DURING his presidential campaign, Bill Clinton emphasized that a
linchpin of his foreign policy would be strong support for
strengthening democratic institutions around the world.
President Clinton now has a golden opportunity to put some money
where his promises have been: Kenya. The new foreign-policy team in
Washington - and the media - are heavily focused, as they should
be, on such hot spots as Bosnia, Somalia, and Russia. But it is in
nations like Kenya, where the struggle for genuine democratic and
economic reforms is now joined, that the United States has an
opportunity to consolidate some solid advancement.
Unfortunately, that opportunity is not being seized. The State
Department is watching and waiting for "signals." The US may now be
unwittingly slowing the pace of reforms in Kenya. In a 24-month
period, Washington suspended much of its foreign military and
economic assistance to Kenya and changed the "rules of the game."
In November 1990, President Bush signed legislation that
established four criteria Kenya needed to meet before economic and
security assistance could be resumed. In March 1991 the
administration, in response to congressional concerns, expanded the
foreign aid suspension to include "prior year" security assistance
appropriations. In November of 1991, the US - in concert with other
donor nations and multilateral organizations - suspended close to
$350 million in economic assistance pending a series of additional
economic and "good governance" reforms on the part of Kenya.
One month later Congress passed legislation expanding the
original four criteria to five. Assistant Secretary of State Herman
Cohen, testifying in June 1992 before the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, added yet another dimension by explicitly linking the
resumption of aid to the holding of elections and the acceptance of
international election monitors.
Finally, last October Congress passed yet another piece of
legislation further changing the steps Kenya must take before
security assistance can be resumed.
As seen from Nairobi, the challenge of trying to "satisfy" Uncle
Sam is like playing football with the goal line moved farther back
after each series of downs.
Kenya is by no means an open, pluralistic society when measured
against the American yardstick. But it certainly is when measured
against most of its African neighbors. Most important, Kenya is
moving in the right direction. The government has released its
political prisoners (condition one). It has made significant
strides in improving the treatment of prisoners (condition two),
and taken significant steps to restore the independence of the
judiciary (condition three) and restore freedom of expression and
ease freedom of movement (conditions four and five). …