News / Africa

    Kenya Becomes Difficult US Ally in Troubled Horn of Africa

    Nico Colombant

    As the United States government tries to help improve the volatile situation in the Horn of Africa, it has also had a difficult time with the regional heavyweight Kenya.   VOA reports on what American analysts are calling a frayed, but not broken, relationship with a long-standing ally.

    The ongoing violence in Somalia, as well as persistent piracy in the Gulf of Aden, troubled election processes in Sudan and Ethiopia, and peace deals not being implemented, are some of the many issues the U.S. government is involved in in the Horn of Africa, either through military or diplomatic pressure.

    Analysts say Kenya is supposed to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

    But recently senior U.S officials raised concerns that refugees in eastern Kenya were being recruited to fight in Somalia, and Kenya's government is turning away captured pirates because it says it is not getting enough international money to boost its judicial system.

    The U.S. government has also expressed its frustration with Kenya's national unity government over its slow pace of reform.

    At the same time, Washington-based Africa expert Steven McDonald  says Kenya remains an important U.S. ally, which receives lots of American aid.  

    A recent example is the United States committing $2.7 billion for the next five years to help fight HIV infection in Kenya.

    "It is a little bit of a schizophrenic approach that we have here because Kenya has been a valued partner in many ways from trade and investment, to tourism, to the fight on international terrorism," said Steven McDonald.

    Kenya's government has also been critical of U.S. policies.  Following a U.S. raid that killed a Kenyan-born alleged Islamic extremist in Somalia last year, Kenya's foreign minister said his country had not been warned about the operation.  Moses Wetangula said at the time it was a manifestation of what he called "Lone Ranger behavior."

    There has been progress on reform.  Kenyan lawmakers recently approved a new constitution that will be submitted to a referendum.  If approved, it would eliminate the position of prime minister, create a Senate, and give more power to regions.

    But McDonald, the Africa director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says many questions still remain on how the U.S. government should deal with Kenya.

    "How tough do you get with Kenya?  How valuable is it as a partner?  I do not get the feeling that that is a decision that has been fully made within the administration as to how to proceed on Kenya, how tough to get with Kenya," he said. "And, the Kenyans, of course, are not helping the situation by being very defensive, by even openly being critical of people like the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] and Ambassador Johnnie Carson when they have come with firm messages, but always messages intended to indicate the value we give to the relationship."

    During an African trip by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga said U.S. officials should not lecture Kenyans.  Many Kenyans also hoped President Barack Obama, whose late father was a Kenyan, would visit instead, and that his administration would be particularly helpful to Kenya.  Instead, they have gotten different signals.  

    A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Kenyan Mwangi Kimenyi, thinks U.S. travel sanctions, which have been placed on more than a dozen senior Kenyan officials for allegedly trying to block reform, are misguided.

    "The United States needs to be more strategic in dealing with Kenya, " said Mwangi Kimenyi. "I think there have been some missteps. A lot of the changes will have to come from the country itself.  I know that one of the main things the United States has done is to ban some visas of some government officials but I do not think that is the best way to go."

    That is just one problem senior figures in Kenya face.

    The International Criminal Court will begin investigations later this year into the deadly violence that followed Kenya's election in 2007.  Trials against major political leaders accused of being behind the violence could start in 2012, which is when the next election is scheduled.   

    Tom Hull, a long-time high-level American diplomat in Africa, says the issue of an African ally with internal problems is nothing new.

    "If we go back over the past few decades in Africa, we always come up against this conundrum, countries that are important to us in a bilateral relationship, but are not performing in terms of good governance the way we would hope they would," said Tom Hull. "So this is a chronic problem and it is not unusual.  All we have to do is try to be persistent, and focusing on our long term objectives in terms of democracy and one day these things may change."

    Critics of this approach say African countries with important security or economic value are repeatedly given a pass by U.S. administrations on their internal shortcomings, and that strategic and financial interests always trump other considerations.   

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora