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Imperialism complicates Kenya's future

By William Pomeroy, People's Weekly World, 2 September 1995, pg. 15

LONDON - From the time of its independence from Britain in the mid-l96Os, Kenya has been promoted as a vanguard of capitalism in Africa.

In Kenya, as elsewhere, aid was used in part to help build up an extensive public sector as well as industries for which private capital had not yet been accumulated. With corruption making aid an unprofitable investment and the public sector limiting or competing with western investment, a new policy of "structural adjustment" was initiated, making aid or loans condititional on wholesale economic "reform" - scrapping services including welfare and the privatizing of the public sector.

In 1990, a $ 1 billion aid package was linked to structural adjustment, the observance of human rights and a fight against corruption. A key demand was for a multi-party democracy in place of the virtual one-party rule of President Daniel arap Moi's KANU (Kenya African Peoples Union).

Britain, with the principal holdings in Kenya, has taken the lead in this drive, declaring that aid should be used to support "just, accountable and democratlc" institutions. A multi-party system enables greater influence over politics by Western interests

Moi baIked and in November 1991 aid was suspended until multi-party elections were held. Moi yielded, permitted opposition parties and relaxed his repressive apparatus. However, when the 1992 election was held, Moi and his KANU won, although with only 36 percent of the vote.

KANU general secretary and education minister Joseph Komotho said, "The structural adjustment program has hit very hard the poor in our society. We have liberalized, we have privatized, at the expense of the majority of Kenyans."

One of the main criticisms of the Moi government is its harassment of a new political party called Safina (The Ark). Its general secretary is a white Kenyan, Richard Leakey, who built a reputation for incorruptibility as head of the country's Wildlife Service. Safina has been prevented up to now from registering as a party for the next election.

Moi has attacked Leakey as a colonialist, a racist, a white supremacist and similar epithets, and government spokesmen have charged that if Safina and Leakey were elected they would deliver Kenya to foreign control.

In the complex situation in Kenya, it is not easy to discern who is for or against the national interests of the country or its people. To say that either President Moi or the "donors" who speak for the foreign corporations represent the majority of Kenyans and their welfare is false. However, the clash between foreign interests and Kenyan groups is the basic issue affecting Kenya's future.

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