What we see when we look ‘East’

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By UHURU KENYATTA

Throughout history, geography has played a tremendously influential role in global development, affecting the language, philosophy, culture, religion and economics of people and communities.

Notions of sovereignty are tightly interwoven with territorial delineations on the face of the earth. Geopolitics and geo-strategy are directly linked with geography. It is not an exaggeration to state that geography drives wealth and poverty, war and peace, plight and prospects of the nations of the world. Never has this been more significant than it is now. Geography presents both daunting challenges, and incredible opportunities.

In 50 years of Kenyan independence, our location in the Greater Eastern Africa region – on the shores of the Indian Ocean – has subjected us to the turbulent energy of the Cold War as well as the ‘hot’ conflicts that followed its thawing. Before then, this location made pre-colonial and colonial Kenya an inevitable participant – willing or otherwise – in major global events, including the slave trade and the two world wars.

The Cold War drove global superpowers to sponsor satellite and proxy States to bolster their hand in a competitive geopolitical power struggle. The result was lavish material support for authoritarian governments who, in turn, consolidated tyranny and neglected service to their people. In the midst of post-Cold War upheaval, the winds of democratic change and economic renewal began to sweep across our region. Democratic consolidation and economic revival has firmly taken root.

East Africa and the greater Horn of Africa have for long been the arena of violence and instability. Fortunately, this chapter has largely drawn to a close. Of course, peace remains fragile in some parts, but there is a growing determination by the people of Africa to proactively build peace and prevent relapses into conflict and State collapse. This has afforded the region’s peoples space to direct their energies to building stable and prosperous societies.

The current chapter of our history unfolds in the context of the fastest sustained economic growth in human history. Asia, particularly the countries of the Indian Ocean Rim, comprising the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea, is the epicentre of this seismic economic phenomenon. It is one of those boons of geography that Kenya straddles this rapidly emerging system of trade, investment and security.

Being able to exploit it economically, and working to make it stable and optimally conducive for commerce, is a core priority of our national interests now and in the future. There are two cardinal pillars to this system, one of which is the foremost priority of my government: Being a leading participant in an integrating Africa that is shaping out as a globally indispensable source of raw and value-added materials for industries and consumers in Asia.

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  • Kenya

    Uhuru, Kenya and Africa should not be a source of raw materials for industries and consumers in Asia as you suggest. When the British colonised Kenya that is what they wanted. We should not willingly submit ourselves to be colonised by China. We need to sell our finished products to China. Right now we sell nothing there other than scrap materials which they melt for steel. Kenya is an open market for China and they even sell stuff that Chinese wouldn’t buy. When Chinese contractors come to Kenya, ask them to employ Kenyans.

    • Duncan Muchina

      I think the real deal should be made at the negotiating table. China unlike former colonial masters, cannot just take stuff from Africa. They must negotiate for them. That’s where we need to be smart. We gotta strike good deals. The Chinese are desperate for our raw materials and we must be aware of that as we approach the table of negotiations. Calling their bluff requires tact. That is what we need to develop.

      • marloow

        I do agree with you that the relationship between Kenya and any other nation should be mutually beneficial unlike the relationships with the colonialists..

        It is however, interesting how those who benefitted the most from the extractive relationships with the colonialists, in fact perfected and perpetuated said relationships are the same people who (a) are decrying and benefitting the most from these relationships: They are the same people Kenyans are now tasking to craft “better” relationships and deals with its new best friends!

        What’s that saying: “The more things change…the more” Or is it “fool me once, shame on me…fool me twice” Maybe it is “accept and move on”?

        • Duncan Muchina

          You began well with your bone marrow attitude. Wonder what it is though! Who really benefitted from past colonial era, you see today? How can you justify that? Someone with a sound economic understanding is well suited to steer our country forward….empty
          rhetoric backed by dubious qualifications cannot.

