Worry not about 2022, there is much bigger menace stalking us

Power tussles in readiness for the 2022 Kenyatta succession bring to mind Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s opine: “In order to get power and retain it, it is necessary to love power; but love of power is not connected with goodness but with qualities that are the opposite of goodness, such as pride, craftiness and cruelty”.

An amalgam of pride, craftiness and cruelty has been evident, but we are yet to see the reality of it in the 2022 countdown. The first casualty of these machinations is Chapter Six of the Constitution (Integrity) that appears to have been quietly expunged by the political class.

Next in line is the increasingly mercenary Church being co-opted into politics for the price of suspect monetary donations. But then, should that alarm us? From where I sit, Church is a lucrative business today.

The determination with which some individuals seek to become Kenya’s next president is worrying. It is almost as if their lives depend on it; that they could easily turn their toes upward if the chance slips by them. But while those are his ulcers, there is a bigger problem facing us; Chinese expansionism and a possible re-colonisation of Africa.

As the joke goes; the British came with the Bible, asked us to close our eyes in prayer and when we opened them, most of our land and freedom had gone. The Chinese came with different goodies through the China Road and Bridge Corporation. They have corrupted our leadership so much, it is averse to logic.

But one has to give it to the Chinese. In 60 years, they have made strides that Kenya, and indeed Africa, given its calibre of leaders, cannot hope to achieve in 500 years of trying.

Most aggressive

Established in 1949 by Mao Zedong, China joined the United Nations in 1971. It is about that time that its economic growth took off. Boosted by the 1978 laissez faire through which farmers were allowed to sell their produce in local markets - a deviation from communist ideals - and individual companies permitted to indulge in international trade, China has never looked back. So sure of China’s meteoric growth is President Xi Jinping that he averred China will be a superpower by 2049 in his book; The Governance of China.

With a population of 1.3 billion people; about 20 per cent of the world’s total population, China is the second largest economy globally. It has the largest military in the world and is the world’s most aggressive trading country. In 2015, for instance, China exports to the US totalled $482 billion while US exports to China totalled $116 billion, a deficit of $366 billion.

Thus, on reading that a Kenyan delegation flew to China to seek a trade balance between Kenya and China, I was amused. Kenyan exports to China are worth $10 billion while Chinese imports stand at $390 billion, a deficit of $380 billion. How Kenya hopes to increase exports to China - a self-sufficient country agriculturally - when it cannot pay its maize farmers, offers no agricultural subsidies and suffers food insecurity is one of the mysteries of nature.

Real intentions

The ‘String of Pearls’ theory advanced by US consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in 2005 has been vindicated. According to Hamilton, China seeks to increase its naval presence in the Indian Ocean by building civilian maritime infrastructure.

This has made India and Japan suspicious of China’s real intentions as it embarks on a charm offensive in Africa and elsewhere. It is by design that China has interests in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iran and Kenya, among other target countries.

China, having invested $1.2 billion in the Gwadar Port, Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, was handed the port’s management in 2013. Equally important, China has control of the Hambota Port, Sri Lanka. In Sudan, China has built a $10 billion road infrastructure that leads to the Port of Sudan where Chinese presence is massive.

In Iran, China is said to have developed oil fields at great cost. In Kenya, there is the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway that now runs from Mombasa to Nairobi.

There is fear Kenya will default on the Chinese loans and the port of Mombasa, a collateral, could be taken over by the Chinese. The presence of oil in these countries cannot be taken for granted, especially knowing that China is the second largest oil consumer globally and seeks insurance for the future. Africa and the Gulf states provide 70 per cent of China’s oil imports.

With what China stands to accumulate over the years, it needs the power to protect its acquisitions. That is why building strategically placed military bases in some countries bordering the Indian Ocean might be necessary. And when the ‘colonised’ dream of taking up arms to reclaim what is theirs, they will be in for a rude shock.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The Standard.

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