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Kenya is feeling like a jilted lover at the moment. Barack Obama comes to Africa in July — his first visit as the first (partly) African President of the United States of America — but he’s not coming to Kenya, the land of his forefathers.
Instead Obama will be visiting Ghana. The message is strikingly clear.
While Kenya held a fraudulent, disputed and violent farce of an election in 2007, Ghana did quite the opposite. Its polls late last year were peaceful, remarkably close and the results were accepted with good grace by all sides. No one died in Ghana. No one took up machetes.
In his decision to visit Ghana (and not Kenya) Obama is making an unmissable point.
Kenya’s post-election violence killed around 1,500 people. It confirmed all the worst prejudices of outsiders for whom Kenya in early 2008 was all the proof they needed that Africans like nothing better than to hack their neighbours to pieces with machetes.
Kenya’s dysfunctional political elites have not only failed to fix the country since then, they have been so busy arguing among themselves — over everything from who’s in charge, to how much money they should earn, to who gets the best room at posh hotels — that it is hard to
spot any signs of reform, or improvement.
Among ordinary Kenyans the anger remains and the tribal divisions — deliberately manipulated and exacerbated by politicians during the elections — are as wide as ever. Ghana is poorer than Kenya yet in many ways it is a mirror image that reveals Kenya’s flaws.