Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Kenya is, indeed, a fragile state!

Sunday Nation 18 July 2010

A recent editorial published in the Daily Nation and attributed to the minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Moses Wetang’ula, purported to defend Kenya against claims that it ranked highly in the league of failed states.

This was in response to a publication by the Foreign Policy Magazine that allegedly ranked the country at number 13 on its annual list of failed and potentially failed states.

For the avoidance of doubt, it must be noted that Kenya has featured in this index since it was first published five years ago, when we debuted at position 25 among failed states.

Every year subsequently, we have managed to maintain our place near the top of the list, and many events since the ranking began have demonstrated its accuracy, at least with respect to Kenya.

The Foreign Affairs minister was on hand even in 2005 to trash the index claiming that, in addition to the fact that it is the only developing country hosting a UN agency headquarters, it was also ‘‘a regional and continental powerhouse that makes a critical contribution to peace-keeping missions around the world and is respected across the board’’.

In his opinion, this was abundant evidence that Kenya was not a failed state and was not even at the risk of failing in the near future.

The rest, as they say, is history.

According to the American non-profit organisation Fund for Peace, the characteristics of a failed state include: the loss of physical control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein; erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions; inability to provide reasonable public services; and inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

Mr Wetang’ula’s defence of the country from allegations of state failure bear the hallmarks of a textbook response that does not benefit from any intellectual input from the ministry’s civil servants.

Instead of addressing the issues identified in the index, the minister simply rehashes the arguments made since 2005 that our security role in Eastern Africa and hosting the UN headquarters is evidence of our stability.

To maintain currency, the minister threw in the forthcoming referendum as further evidence of the stability of our nation.

Unknown to the minister, such rehearsed but thoughtless responses only serve as further evidence of the fragility of our state.

For instance, despite strenuous denials in the years preceding the 2007 elections, post-election violence and the need for intervention by the international community demonstrated clearly that state failure was a distinct possibility in our case, if not the reality.

The government completely lost physical control over vast swathes of the republic. The legitimate authority of the Kibaki Government disappeared, and was only partially redeemed by the formation of the coalition government under the supervision of the international community.

The inability to provide reasonable public services is acknowledged even by the government itself! Senior government officials are to this day unable to travel to the US and other countries to participate in international affairs.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of

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