Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ten Years Ago...

Ten years ago this morning, I was in the car with my mother and sister on the way to high school.  There was no television in our house, and as a rule the radio was seldom tuned to a news station, so it was through the morning radio news in the car that I learned of the U.S. attack on Iraq—of the campaign to “shock and awe”.  This was the same way that I learned of the 9/11 attacks on New York, but the medium through which I and others learned of these two events was the closest thing we ever got to the “smoking gun” connecting Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.  In spite of the Vice-President’s grim assertions and Colin Powell’s pathetic contortions, what most of us believed to be true then was borne out by subsequent events.

Normally, my mother dropped us of at a bus stop and we began the hour-long ride into town, through the woods, down into the flats across the ranches, wide pasturage rimmed on either side by tree-capped hills, and out across the Millville Plains, flat for as far as the eye could see.  That morning, however, our English class had a field trip to Ashland, to see a stage production of Romeo and Juliet, and so I had to be dropped off at Foothill High early in the morning, and was thus deprived of the sage commentary of my fellow bus-passengers (one foreign policy luminary, on the morning of 9/11, had opined that we needed to turn some country in the Middle East into a “parking lot”, little knowing that he was echoing the debates which were unfolding simultaneously in Washington, D.C.).

I spent the bus ride to Oregon reading the newspaper (which had “scooped” the war, which officially began the night before), and the day with my mind on things other than star-crossed Verona lovers.  It was an anticlimactic way to experience the country’s official entry into a war that we had debated almost daily in our seventh period U.S. History class.  On one level, it is easy to see how a credible public was suckered into believing that an aggressive war against Iraq was necessary.  Our class was a microcosm of that debate.  We began each day in the historical trenches subjected to a barrage of propaganda from FOX news (Brit Hume was the preferred conduit of disinformation, with Greta VanSusteren or some other witless hack occasionally standing in).

This would be followed by more direct engagement, as efforts to discuss the Civil War or Gilded Age or Manifest Destiny as laid out in our jingoistic textbook (I don’t know whether The American Pageant was disseminated in Texas schools, but it would require very little re-writing to meet the debased standards of that state’s history curriculum) broke down over the question of whichever fresh lie Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, or the President himself had unveiled that morning.

Before there was Rachel Maddow (this documentary about how the “case” for war was made is chilling), there were the 7th period AP U.S. History dissenters—or so we rather grandly believed as we poked holes in the neocon’s argument, so passionately extolled by our teacher.  While we were undoubtedly slightly over-impressed with our own efforts, I have no doubt that we subjected the case for war to more critical scrutiny that it ever received in the pages of any of the newspapers now so eager to unpack the “legacy” of the war they, wittingly or otherwise, helped to sell. 

It was not until the U.S., with European allies, launched its drone war on Libya that I was able to see a war unfold “live” on the screen in front of me.  Little did I realise to what extent I was missing out on what had become a central, disgusting element of the American Experience in the 21st century: “our boys” rolling across the desert in tanks; launching missiles; flying jets; riding in convoys.  But I still feel a lurch in my gut and a tremor in my heart when I remember seeing the pictures of Baghdad aflame, missiles raining down on the city as the world’s sole superpower brought all of its armed might to bear on obliterating a city, with precious little regard for the sanctity of human life which supposedly drove what the neoconservatives attempted—with a straight face that incredibly managed to hoodwink most of the public—to portray as a humanitarian intervention.

We do not know how many Iraqis we killed when we waged a war of aggression (the same crime for which Nazis were convicted at Nuremberg) against their country.  For those who care, the estimates range from 130,000 to 800,000 (to put it another way, between twice the U.S. war dead in Vietnam to the number killed during the genocide in Rwanda).  But the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Bush were not very bothered about what the military would increasingly call “collateral damage”.  Their assurances that the conflict was both righteous and necessary did not wane when our invading armies were not greeted as liberators, or when we set about obliterating the country’s infrastructure so that it could be rebuilt by war profiteers, or when we gutted the country’s institutions to assure a descent into disorder, or when unwittingly or not we engineered and exacerbated sectarian violence, or even when none of the promised WMDs materialised. 

The war of aggression waged by the U.S. against Iraq was an unspeakable act of violence carried out by a vengeful, manipulative government composed of liars and crooks and profiteers, who deliberately misrepresented and fabricated intelligence to incite a war which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, 4,487 U.S. soldiers, actually recruited people to the “terrorist” cause, saw the United States embrace the methods of terror which those same leaders publicly denounced, and which might end up costing the United States as much as six trillion dollars. 