          • marloow

            lol…I just have to accept that you..Mr. Muchina, speak in riddles..
            Are you serious that you do not know who benefited during the colonial era? And here I thought you were a student of Kenya’s history!

            Read Charles Hornsby’s Kenya: A history since independence….or John Githogo’s It’s our turn to eat…or Kroll’s report on corruption in Kenya (available online) not to mention the recently-released report by the TJRC and you will get a listing of those who have truly enjoyed “matunda ya uhuru”…

            Uhuru is indeed a student of political science and econ…from an excellent institution….the question is: does he have the gumption, indeed the credibility to lead a country in desperate need of a new socio-political and economic direction?

          • Duncan Muchina

            Honestly, I do not know who benefited. Reason being; one, what does benefit entail? How can you define it? Two, the period you speak of as “colonial era” deserves no mention in current discussions because it was a time of mental anguish and torment to many Africans. When Kavirondo sons came to work in Nairobi, they had to contend with one Delamere et al, who loved to shoot and whip Africans for fun as far back as 1920. At the same time, Mumbi sons were being gunned down for agitating for freedom. That, my dear friend, is where I get my history. The Hornsby’s, Githongo’s, or TJRC reports mean just that: nothing! Those sorry pieces of our history came long after the fact. When we consider what has taken place since “independence,” then we must be all inclusive. 1982 military coup and who engineered it must factor in too. The run-down-Moi-era days must be crutinized also. Lastly, if Uhuru has the gumption to lead Kenya to the next eon or not, waits to be seen. Let’s wait. 10 years is not a long time. Except for one miserable fella I won’t mention out of pure respect.

          • marloow

            Mr. Muchina, you are playing ignorant but I will indulge you:

            Benefit in this case entails (i) access to information about impending business opportunities i.e. sale of property, businesses, contracts etc., (ii) access to capital, either through loans or loans w/favorable terms, (iii) choice of plum employment opportunities etc.

            The “colonial era” that you are quick to dismiss set Kenya on its current path of tribal animus and official corruption and impunity that saw the country on the precipice of a Rwandan-like ethnic violence. Had we learnt from the British instead of perfecting the extractive and divide-and-conquer mentality…maybe we would be much better off than we are today…

            I am not even sure what your ramblings about “Kavirondo sons came to work in Nairobi, they had to contend with one Delamere et al, who loved to shoot and whip Africans for fun as far back as 1920. At the same time, Mumbi sons were being gunned down for agitating for freedom” even mean. Can you explain? Besides,
            where did you get the forgoing info that forms the basis of your “history” and why is your history more valid and acceptable than Hornsby, Githongo and the TJRC?

            I do agree with you that all that has taken place “since independence” should be taken into account..including the 1982 coup, the Moi-era abuses etc – the two events were covered by the TJRC report you were so quick to dismiss.

            The fact is Kenyans either deal with their past and come to grips with how that past shaped the present or we will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis…all predicated on and viewed through tribal perspective.

          • Duncan Muchina

            So you can’t define “benefit” in light of colonial period? Expected. You haven’t been candid in many issues; only pouting off when push comes to shove. That’s why I issued a challenge to you because I honestly think and believe I can beat you to a bloody pulp regardless of your general understanding over the whole drama. You sound like one of those diminutive characters out to make an impression any way they can. Hide in your closet and stay there!

            As far as we have come as a nation, what do you think we failed to learn from your esteemed British? What can oppressors teach the oppressed except the will to fight for freedom? That also sets you on a collision course with your own ideas. You stated elsewhere that those who “benefitted” from colonialists are not fit to lead. Now here you are again suggesting that we should have learned from the British.Talk about a double edged sword!

            The reason TJRC report has to go is simple; it’s edited to suit certain characters and alienate others. It has to go or be subjected to further scrutiny.

          • marloow

            Mr. Muchina…I defined “benefits” as I understood your question tho’ I am not sure what you mean by “defining benefits in light of the colonial period.” If you can explain what you mean, I may be
            able to answer your question more precisely.

