There’s a crop of African politicians who believe Africa’s problems need African solutions. President Uhuru Kenyatta was at it last October when he dismissed an International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict on the protracted Kenya-Somalia maritime row. He was emphatic it won’t be resolved be a foreign court.
It was a familiar political script. Whenever faced with a grumpy matter, many African leaders wildly brand as colonial and imperial, foreign institutions and individuals willing to fix a problem.
Many African leaders have a witless way of being big-headed that “we’re sovereign and outsiders should keep off.” The late Robert Mugabe was a champ for this cause when he battled sanctions. Paul Kagame bewails neocolonialism yet he says Rwanda was cast aside during genocide. “They think they are better than everybody,” Kagame says of Europe and US. South Sudan’s Salva Kiir often says “what they covet is our resources.”
Uganda’s strongman Yoweri Museveni plays the same card whenever put to task about repression in his country. But these leaders’ harsh stance is muffled when they seek hefty loans. No colonialist tags come up when they apply for visas, watch the EPL and take their children to foreign schools.
When Kenyan opposition leaders met Barack Obama in July 2015 to discuss the failings of Jubilee government, the then US President accused them of outright double-speak. The leaders, who included Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, Obama rightly said, were critical of US role in Kenya when they were in power in the grand coalition. The shoe was on the other foot.
Last week, Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) wrote to Uhuru alleging campaign malpractices. Just like a prior protest note by the party against CS Fred Matiang’i, the letter was copied to the EU, the International Criminal Court, and the US and British envoys. Its timing wasn’t propitious and I doubt UDA meant business with it.
At the height of poll chaos last elections, Ruto claimed Nasa was begging foreign powers to force mediation. “Even if Raila Odinga goes to Europe, Washington, Mexico or Casablanca, there will be no power sharing,” he said in Karatina on October 16, 2017. The Deputy President, then, belittled the West’s stake in Kenya’s affairs.
Kenya, under a government partly led by Ruto, chided the ICC during the botched trial of the once ‘dynamic duo.’ Many countries threatened a walkout. They ridiculed the court and its prosecutor. Remember the shuttle diplomacy to Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana and Congo in May 2013 that led to the Sh100 million Hustler’s jet saga?
It’s a badge of infamy that Ruto and his UDA now see foreign entities as vital players in Kenya’s affairs. Never mind we almost paid a heavy price – economic and diplomatic exclusion by traditional allies – for such twisted thinking.
We can’t trust foreign players only when it suits us. It is like savouring two desirable but mutually opposing choices. Choice have consequences. Like it or not, we are part of the global community.
International cooperation is foundational to democracy and can’t, for whatever reason, be smothered by bigotry and pedestrianism. There’s nothing like an African solution. We need the world much as the world needs us.
The writer is an editor at The Standard