My perception of Americans has always been good. For the most part, they seem to be a pleasant, knowledgeable and confident bunch with an appreciation for democracy and all the socio-political ideals that flow from it.
So when I came across Robert Rotberg’s ill-conceived article labeling Obama’s decision to visit Kenya as dumb (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/going-to-kenya-is-a-dumb-idea-mr-president-117737.html#.VUzETo6qqkq), I was quite stunned by the degree of misinformation that it conveyed. Upon reading it, I was tempted to respond with an article directed at all Americans in general but reason prevailed and I decided not to address over 300 million people based on the misinformed opinions of one man so for today, I will speak directly to you, Mr. Rotberg.
Dear Mr. Robert I. Rotberg, in my view, the content of your article was poorly researched. I find it extremely difficult to reconcile the richness of your resume with the shallow premises expressed in your article. If you were hoping to gain hits for your article by issuing shortsighted and alarmist comments, bravo, you succeeded. Your article is currently trending on Twitter in Kenya.
The manner in which your article cites the ICC charges against President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto as a reason why Obama ought not to visit Kenya betrays your subscription to the archaic school of thought that indictment is the equivalent of conviction. In democratic societies Mr. Rotberg, accused persons are innocent until proven guilty. The two Kenyan leaders have not been convicted by any court sir, in fact, as you rightly point out, the charges against President Kenyatta were dropped. Your inferred allegation that the dropping of these charges was due to the intimidation of witnesses is unsubstantiated and speculative and to that degree does not merit any sort of serious consideration…the fact remains that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the case against the Kenyan President and as such the ICC prosecutor terminated it. My advice to you is this, stick to the facts Mr. Rotberg. Perpetrating propaganda is not a good look for any journalist.
Despite the fact that Obama has never visited Kenya during his presidency, we have managed to stay on the path of economic, political and social growth. Yes, we have had challenges, but we have grown past the tribal violence of the 2007 general elections. In fact, we had a hotly contested election in 2013 the results of which were contested in the supreme court but we remained peaceful all through. Every society faces challenges and difficulties. We struggle against corruption and tribalism, but these are things which we are tirelessly working to change. Even the US has its racial struggles as we have seen from the recent unrelenting execution of unarmed black men by police in America so let’s not act like yours is a perfect society. We have seen, among many other unspeakable atrocities, white American policemen choking black people suffering from respiratory ailments to death in broad daylight so please spare us the lecture on tribalism/racism and use that energy to speak against the injustices that plagues your own land. Don’t focus on the speck in your brother’s eye while you pay no attention to the log in your own.
Your attempt to trivialize president Obama by linking him to a specific ethnic group in Kenya has failed badly. Methinks that it stems from your general lack of respect for your president. Do you expect Obama, the president of the most powerful country in the world to come to Kenya and take sides in an ethnic ‘battle’? No one in Kenya would perceive Obama as a being against Kikuyus or being for the Luo if he were to choose to visit his father’s ancestral home in Luo land.
Your outrageous claims that Kenya is a playground for terrorists and, therefore an unsafe place for Obama to visit are unwarranted. You are forgetting one important fact of history and that is that the 9/11 attacks killed over 2500 Americans. Other terror attacks have occurred in the US since that fateful day and no one seems to say that the US is unsafe. Kenya, on the other hand, which is considered a third world country with inferior intelligence and defense systems, has never suffered a single attack of such a scale. While Kenya might not have the best security system in the world, I would say this country has done well to keep such attacks at minimum fatality levels.
Mr. Robert .I. Rotberg, I don’t know who you are, but you do give the impression that you have a lot of time on your hands. My advice would be to use it wisely to change your country. You already have a plethora of issues to deal with and a powerful platform as a writer to address those issues. Focus on that and do it not with the aim of putting others down but of helping find a solution. Do that diligently and perhaps after all is said and done you might go down in history as a great American who contributed towards positive social change in his country.
This story was first published here http://dannish.co.ke/2015/05/09/coming-to-kenya-is-not-a-dumb-idea-mr-president/
The writer is a blogger, a digital media strategist and at Capital FM Kenya.
Follow him @DannishOdongo