If someone commits robbery, assault, and murder, do we say, “Oh, that’s water under the bridge...there’s no sense crying over spilt milk”?  Would we say of a mass killer—say someone who mowed down children at an elementary school—“Look, they did what they did, what’s the point in looking back?  We need to focus on the future”? 

When leaders of other countries carefully plot wars years in advance, work behind the scenes to whip up tension and hatred, twist evidence and lie to persuade people to kill en masse, conspire to engineer murder and robbery on a massive scale using the resources of the state to advance their dark means, we call them war criminals.  We call them evil-doers, thugs, and terrorists.  Countries which respect international law seek to bring such people to trial.  Rogue states turn to other methods. 

But when our own leaders do these same things, they are feted as war heroes, great leaders and, at worst, receive a C-grade for poor execution of their diabolical plan.  On the anniversary of this war, our country should bow its head in shame at what we did, and at the fact that those who incited, engineered, and waged this war have gone unpunished for their crimes. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Livingstone200 and African History

They mean well.  But that makes it no less frustrating.

A statute of Livingstone at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
It is, in case you hadn’t got it marked in your calendar, the 200th anniversary of David Livingstone’s birth.  Livingstone was a missionary who launched his fame by travelling through eastern and central Africa.  He was more successful, by all accounts, as an explorer than as a proselytiser.  He was less brutal than many other European explorers who came before and after his time, and he worked to eliminate the slave trade which formed a significant element in the regional economy.

Nonetheless, he was an agent of colonialism.  He embroiled himself in local disputes, and like missionaries before and after (and not unlike the British East India Company and parallel colonial institutions), sought to pick winners and losers and impose his version of ‘Christian law and order’ on the societies he encountered. 

In spite of his role in expanding European (and particularly British) domination over this part of Africa, Livingstone remains largely revered amongst most the people I’ve spoken to in countries like Zambia and Tanzania.  Some people there tend to see him and his fellow missionaries who campaigned against the slave trade and criticised the “excesses” of British rule as 'good guys'. 

So if those commemorating the anniversary of his birthday were happy to remember Livingstone as a man with a mixed legacy, I could live with that.  But Livingstone 200, the organisation set up to stage-manage celebrations(!), is intent on portraying the man as “Africa’s first freedom fighter”, a sham with which the media appears willing to play along. 

The Scottish government, a sponsor of the Livingstone 200 bonanza, is picking up on this narrative, keen to appropriate the doctor as one of their own and thereby drive a wedge between Scottish participation in and culpability for the horrors of the British Empire.  It’s certainly fair to say that much of the Scottish experience of Empire was shaped by their own experience being colonised by the British.  Nonetheless, it would be something of a stretch to pretend that the Scots were the warm and fuzzy face of Britain’s subjugation of millions of people in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

What is more detestable than the perhaps-understandable efforts of the Scottish government to embrace Livingstone as an exemplar of a certain Scots ethic is what Livingstone 200 does to set back the cause of telling African history.   They buy into what has been called the “White Saviour Complex”, well-exemplified by the Kony2012 saga, partially-documented in this article. In the narrative developed by this “complex”, Africa is a dark, savage, dangerous, blighted place, which requires intervention and salvation by outsiders (there is no sense of how those outsiders might have contributed to some of the real problems facing people on the continent).

This Anglican church on Zanzibar contains a cross supposedly made from the wood of the tree beneath which Livingstone died.
Now this is not to say that all was or is rosy in east and central Africa.  Like anywhere in the nineteenth century, it had its share of problems, some related to European colonialism in South Africa, others stemming from the brutal empire-building undertaken by a variety of African kingdoms.  But those ‘problems’ were historical problems which grew out of earlier historical experiences.  African history, like history anywhere else in the world, stretches back as far as people have been generating records—whether through their writing, art, monumental architecture, other material remains, or economic production.  It is therefore nonsense to claim that if, for thousands of years people have been grappling with social, political, and economic complexity, Livingstone could possibly be the “first freedom fighter”.

Not only does the claim make a mockery of the cultural, religious, social, and economic enslavement that he hoped to usher in as the vanguard of British colonialism, it does a dreadful disservice to those who combatted the slave trade, overthrew empires, forged new societies, and resisted earlier waves of colonialism. 

