret actions by a President Obama as that of a neutral American or a partisan member of a Kenyan tribe. As Johnathan Mutisya, the man interviewed by the AP remarked, "perhaps his relatives will benefit from him." Obama probably doesn't calculate his actions based on whether it will advantage his family, but perhaps not everyone in a tribal society will believe that.


Blogger LarryD said...

And yet, isn't Identity Politics just a new form of Tribalism?

1/04/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

jeez -- it sure is nice to live in the first world. Hope we can keep it that way.

1/04/2008 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Annoymouse said...

Get with it Buddy. Barack Obama’s dad was of the minority Luhya tribe. They are in a deadly battle with the Kikuyu. We are marching to Zion.

Here are some Luhya phases that might come in handy:

Kech nega
I am starved,

Adwaro chiemo guok
I want to eat dog.

A cat says: ywak
A dog says: guu guu
A sheep says: meee
A cow says: mboo
A rooster says: kokorioko

And that’s the way it goes.

1/04/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Kenyans are Muslim?

1/04/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Some lines from David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia come to mind in connection with a scene when Lawrence had to mediate a dispute between his tribal allies.

T.E. Lawrence: The Law says the man must die... If he dies, would that content the Howitat?
Auda abu Tayi: Yes.
T.E. Lawrence: Sherif Ali. If none of lord Auda's men harms any of yours, will that content the Harith?
Sherif Ali: Yes.
T.E. Lawrence: Then I will execute the Law. I have no tribe and no one is offended.

Lawrence presented himself as the symbol of the Arab interest, the national interest. As opposed to the purely tribal interest. The western concept of a state is that it has no ethnicity, no religion, no guide except the law and the constitution. Otherwise it cannot claim to represent the whole of the people. The problem with identity politics, both domestically and internationally, is that it introduces the idea that an ethnic President, not a President is leading the country. A "black" President is theoretically as bad an idea as a "white" President; or a "Catholic" President (as JFK was accused of threatening), a "Mormon" President, "Muslim" President or a "World" President. The days of Orville Faubus are gone; that doesn't mean they should be replaced by those of Al Sharpton.

One of Obama's strengths is his rejection of the Sharpton formula. But some taint of ethnic politics still hangs over things. And maybe he really can't do a thing to dispel it. I think most people understand that having a plain President is the best way a diverse nation can be led. But when one makes being a "World" President a qualification, when identity politics becomes enshrined in the front and center of things, then the flip side of the coin, tribalism, immediately emerges. The Democrats have a derogatory word for their concept of tribalism. It's called "divisiveness", but only when applied to the other tribe. For their tribe identity politics is described as "healing".

1/04/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

Wretchard said: “For their tribe identity politics is described as "healing".”
I believe they call it “Affirmative Action” Or “Diversity”.
A rose by any other name.
I live in an American city with a well advanced culture of tribal politics, in addition to the racial aspects. One learns the metaspeak of politicians who play into these games. Rest assured that Barry Obama knows who he is talking to.
Also of interest is the theology of his church.
The website is down, but have a look. Its interesting.

1/05/2008 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Well, it's a sure bet that Obama's church--and especially its minister--are about to get a thorough airing. And there'll be some fear spread on the element of separatism that'll be highlighted.

I don't know what to make of it myself. Maybe it's nothing--a brief thing of a past moment--and maybe it's huge. Dunno.

But anyone who'd eliminate Obama on the basis of his church, in favor of the Clinton syndicate's gigantic garbage mountain now towering over us, is --pardon my french -- "nutz".

1/05/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

My point is that Barry isn't the pure good he's offering.
At present the first offers of both parties are defective and deficient and present a bleak choice. But the Dems with any candidate, continue in their tribal politics (of race, unions, workers, feminists, homosexuals (all 3 flavors,)vegans, and any other identifiable group) which is what makes them the poorest choice of the two.

1/05/2008 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Affirmative Action was not tied into either liberation theology or the obsession with identity defined by oppression.

I do not know where diversity fits into anything but a as marketing scheme. I question what is being marketed. The answer is not exactly clear.

Much of Liberation Theology comes across as a jumble of Marxist, Catholic and (now with Black Liberation Theology add) Nation of Islam sentiment. It can hardly be considered a theology.
In addition to the disconnect from theological foundations, there appears to be a cultural disconnect with what is considered American mainstream as well as a disconnect from African or Islamic culture.

First Impressions rely more on what the impress-ee can see and less on what the impress-or wishes them to view. I am unimpressed with Obama's lack of a coherent message, and unimpressed with the Kenyans political resolve. There is a logical and workable solution to both situations that requires actually standing for something instead of against everything.

Being for Health Care is not a stance.

1/05/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Well, he's too leftish for me, but the nation needs two political parties, and anyone who can boot the Clintons out of one of 'em has ALL my BEST hopes & wishes.

1/05/2008 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

WADEUSAF said “Affirmative Action was not tied into either liberation theology or the obsession with identity defined by oppression.”
If not justified by the second, certainly supported by the first.
Diversity is, yes, the marketing component; it’s alternative is merit which is rejected by the theology and the identity definition.
The point is Barry buys if not the whole of the TUCC theology or at least the biggest chunk. How palatable will that be to America? Particularly to us of the bourgeoisie of the bozarts who inhabit the Flyover Country

1/05/2008 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

you're right -- but just imagine a general election based on issues and not on the Clinton's ''personal journey'' and you'll see why so many like him.

1/05/2008 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

I said, “Affirmative Action was not tied into either liberation theology or the obsession with identity defined by oppression.”

Herb "If not justified by the second, certainly supported by the first."

The ills of affirmative action lie not with the intent, but with the implementation, which flaws left the participants open to a bigotry of a totally different and unexpected flavor, and lowered expectations of performance, where by rights, that performance ought to have been forged as steel.

Charges lacking merit, need not apply, and only applied as a negative reaction to the programs. The flaw with AA lies as much with the design as with the reception.

Herb: "Diversity is, yes, the marketing component; it’s alternative is merit which is rejected by the theology and the identity definition.
Again the notion of merit being disconnected is not actually nor factually correct. As a Buzz word Diversity serves to raise the appropriate hackles, but has no meaning beyond the zoological and as the name of a Magazine.

Herb The point is Barry buys if not the whole of the TUCC theology or at least the biggest chunk. How palatable will that be to America? Particularly to us of the bourgeoisie of the bozarts who inhabit the Flyover Country

It won't be, but for now I'm with Buddy, "Go Barry Go"

1/06/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

Well he aint Hillary and thats a point. but Gawd we're in a mess if this (or the Breck Girl) is the alternative.

1/07/2008 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

The dems are a frightful mess, it's true. But IF the dems win--if--the question has to be, do we want a good-hearted pres that's willing to listen, that might well govern from the center according to his uber message of reconciliation, or do we want the global crime syndicate back in the White House --? You know, the thing we're still uncovering--Reno Justice to Enron to Loral to Riady Family to Sandy Berger to UN oil-for-food -- and everything in between --?

1/07/2008 07:23:00 AM  

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