Kenya Seeks to Please US the US May Be Unwittingly Slowing the Pace of Reforms in Kenya by Suspending Much of Its Military and Economic Assistance to That Country

Article excerpt

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). …


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