How patriotism can save us from greedy foreign states
By George Maangi
| January 25th 2019
For some time now there has been a raging debate on the actual implication of Chinese loans to Kenya. Different narratives have been postulated but they are as varied as the parties engaging in the argument. However, it is important for the government to give Kenyans the facts to avoid speculation. See, nobody wants to imagine that their country has been auctioned for whatever reason. Due to corruption in our country, fear is rife that some individuals can get compromised and jeopardise the wellbeing of the state.
The international system is anarchic. States constantly pursue their national interests even when such are to be achieved at the expense of other actors in the international system. The Cold War was a gruesome theatre whereby the United States and the Soviet Union flexed their muscles to outdo each other. Proxy wars and economic maneuvers characterised the tussle in the then bipolar balance of power. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s brought to an end the grueling battle for dominance between the two Superpowers leading to a unipolar international system.
China has risen to be a conspicuous actor in global space and has captured the attention of many especially in the developing world where it is actively involved in facilitating infrastructural projects through their now famous Belt and Road Initiative which is aimed at bridging an ‘infrastructural gap’ in the countries. The alarming thing about this programme by China is its ‘generous’ dangling of loans. It is beyond doubt that China is jostling for dominance in the world stage inevitably putting it at loggerheads with the United States. In what can be referred to as a battle of titans, the developing World has found itself at the centre of the tussle.
Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out on China for encouraging dependence using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices and corrupt deals that pile debt on nations. This stratagem emasculates the borrowers’ sovereignty and is unsustainable. Tillerson was right because it is now evident that China ensures it has leverage over client states if woes of Sri Lanka, Zambia, Angola and Djibouti are anything to go by.
In democracies like Kenya the citizenry relies on elected representatives to negotiate for deals with other actors in the international system. The representatives need to exhibit a high sense of patriotism especially in international dealings. Contextually, therefore, anyone accorded the responsibility to conduct negotiations and commit the state to agreements should do so with the best interest of their country in mind. As such the representatives should be vigilant not to be duped and yoke their countries into disastrous deals. Disenchanted citizens may accuse the deal brokers of being selfish and possibly receiving kickbacks to secure loan deals that later on burden the country or sometimes undermine its sovereignty.
Interestingly, this is not unique to the developing world alone. In its report, a team led by Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and Orville Schell of the Asia Society “Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance,” points to a looming and malevolent force keen to compromise American values. It is paramount that interests of one’s country override any moral consideration with which they might come into conflict. Citizens too should actively participate in affairs of the state by remaining vigilant and calling the leaders to account. The 2010 Constitution gives us the legal foundation to demand for accountability of our leaders on public matters or even recall them.
It is therefore the patriotic duty of citizens and those who negotiate on behalf of our country to ensure we are secured as in the words of Samuel Johnson “It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief...” It is the civic duty and patriotic responsibility of the government and its agents to secure beneficial deals or else they may mess the country just like the Biblical Esau who sold his birthright for a plate of pottage!
The writer teaches International Relations and Diplomacy at Riara University. [email protected]; @georgemaangi1
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