            As for your claim that I “haven’t been candid in many issues,” please give me examples of my lack of candor.

            Re: “beating me to a bloody pulp regardless of my general understanding over the whole drama”, I am hoping that
            you are talking figuratively.

            What do you mean “diminutive character”….since you have not really seen my physical being nor have you really “measured” my character…

            What I meant re: learning from the (esteemed – your word) British was specific to their employment of home guards
            and their divide-and-conquer method of administering Kenya. Instead of avoiding the division they created, Kenyatta Pere perfected that system by playing tribes against the other…Read “Facing Mt. Kenya”. The result of the tribal animus between Kenya landed his son Uhuru in front of The Hague – talk about
            poetic justice!

            The oppressors can teach the oppressed how NOT TO BE…the kaburus of South Africa taught Nelson Mandela not to be vindictive and selfish…but to reconcile with his tormentors…his
            oppressors. That is a lesson the oppressed can learn from the oppressor. But you knew that didn’t you?

            Those who “benefitted” from colonialists are not fit to lead if they practice the same leadership qualities as the colonialists.

            Dude…I am willing to engage you but the name-calling has to stop…

          • KingMenes

            I dont think you understand Kenya history.The British aggressors saw it fit to dehumanize some people in Kenya and steal land from them enmasse so that they can settle there.This dehumanization and aggression made those people bitter and they immediately agitated for freedom by first learning the aggressors ways because the only way you defeat an enemy is by understanding him and how better to understand an enemy that learning his ways?So,the people of central Kenya were introduced to world politics and prevailing economic ways(money,stock exchange,businesses,companies and corporations,cooperative societies) by as early as 1920s.So,the advantage enjoyed by those people today was born out of a catastrophe and trials of the survival for the fittest.What you are calling “Kenya history” is the history of Kenya AFTER Independence from British agressors.But what shaped events after independence is what happened BEFORE independence.So,go LEARN the history of Kenya between 1846-1963 and most certainly you will understand the present day outcome of events and history in the making.

          • marloow

            I think I understand enough about Kenya’s history to make the following observations:

            The British were inhuman occupiers who treated Africans like animals; using African home guards to do their dirty work. The Brits stole land and other natural resources from Africans just as the Africans who took over (from the Brits) stole land and
            natural resources from Africans.

            We can spin the history of Kenya however we want but the reality is a country that is divided, indeed one that has been ruled along tribal lines by its past four African presidents, much like the dreaded Brits divided and ruled us and until we come to terms with the complicity of Kenyans/Africans in enabling (in the 1800/early-1900s) and perpetuating (in the mid-1960-1990) the very atrocities the colonizing Brits did, Kenyans are deluding themselves into thinking that the country is going to develop as a stable and united polity.
            I hope I am wrong but I was very hopeful in 2007..and in 1992…and in 1978…and…..

  • marloow

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend:
    The Kenyan government is playing the tried-and-true game of countering one center of power (west) with another (east). It is the same politics Kenyatta Pere played during the Cold War era of the 60s/70s to the detriment of the country’s unity and stability even as it made his family and the families of those around him wealthy beyond the imagination of everyday Kenyans.
    I will give Uhuru credit for at least recognizing the general dynamics of the Cold War. The sad thing is that he is playing the same game…seeking relationships that counter-balance centers of power, in part because he is facing charges driven by the one center – west.
    It remains to be seen whether he can successfully wrap his personal travails in the national flag.

