Monday, March 11, 2013

The Kenyan Elections

I ran into fellow-blogger Gukira on the way home from work today and we briefly discussed the Kenyan elections. As someone who was pretty ignorant about the whole process, I was fortunate to have him explain to me some of the underlying issues. While I was simply happy that there was no serious outbreaks of violence, he countered that a lack of violence is simply too low a bar to clear. He then told me about some of his writings, which I consider to be  great posts on the topic, especially this one:
Jomo Kenyatta’s short story, “Gentlemen of the Jungle,” ends with a man trapping repressive animals inside a hut, setting the hut on fire, watching them die, and then uttering, “Peace is costly, but it’s worth the expense.” Now, I can’t read this story without thinking of the men, women, and children set ablaze in a church in Kiambaa in 2008 during the post-election violence. I have to think about this killing act and to ask about the cost of “peace.”
Kenyans have been praised for their “order” and “restraint” and control during this election, but how could it be otherwise with such a heavy military presence? How could it be otherwise when the much-proclaimed “peace” is enabled by militarization? The militarization of everyday life tells us, should tell us, that this is not a peaceful election. This is an election conducted under conditions of ongoing war. That we cannot recognize this, that we dare not recognize this, should surely give us pause...
There is NO commentary on any Kenyan site I have seen that discusses the militarization of this election. I have been corrected on twitter that Kenya has deployed “security,” not “military,” personnel. I’m honestly not smart enough to tell the difference. I heard gunshots on an NTV report. I have seen men in uniform controlling voters. I have seen a nation or at least a national media celebrate the militarization of the election. It would be a mistake to believe that the militarization of peace can be restricted to this election period. And the consequences of that understanding for Kenya should give us pause.
They frighten me.
I know China was quick to congratulate Uhuru Kenyatta while the U.S. was a little more circumspect choosing to praise the elections rather than the winner. Still, that does not mean that China is respecting the will of the Kenyan people while the U.S. is not. It just means that the U.S. is being prudent and waiting for more information to come in. However, in walking the more prudent path, the U.S. looks ineffectual in the face of Chinese bonhomme. China is already poised to do great things in Kenya, so why hedge its bets at this stage.

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