Monday, 6 August 2012

What Clinton's visit to Kenya means



By Nicodemus Minde
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on a seven day Africa tour. She is visiting a number of African countries in what is seen as an attempt to check on China’s growing influence in the continent. It is barely two weeks since China pledged over $20 bn in credit facility and technical support in various sectors of the African economy. This pledge was made in the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) in late July in Beijing. Chinese influence in the continent has grown enormously. The Chinese are mainly targeting the construction industry and rentier African economies. This has sent shivers to the US who see China’s growing influence as a direct challenge to their global economic hegemony.

Clinton’s Africa visit can be interpreted as a counter check of the growing Chinese influence. True to America’s foreign policy strategy, the trip has been choreographed and tailored on Washington’s pursuit of democracy and the respect of the rule of law as its enduring foreign policy essentials. Clinton is visiting Senegal, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Benin. Her visit to Senegal amplifies the spirit of smooth democratic transition in competitive and free and fair elections. Senegal’s opposition candidate Macky Sall beat incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in a fiercely contested second round of the Presidential elections early this year. The smooth of the transition was heralded as one off in a region that is largely volatile to electoral malpractices and coup d'├ętats.  Clinton’s visit to Senegal can thus be seen as a way to congratulate the country for the smooth transition.
Why Kenya?
Madam Clinton meets PM Raila Odinga

I would like to explore the implications of Clinton’s visit to Kenya. This is Clinton’s second visit to Kenya. Her first visit was in August 2009. The United States has an interest in keeping Kenya stable, so Washington has a good deal in Nairobi. The Kenya Defense Forces are in Somalia in attempts to dilute and scuttle the Al Shabaab militia. Kenya needs assurances and support from the Americans. America sees Kenya as a key ally in the attempts to squash terrorism in the Horn of Africa region. Clinton also visited Uganda which is also a key ally in the attempts to deal with the Al Shabaab menace.
Madam Clinto with President Kibaki
During her visit to Kenya, Clinton reiterated the need for a democratic transition in the coming elections in March 2013. This can be affirmed by her meeting with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). She also had an audience with the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga where they discussed among other things, the speed of judiciary reforms. Madam Clinton further discussed Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who intend to run for the presidency despite the noose of ICC still hanging in their necks. It is believed that Clinton sought the government position on the possible eligibility of the candidacy of these two individuals. Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, who is a key political ally of the two, is believed to be of the support of the two to run for the president. However, in the meeting, Wamalwa said that the matter is in court and that the courts will rule over the matter. Clinton is said to be against the idea of the two running. In the event of either Ruto or Uhuru winning the elections next year, Clinton says that it could jeopardize the otherwise smooth relations between US and Kenya.     

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