    • KingMenes

      You comment looks well reasoned however,it is utterly illogical.Kenya has been mentally colonized by the Western nations for 50 years and the people are still poor and unknowledgeable about world geopolitics and economic plunder.The West today might behave like the clean savior from heaven but we know they got rich by killing,plundering and occupying people against their wish(a war crime) so that hey can exploit them.China is not a savior and as a country it has strategic interests and markets to guard and explore.The difference between Kenya-China relations and Kenya-West relations is that with China,the results can be seen and the engagements are mutually beneficial.For the West,their “know it all” ambassadors have been behaving like sherrifs in Kenya and disrespecting people and their leaders.Kenyan leaders MUST exploit world geopolitical alignments to the Kenya’s benefits.Kenya owes the West KES600Bn and we can see nothing for it.Today,since year 2003,we owe China around KES60Bn and we can see a superhighway and other infrastructural projects for it.So,the question is,which relationship is beneficial?Is it the expensive loans called “aid” or is it real loans that we know are loans and they build things we can see?The only tangible thing West has done in Kenya is celebrate disease among our people,offer a few help here and there and then put large bill boards proclaiming their help.

      • marloow

        You raise some interesting points which beg even more
        questions:
        1) What do you mean that “Kenya has been
        mentally colonized….”?
        2) Which people are “still poor and unknowledgeable
        and geopolitics and economic plunder” and why is that so?
        3) Why does Kenya owe KES600Bn to the west
        with “nothing for it”?

        I do agree with you that the west is not and has not been an innocent by-stander in the plundering of Africa. And just as they, western companies/countries got rich killing and plundering and occupying people, presumably Africans against their wish, so did the continent’s leadership and those connected to said leadership. Kenya is no exception.

        I also do agree with Uhuru’s push for more balanced and
        mutually-beneficial relations between Kenya and her partners. However, I am hesitant to jump for joy over these new relationships because of our
        post-independence history on deals with foreign corporations/governments, China’s history in other parts of the world – Zambia comes to mind and the raison d’etre for the new partnerships. The deals with western countries bring me to another set of questions:
        4) Why does Kenya owe KES600Bn to the west “with nothing for it”?
        5) Who were the principals in these deals?

        It is my belief that part of what is going on with these new BFF relationships is an attempt by the Uhuru government to wrap his legal travails at The Hague, along with those of his deputy Mr. Ruto, around the national flag. Uhuru is using the east as a counter-weight to the west, which effectively got him charged at The Hague for crimes against humanity in the PEV of 2007! It is a cynical move that may just succeed in buffering him from conviction of said charges but the long-term damage to Kenya will be akin to the long-term damage Kenyatta Pere did to the unity and stability of the country when he used the dynamics of the Cold War to stifle opposition even as he built a corrupt and tribal-based country that ended up owing KES600Bn to the west with “nothing for it” as well as setting the stage for the tribal animus
        that led to the PEV of 2007.

    • [email protected]

      And we wish him the very best as he forges bilateral relations with East. We support him with singleness of heart. Uhuru Kenyatta is our President. The task before him is not an easy one. If East is the choicest partner of the moment, well let it be. If West finds the president’s move to East, as being retributive, let them deal with it. After all they wished their younger brother evil but God came to his defense.

      • marloow

        I don’t respect nor support his presidency because he is a crimes-against-humanity suspect. I hope that he is convicted at The Hague tho’ I doubt that he will…too much money not to mention the spectre of oath-taking, violence and instability in Kenya if its “prince” is convicted of the charges. I just want some justice for the victims of the PEV-2007 and an end to the impunity his ilk have acted with over the years!

        • [email protected]

          Support him, hate him, desire even the worst for him, but he is and will remain the president of the republic of Kenya. To say that He and his ilk are the architect of impunity is the highest level of buffoonery. True justice for 2007 PEV victims, (of which I belong) is in reconciliation and forgiveness not retribution and selective justice driven by west. It is this same west that has sank its evil sword christened “democracy” in the african countries, leaving in its wake massive crimes against humanity and destabilization of otherwise peaceful nations. Look at Libya and Egypt for instance. Merchants of impunity at best!!

          • marloow

            I don’t “hate him” nor “desire the worst” for him…I just don’t agree with his politics given what he is accused of and what he represents: Kenya’s culture of patronage, privilege, impunity, corruption.

            I did not say that he, Uhuru is “the architect of impunity”…I said and will continue to say that Uhuru and his cronies have acted with impunity for quite some time..and I am glad that the ICC finally put them on notice.

