One of the nation’s leading Africanists is assailing President Obama’s upcoming July trip to Kenya as a “dumb idea” that will confer legitimacy on its corrupt leadership, stoke divisions within the country, and unnecessarily endanger his own life.
Robert I. Rotberg is a fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center, the founding director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict, and president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation. He is the author of several books about Africa and creator of the Index of African Governance, which ranks all 48 sub-Saharan African countries according to quality of governance.
According to Rotberg, who wrote in Politico, Obama’s trip to Kenya will bolster the status of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court on five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in 2007-08 post-election violence that killed an estimated 1,200 people.
Charges were dropped in December due to lack of evidence, but only amid allegations of noncooperation by the Kenyan government and the bribing and intimidation of witnesses.
Obama, according to Rotberg, should wait until after he is president if he wants to go on a sentimental journey to his father’s homeland, which will also include attendance at something called the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Kenya (as well as neighboring Tanzania and Uganda) is wildly corrupt. Accusations of graft and sleaze reach high into the upper echelons of the ruling parties in all three countries. Conferring the honor of President Obama’s office on such thoroughly questionable leaders would do little to strengthen our own role as a promoter of good governance and the rule of law.
Rotberg adds that Obama, whose father was a Luo, will exacerbate tensions between them and the ruling Kikuyu by voyaging to Luo country to walk the ground of his ancestors.
President Obama naturally and appropriately will want to visit his paternal homestead in the Luo heartland. But traveling there will plunge the American president deeply into ethnic politics in Kenya, and do nothing for inter-group harmony in that volatile country.
What’s more, with the Islamist Al-Shabaab group staging successful attacks in the country, Obama is endangering himself and his entourage by going there. And he’ll need a massive and expensive security operation to keep him safe.
But alas, it’s only money. Your money.