Part of the old Fort at Zanzibar, representative of an earlier history some would ignore.
The claim pretends that the European arrival in Africa marked year-zero where the continent’s history is concerned.  It is no better than the fantasy of European archaeologists, like Richard N Hall, who wrote in 1905 in “The Great Zimbabwe and Other Ancient Ruins in Rhodesia” that the huge stone structures he encountered in what is now Zimbabwe must have been constructed by historical peoples of Mediterranean or Arab origin, rather than by Africans, who Europeans considered incapable of building monumental architecture.  These fantasies ignored the myriad of empires which rose and fell over periods of centuries across west, central, and eastern Africa, not unlike their European counterparts.

The cultural, social, political and economic experiences of Africans in all of these areas of the continents produced the same array of heroes, villains, exploiters, exploited, to say nothing of countless men and women who went about their everyday lives, entirely unaware that, in centuries to come, they would be regarded as unhistorical peoples, who would need European conquest and conversion to be “saved” from the great evil that in the fevered imaginations of Europeans, cast the African continent into darkness and out of history.

It is a shame that these fantasies endure and continue to be validated by sloppy reporting and thoughtless commemorations of this type.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Arab Spring Aftermath; Bombings in Baghdad; Drones; Rand Paul; Kenya

On Friday morning, I had time to sit down and peruse the New York Times cover-to-cover before heading down to Berkeley High.  The paper is cautious in its coverage, hardly the socialist mouthpiece Republicans would have us believe, but is the most thorough paper in the U.S., and a number of stories caught my attention.


One story dealt with the police response to protests marking the second anniversary of the failed democratic revolution in Bahrain.  In case you don’t remember, pro-democracy activists were stymied (very violently) when the authoritarian government—a staunch ally of the U.S.—called in the armed forces of Saudi Arabia—another authoritarian ally of the U.S.—to put down protesters.  Perhaps events like this might begin to explain how the U.S. becomes the rightful object of such loathing around the world.  We arm dictatorships like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia at the same time that we profess our love for democracy.

If I lived in Bahrain, I would certainly hate the United States.


And then there were the bombings in Baghdad, the place that we supposedly left safe and democratic after launching a massive, destructive invasion and occupation, which together killed hundreds of thousands of people.  These bombings killed upwards of 20 people, and have become regular occurrences in Iraq since the U.S. waged its aggressive war on that country, supposedly in the name of “democracy”.  We’ve conveniently forgotten about this war, and shamefully pretend that we did Iraq a good turn, allowing us to ignore the lessons associated with armed intervention abroad.


Then there was the story about the Iranian fighter plane that began shadowing a U.S. surveillance drone (supposedly in international airspace) until it was chased away by the drone’s two fighter plane escorts.  The morality of drone warfare aside, one of the arguments made by its bloodthirsty proponents is how cheap drones are.  But I think that price-tag must rise considerably if each of them has to be escorted by a couple of military aircraft!


And then, on a separate front, there is the increasing attention being granted Senator Rand Paul as a potential standard-bearer for a hypothetically-resurgent GOP.  Paul has been launching a series of searing critiques on the GOP, pretending that he has something new and revelatory to offer.  At CPAC he announced that the GOP must “embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere”.  If some of Paul’s ideas sound novel, it’s because we haven’t heard them since they were rightfully buried in the nineteenth century.

The approach to social and economic policy that the Senator from Kentucky pretends is “new” is actually no different from the views espoused by Gilded Age plutocrats in the nineteenth century, who found in the “free market” and “individual responsibility” some useful platitudes for disguising economic plunder, capitalist accumulation, and a rigorously-uneven playing field in the language of “liberty”.  When people fail, in Paul’s world, it is because they made bad market choices, not because the system was rigged to allow other people to exploit their weakness.  In Paul’s world, inequality is okay, because it reflects the inscrutable but unassailable wisdom of some divine invisible hand which knows which people are worthy of reward (it’s entirely coincidental that they’re all in the top tax brackets and have given loads of money to those who write the laws to rig the economy in their favour).


Finally, for any who have been following the election in Kenya, there was an impassioned op-ed from Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the country’s foremost literary figure (now in exile, based at UC Irvine).  Ngugi (I’m ashamed to admit that I never worked up the courage to go to his office when I was an undergraduate on campus) drew a strong link between the president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Kenya’s former brutal dictator, Daniel arap Moi, at whose feet, Ngugi contends, Uhuru learnt his dark trade. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Open Letter to Doug LaMalfa

Dear Congressman LaMalfa,

I was gratified to read a copy of the e-mail from your office at Bruce Ross’ blog at the Record Searchlight over the week-end, in which you expressed your support for the spirit of Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster.

