Speaking at a rallies in Nyahururu and Karatina at the weekend, President Kenyatta warned foreign countries not to interfere in Kenya’s internal affairs. The President was right to do so but his use of language was unfortunate.
The President spoke against a background of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s trip to the London and one of his co-principle’s, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, visit to Germany.
There have been concerns expressed by Jubilee leaders, echoed in the Kenyan media, that Raila Odinga was lobbying for the support of foreign countries to intervene in Kenya’s election in order to gain power, or at least share it, and that this is what the London and Germany visits were about.
“We will not allow wazungu (whites) to come and tell us what to do” the President declared. “If they come to Kenya, let them come as tourists. Let them go to Maasai Mara, come to Lakipia and other places, but they should not come here and tell us what to do.”
President Kenyatta is of course right. Kenya is a sovereign country, there should be no outside interference.
The President’s concerns are also not without some foundation. At the last election in Kenya (2013) several embassies in Kenya – the US, UK, Germany among them – issued unwise statements suggesting that Kenyans should consider the ramifications of their vote. They meant don’t vote for Kenyatta and Ruto. It was a move that was unwarranted, in that foreign diplomats should not have been commenting in such a manner about Kenya’s internal politics, and foolish in that the move almost certainly backfired, leading to more Kenyans rallying to Kenyatta’s support.
The sentiments expressed by the President were therefore understandable but surely that could have been couched in better language.
There is little evidence that the international community wishes to interfere in Kenyan matters. International observers, after all, gave Kenya’s election a clean bill of health. The language used by foreign diplomats since, regretting that Raila Odinga may not participate in the forthcoming election and declining to make any positive comments about his tactics since the last poll, suggest their support for him, if any, is lukewarm at best.
THE ‘WHITES’ IN KENYA
Then there’s the question of the goodwill towards, and from, whites living in Kenya.
There are approximately 35,000 white Kenyans and a further 32,000 ‘whites’ working and living in the country. They contribute greatly to Kenya’s economy and in many other sectors of life. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that they bear little or no ill-will towards President Kenyatta but rather they do harbour concerns at the idea of an Odinga presidency.
It is worth keeping in mind too, compared to the figures above, that over 130,000 people born in Kenya live in the UK and a further 90,000 in the US, and they are economically significant. The Kenyan Diaspora contributed, through remittances, over $1.7 billion – 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP in 2016.
“LET THEM COME AS TOURISTS”
“Let them come as tourists” said President Kenyatta – and they do. Depending on conditions (not least at election time!) between 130,000 and 190,000 British tourists arrive in Kenya every year. Add to that approximately 100,000 US citizens, and 10,000 Germans…
One of President Kenyatta’s audiences at the weekend were Kenyan supporters at a political rally and the language at such events (anywhere in the world) can sometimes be more campaigning in nature and less considered. His second audience was the international community who, given past events, perhaps deserved a shot across their bows. It’s a pity that in doing so, however inadvertently, President Kenyatta’s tone and use of language may have given Wazungu, either living in Kenya or visiting it, any cause for concern.