            If indeed you are a victim of PEV-2007…then pole sana…and I do agree with you that the country has to go through reconciliation and forgiveness…to get beyond the hatred that triggered the savagery of 2007. On the other hand, people have to be held accountable…and given the system that was in place at the time, charges were brought against Uhuru and his deputy at The Hague: You do remember “Don’t be vague….” don’t you?

            That the “west..blah, blah, blah” has no bearing on the fact that the chief prosecutor felt that he had enough evidence to sustain charges against Kenyatta Son and Ruto. If you want to bring charges against the west for its role in Libya and Egypt..have at it…For now, Kenya’s president and his deputy have a date with Fatou Bensouda…and as a Kenyan, I am glad.

            Let the country’s rich and powerful go through the same (judicial) process they have denied others not with their resources or connections.

          • [email protected]

            I hear you Marloow. I wont contend with you over this because it wont change things. The duo will face that west fortified judicial marionette that is the ICC. While I can do nothing else i wish them vindication and it let it come sooner, so that they can concentrate their energy in the great task bestowed upon them by citizenry.

            You have invited me to bring charges against the west for atrocities committed in African states. And I will respond by telling “stop joking my friend.” What you are asking me to do is simply to cut the mighty fig (locally known as mugumo) tree with a razor blade.West controls the world, And like lion among sheep,so is West among the league of nations. Consequently, i will walk placidly and has nothing to do with west. At times, fear is stronger than courage!

  • Kwessi Pratt

    I dont believe a begger can help a begger no matter how much pretence we employ. We are inviting the wrath of the west by appearing to challenge them. Not because of other reasons but just personal interests. And thats the bottomline!!!!

    • Punk

      Another one of the west bootlickers…

      • Kwessi Pratt

        Am only saying empty defiance is detrimental to the well-being of our nation. We are anyway seeking from seekers! But if being a supposed bootlicker serves you well, so be it.

  • bullstefan

    understanding the economic dynamics in the global scene will make one appreciate this article,which spells out explicitly why the govt has adopted economic policies that seems to look east.Asia,and particularly China has become the center of attention in the global arena,everyone is looking East,including USA and Europe,and if we have an edge in as far as seizing this opportunity is concerned due to our geo-strategicness,we should run for it and grab it….so go Kenyatta go,we have seen and tested the fruits of this bilateral mutual rship,and we want more.

  • Locustfellow

    I can’t agree more Mr. President change is good as a rest. This article articulates the underlying issues that will affects us as Kenyans and then as Africans depending on our responding to commitment of building a prosperous nation all inclusive devoid of tribe, religion, race and region. We CANNOT change history no matter how many commissions we form to look into injustices caused either by our colonialists or after independence if we negate the true and proven way of healing the nation through forgiveness. There’s no single person who if interviewed would lack to point to an injustice either directly or indirectly caused to the person, family member, relative or even tribe. In light of all these, we have the opportunity to free ourselves from the cancerous past injustices, pains and debts we our to one another that so much harbor within us, which if not operated upon by forgiveness will erode the humanity within us. If we join hands and forgive one another we have a sure way of engineering our future since history can only be visible in books.

  • Габриель Эгринйа

    Go in this thy Might, Mr President. African Nations must take their destiny in their hands and leave aside every influence from every quarter that has made our leaders seem like dummies. Go for the Interest of your people and Unity of all African is the very ingredient to countering every economic and political aggression from neo-colonialist so called western nations. RIDE ON EAST.

    • [email protected]

      Let haters and cynics keep on chanting pro west lullaby, but they wont dampen our optimism and shared ideologies with East. After all critics will always cry foul even when no injury is inflicted. So bye West! Welcome East!

  • wati bryan

    my only question would which trade when for every shilling we export to China they get about 18
    El Presidente, you godda get better terms, not a chinese loan to fund a road that is built by the same chinese

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