Like you, I am disturbed by executive overreach, by the suggestion that U.S. citizens could be targeted by weaponised drones not only abroad but in the United States.  I welcome the attention that Senator Paul drew to the issue through his passionate speech in the Senate, and am sorry that more of his colleagues from both sides of the proverbial aisle had neither the desire nor the moral fibre to join him in calling attention to the issue and derailing the nomination of a very dangerous individual who, like many others in the past decade, has not been called to account for his crimes.  This is particularly hypocritical of Democrats, who were quick to denounce similar moves undertaken by the Bush administration.

However, I am perplexed and disappointed that Senator Paul allowed himself to be satisfied and derailed by the administration’s response to the very narrow question of whether Americans can be killed on U.S. soil by drones.  Senator Paul is reported as declaring himself “quite happy with the answer” (which was a straightforward “no”).

But there is much at stake that was not addressed by the administration’s response.  The issue of the President’s assertion that war by drone is not really war, and therefore not subject to Congressional oversight, went unmentioned.  As did the methods used by the U.S. in the wars it is currently fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and very likely elsewhere.  Nor did the ethics of waging a war which is so easy to justify when the killings are all on one side of the equation.  And the issue of the well-documented imprecision of weaponised drones went unremarked upon.

You wrote that “the debate over the use of drones on American soil is symbolic of the larger debate over the role and scope of our government”.  I submit that the more important symbolism of the use of drones, on American soil and elsewhere, is rather in connection with the War on, of, and with Terror that the United States has been waging for upwards of 11 years now, a war which has cost the lives of North State residents, of thousands of U.S. military personnel, and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis, and Libyans, to reference just some of the places where our government has made war, in daylight, at dusk, and in the darkest hours of the night, unseen and unacknowledged by the public, and un-probed by our elected representatives. 

On your facebook page, you shared a news piece related to Senator Paul’s filibuster, commenting on “a great effort to spotlight the ‘due process’ problem this Admin has”.  I wonder whether you are equally disturbed by the “due process” problem this administration and its predecessor has had with the methods used in its prosecution of the war on terror.  To that end, to better understand how you intend to move forward on this issue, broadly, I hope that you can share the following with voters in the North State:

1)      Do you approve of the methods used by the Bush and Obama Administrations in the War of Terror?  Namely, abduction, disappearance, extraordinary rendition, torture, assassination, wrongful imprisonment, murder, the maintenance of secret prisons and torture camps.

2)      Do you support inciting warfare, and the waging of aggressive war?  Next Wednesday, it will be exactly ten years since the U.S. launched a war of aggression against Iraq, a war which we knew now and then to be one incited by your Republican colleagues, based on deliberately-misleading intelligence, and on a manufactured connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  This war was carried out using methods and rationalisations which besmirched the reputation of our military and intelligences forces, the integrity of Congress, the probity of the media, and the honour of the presidency.  4,487 U.S. soldiers died, over 32,000 were injured, and between one and eight hundred thousand Iraqis were killed. 

3)      Do you believe that the United States, a country dedicated to republicanism, should cede its moral and political capital around the world by allowing itself to be drawn into support of authoritarian (Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain come most quickly to mind) or colonial (Israel springs to mind) regimes on grounds of combating “terrorists” who could often be as easily described as revolutionaries, pro-democracy activists, or local insurgents?

4)      Having declared your intention to defend “liberty, due process and the Constitution” in the e-mail referenced above, do you support the contention of former-Vice President Dick Cheney who insisted that the United States, “also [has] to work through, sort of the dark side, if you will [and] to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective”?

5)      Do you support the waging of an expansive “War on Terror”, and if so, can you identify in concrete terms who is the enemy in this “war”, what are our objectives, and how you best believe the U.S. can go about “winning” a war that is involving us in both open and secret conflict in South and Southeast Asia, North, West, and East Africa, and the Middle East?

I come from the opposite side of the political spectrum to yourself and Senator Rand Paul, but our President’s executive overreach, the casual manner in which we have waged aggressive war seemingly without purpose or prospective end in the last decade, the enormous numbers of deaths which have accrued to Americans and people around the world as a result, and the concomitant destruction of our moral reputation and of our commitment to civil and human rights make it very important to make common cause with those similarly disturbed on all sides of the political spectrum.

I genuinely hope that your support for Senator Paul can be the beginning of a concerted effort by Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated citizens (I count myself in this latter category) to stop these unjust, unnecessary, and brutal wars which have sapped our will, indebted our nation, taken the lives of many people, and inhibited our ability to live peaceful and prosperous lives. 


