And Now Playing in Kenya – Heeeeeeere’s Johnnie!

Away from all the headlines, there’s an interesting development now in relations between the United States and Kenya, reported in the Dutch press from an ANP report by, among others, the Volkskrant (US follows through with threat to Kenyans).

American relations with Kenya will always be of special interest during the term of the Obama administration because of Obama’s personal ties and family history there, as will be relations with Indonesia for the same reason. However, and very interestingly, so far this effect is operating in the opposite way that you would expect. It almost seems as if both countries need to suffer a little bit, just to show that Obama is not going to play any favorites. In mid-November, for example, the American president is scheduled for an important tour of Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea, of course, also Singapore – but not Indonesia. Of course, it’s merely the most-populous Muslim nation; perhaps Obama is taking a break now from his “Arab outreach” efforts that previously featured a speech to Iranians and a speech directed to the Arab World, given in Cairo.

And then there is Kenya and the ANP report. The US “threat” is namely directed against high government officials and other “high-earners” there, and amounts to a refusal to give them visas anymore to visit the US. That apparently really hurts; rich Kenyans just love to head to the States to spend their money. But in the judgment of the US government nothing has been done to bring about promised reforms ever since the mess of the disputed national election at the end of 2007/beginning of 2008, which led to violence in which around 1,300 people died. In fact, no one has even been prosecuted in connection with that violence. So a fire needs to be lit under some people there.

The thing that caught my eye here, though – other than that it involves Kenya, homeland of Barack Obama Sr. – was the US official charged with paying a visit to Nairobi to deliver the bad news: Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Of course he’s not the real Johnny Carson (also note the different spelling), or he would be showing up just to practice his golf-swing. He’s merely a distinguished American career diplomat, a multiple award-winner for his service (including for directing the US Government’s anti-HIV/AIDS efforts in Kenya), who previously served as American ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.

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