Tuesday, April 16, 2013

(BUSINESS DAILY AFRICA KE) Sun setting on British empire?
Opinion and Analysis
By John Kamau
Posted Wednesday, April 10 2013 at 18:04

Three noteworthy events occurred this week — the death of Margaret Thatcher, the swearing-in of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s fourth president, and the departure of Mwai Kibaki from office.

If we have to remember Mrs Thatcher, it is because of the way she sustained the Kanu government, turned a blind eye to former President Moi’s dictatorship and kept pumping money into the bottomless pit that was his government as budgetary support.

But we have to understand that the relationship between Thatcher and Moi was of two hard-driving hard-headed characters who had assumed office months apart.

While Thatcher had been sworn into office in May 1979 Mr Moi was first sworn into office on October 14, 1978 — two green-horns in power seven months apart.

Interestingly, Thatcher invited Moi as the first head of state to visit the UK during her reign with Moi arriving at No 10 Downing Street on June 12, 1979. His only other State Visit being Ethiopia in January, 1979.

From then on, Thatcher made the mistake of oiling the wheels of Moi’s dictatorship and it was not until her fall in 1990 that Kenyans were able to push for sensible reforms in the country.

In all that, the British economic interests outweighed Kenya’s desire for change. So close were Moi and Thatcher that when Moi University was built in Eldoret in 1984, the library, with a sitting capacity of 2,500 readers, was named the Margaret Thatcher Library.

Moi also allowed Thatcher to have Kenya as a training ground for troops destined to defend the Falkland Islands in a pact that still brings in 10,000 troops. For all that, Thatcher will always have a place in our history.

The entry of Kibaki in 2002 was unanticipated by British top echelons who had given tacit support to Moi’s candidate Uhuru Kenyatta hoping that there would be no change of policy that would affect their geo-political and economic interests.

But months before Moi left, he had been irked by the British and called British High Commissioner, Sir Jeffrey James a “meddler” when he went to bid him bye.

Sir James’ replacement, Edward Clay, turned as combative as his predecessor with the Kibaki government cancelling British tenders and turning East for development support.

In a radical twist, the government unbanned Mau Mau and unveiled Dedan Kimathi’s monument still regarded in Westminister as a terrorist. And that explains the “they are vomiting on our shoes” remark by Mr Clay.

Mr Kibaki has left State House without paying a State visit to the UK despite being invited. His handlers said he was busy. And that shows that despite the diplomatic speak of cordial relationship with the UK London’s influence on Kenya is on the wane.

The numbers tell the story with UK aid to Kenya on the decline. Since 1997 — when the Tories lost power — the UK’s expenditure on Kenya has been cut by more than 50 per cent from a high of 2.8 per cent of the entire UK DFID bilateral programme.

“With our recent direct experience of fraud in the Ministry of Education, we will make limited use of Government systems to distribute aid, but…the 2012 elections could be a major watershed for governance in Kenya, and we will review our aid delivery instruments again after that,” says a DFID strategy document.

And that is where Mr Kenyatta’s relationship with UK will start. How things change!

Mr Kamau is the Associate Editor, Business Daily. Email: jkamau@ke.nationmedia.com

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