Jeff Schauer

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is Real Reporting on Kenya So Hard?

Kenya’s recent election, held on 4 March, passed off without major incident.  It yielded a victor—by a razor-thin and contested margin—and observers generally believed it to be “free and fair”.  The country did not combust in mass violence, and Kenyans did not set about what certain elements in the fourth estate would have us believe to be Africa’s “national” pastime, chopping each other to bits.

Tom Mboya appears to offer sage advice to Kenyan youth in downtown Nairobi.
And the only thing that’s sad about this not-very-shocking turn of events is that I get the sense from some commentators in the media that they’re a bit disappointed.  Conflict and war and famine and disease are, after all, about the only things that get Africa into our news here in the U.S. and in Europe. 

The most pathetic example of this bloodlust on the part of western media came in the form of an AP article on FOX titled “Kenya media outlets practice self-censorship to keep election tensions down”.  Therein, a bemused journalist wrote unblushingly, “It’s the biggest news of the year in Kenya: a presidential election with huge potential for violence”.  Lest you think maybe that just came off the press sounding wrong, it goes on: “Why then are the headlines so boring, the TV broadcasts so dull?  The answer: Kenyan media are self-censoring to avoid fanning the flames of conflict”.

What self-censorship I saw from here did not look particularly egregious, but I think that what the article meant was that the media wasn’t making things up, saying absurd things about violence, or trying to create good copy in a way that toyed with people’s safety.  From the perspective of media here, however, there’s no other reason besides the violence to report on a place like Kenya, so perhaps it’s understandable that they were baffled as Kenyans reported on the election as though it was an election instead of the bloodbath western journalists seem to have been hoping to see unfold from the edge of their seats.

So what would I prefer the media cover?

Well, think about how we would expect them to cover an election in the United States.

Journalists try to work out which issues are on people’s minds.  They often evaluate the political platforms of various candidates.  They frequently compare the two and see how well they match up, and why they might or might not.  They write, in concrete terms, about the various interests (social, commercial, political, etc) which have an interest in the election.  They provide context for this information, about our economy, for example.  They highlight hot-button issues.

Kenya, like the United States, is a country of much economic, social, ethnic, and cultural diversity, so there is plenty of work for journalists to do in assessing people’s interests and ambitions across its varied geographies and demographies. 

Reporters could focus on the Kenyan economy.  They could inform readers about the country’s more significant industries, their geographical relation to one another, and the labour conditions and lives of the people who work in these industries.  They could describe the character of foreign investment, and investigate whether investors have a stake in the presidential or parliamentary elections.

As most articles mention, Kenyans overhauled their constitution in August of 2010, a move then heralded as the ushering in of the Second Republic.  The overhaul changed the relationship between different levels of government, and is designed to devolve more power to localities.  It might have been interesting to learn something about whether the discourse or concerns at the local level mirrors the national debate that too-often provides our only birds-eye glimpse into other countries.

Journalists could bring some attention to the tax code, something which concerns any government, and look into who is supposed to pay taxes, who does pay taxes, and how much they pay.  A country’s tax code, its ability to collect revenue, and the way in which it spends public funds offers a more interesting and illuminating window into its character than the baloney about savage tribes favoured in too much of the press. 

The most common complaint I heard from Kenyans when I was there in 2012 was the steadily rising price of basic goods: bread, meal for ugali, vegetables, etc.  This in a country which has in the past experienced famine while in its riches regions plantation owners grow tea, coffee, and cut flowers for export.  Any of these significant industries could easily be the subject of some reporting, as could healthcare, the other most basic concern of people everywhere in the world.  Where do most Kenyans turn for healthcare?  To established clinics or hospitals, to the informal sector that provides many of life’s other needs? 

They could look into the education system.  I know one issue which preoccupies many Kenyans is the uneven quality of an education which is free at the primary level but is often accompanied with hidden fees when not a degree of extortion.  Schools are frequently understaffed and teachers often go lengthy periods of time without pay.  Why is this the case?  Such issues would be interesting given that we face similar dilemmas, albeit on a different scale, in our own education system.

 Reporters could say something about political participation.  Kenyan political participation takes the form of anonymous mobs in most writing that we see in the United States, and it would be interesting to know whether students, for example, play an important role in campaigns.  Are there labour organisations, commercial conglomerates, local societies, or other social groupings that play a role in electioneering?  A common suggesting in reporting is that Kenya’s leaders are forever pulling the wool over the eyes of the wananchi.  But they have constituencies who go beyond simply voting and who are prepared to campaign actively for them.  How are these constituencies organised?

These are complex topics, but not ones on which it would be particularly difficult to research and report.  They are topics which could offer more real insight into Kenyan politics and society than the fare journalists currently offer up. 

If Kenya is really a country of critical interest to the United States (the cliché that rolls so easily off the press), maybe we should actually learn something about the country.  Maybe—here’s a wild thought—journalists should do their job in other countries in the same way they do back at home.  That might not be the highest bar, but their coverage is so dreadfully warped, I’m pretty confident that with a little effort they can easily outdo themselves.  Here’s to hoping.

A Round-Up of Kenya Coverage

For any following Kenya’s general election, it came to a de facto end Friday evening California time, even if Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory over Raila Odinga wasn’t made official until a bit later.  The election proved a nail-biter, because although Kenyatta maintained a hefty lead over Odinga, it wasn’t clear until the end that he would surpass the 50% threshold in the first round (Odinga is preparing to contest Kenyatta’s victory).

Nor was it clear whether or not either of the candidates or their proxies would resort to leveraging supporters to destabilise the count.  Both vice-presidential candidates made murmurs of this sort, but were perhaps pre-empted when officials and media at all levels pleaded with them not to inflame their supporters. 

The announcement of Kenyatta’s victory was greeted by some relief (many people were happy to avoid a runoff, which even some of Raila’s supporters recognised would likely have been more about their man’s badly bruised ego than anything else), and not a little self-congratulation.  Some commentators waxed about Kenya’s attainment of “political maturity”, others crowed about Kenyan voters’ prowess as “myth busters”. 

The ICC cases have garnered a great deal of coverage, and Uhuru will be heartened by the announcement that the court is dropping its case against another indictee, Francies Muthaura.  But Kenyatta scarcely needed this news.  For instead of dodging issue of his indictment (as distinct from dodging the substance of the charges), he embraced the role of the victim, painting the court as a neo-colonial tool—an argument that is a little difficult to contest when one considers that the likes of George W Bush and Tony Blair, two of the biggest mass murderers and inciters of violence and aggressive war in the twenty-first century, are walking free. 

Kenyatta was assisted by the ICC, which announced difficulties with witnesses, foreshadowing the more extensive breakdown which was to come in the following days.  The extent to which Uhuru used the ICC case to posture during the campaign became apparent when he instantly adopted a more conciliatory and cooperative tone once the election was concluded. 

The Cord coalition is making ready to file its case, and some commentators are refusing to join the chorus which says that Raila should have the good grace to accept a loss in what was generally recognised as a fair election.  There were what are called “irregularities”, but I haven’t seen anything suggesting that they would have been enough to tip the balance towards a runoff, let alone in Raila’s favour, although this morning Cord stiffened its criticism, describing what they called “post-election rigging”.

But most commentators seem to have accepted Kenyatta’s victory and are focussing on what it portends and signifies.  In some commentary, there was wry admiration and almost a sense of pride in the political dynasties in the making, as well as a certain ambivalence about whether what they presage for Kenya’s politics is one of the world’s “Good Things”. 

The man who no one is talking about these days was the subject of something resembling a eulogy in the Nation some days before the election.  Kibaki’s legacy will undoubtedly be—and should be—mixed, but on balance, most Kenyans I’ve spoken with over the last several years have remarked favourably on his tenure.  Whether this speaks to transformative achievements, or instead to just how bad things were under the dictatorships is hard to say.  Kibaki did return briefly to the news when he welcomed Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, to State House.

Much U.S. and European writing about the election in its aftermath has focussed on what the election of a man indicted for crimes against humanity means for Kenya’s relationship with western nations, although some commentators sought to put this in broader perspective in relation to international justice.  I’ll hazard a guess that the answer is “not very much”, given Kenya’s centrality to the U.S. war of terror in the east African country’s backyard.  The moment the U.S. commits itself to an alliance of this nature based on security, it basically abdicates its leverage regarding human rights, good governance, and other such matters which are obviously, from the vantage point of the White House as much as the Pentagon, mere niceties set against the fight against “terror”.  There is a very real possibility, however, that the case against Kenyatta will collapse, as that against Francis Muthaura did. 

Other international coverage focussed heavily on the election process, reflecting a broader trend in coverage (guiltily echoed in this blog) which had precious little to say about election “issues” or, more worryingly, about Kenya at all without reference to the U.S. or Europe. 

By and large, Kenyan and international media commentary on the election was guarded, and fairly non-substantive, a point about which I hope to write more later.