Tutu en Niehaus en Kenia

Interessant stuk over de bemoeienis van aartsbisschop Tutu bij Kenia de ontwikkelingen in Kenia. Overigens is oud-ambassadeur Carl Niehaus communicatie-adviseur van oppositieleider (well, hm…) Odinga.

Why Tutu was a godsend for Kibaki’s spin machine

David Anderson, Business Day, Johannesburg, 9 January 2007Amid claims that Kenya’s election of December 27-28 was corruptly “stolen” by vote rigging, Mwai Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in for a second term as president. When international observers cast doubt upon the poll, there was mounting tension and growing violence, until, on New Year’s Day, the country’s northern Rift Valley erupted in flames.Then, last Sunday, Kenya’s churchmen called for a day of prayer, led by Desmond Tutu. The arrival in Nairobi of the former archbishop of Cape Town grabbed the headlines three days earlier, even deflecting attention from the mayhem in Rift Valley. Kibaki warmly greeted the Nobel peace laureate. The two were photographed walking hand in hand through the gardens of Government House. It was the only positive press coverage that Kibaki and his Party of National Unity had managed to get in weeks.Tutu arrived on a personal visit with a tourist visa, according to a Kenyan government spokesman. The visit was not in any way “official”, the press was told, and Tutu himself explained that he had come at the suggestion of Mvume Dandala, general secretary of the Nairobi-based All African Conference of Churches. This did not prevent the government portraying Tutu as Kenya’s saviour — a man on a mission to bring Kenya “back from the brink”. Tutu played to the gallery, criticising Kenya’s political elite for corruption and previous indiscretions, but urging a reconciliation that would bring light out of the darkness. SA had managed to heal its wounds, so why not Kenya?

In the excitement of this, everyone seemed to forget Kenya already had an international arbitrator, who might help bring peace and reconciliation in the wake of the troubled elections. The former president of Sierra Leone, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a man with much relevant experience to offer, was already in Kenya as part of the Commonwealth electoral observer group. Obscured by Tutu’s very considerable publicity shadow, and marginalised by Kibaki’s advisers, Kabbah left Nairobi within hours of Tutu’s arrival.

The fate of another international delegation, led by Ghana’s President John Kufuor, has also been frustrated. Proposed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — and backed by Kenya’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and its leader, Raila Odinga — Kufuor, who is also head of the African Union, has yet to make it to Nairobi. The reason is simple: Kibaki’s government refused to issue him with an invitation.

So, with Kufuor blocked and Kabbah gone, Tutu was lauded as the arbiter of Kenya’s troubles and wheeled from one photo opportunity to the next.

For Kibaki, this was manna from heaven. Meanwhile, Odinga and the ODM quietly fumed. They are too respectful of Tutu to be detrimental in public, but privately admit to having been outmanoeuvred by Kibaki’s spin doctors.

Public relations companies and consultants have long been a feature of Kenyan politics. Kibaki has used several, including Ogilvy & Mather and The Scanad Group; but Africa Practice has the heaviest hand in the current campaign.

Africa Practice worked for Kibaki in 2002, when the Johannesburg-based company was engaged to manage the election campaign for his National Rainbow Coalition. Its Nairobi office now thrives . In the days leading up to the recent election, and in all the press gatherings since the poll was announced, the British MD of Africa Practice, Marcus Courage, has been seen energetically directing Kibaki’s team.

The company’s past clients include the government of Nigeria, which was assisted in tracing the millions stolen by Sani Abacha, and the Ugandan government. Corporate customers include Diageo and Shell. The company’s website carries a glowing commendation from businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.

All of this suggests that Kibaki has hired the best advice available.

And that never comes cheap. The revelation, made in a recent United Nations report, that Kibaki had an election war chest of £4,8m sits uneasily alongside recurrent corruption scandals that have rocked his government since 2004. Courage has explained that all the campaign funds were raised legitimately from Kenyan donors.

The opposition has been angered by the tone and style of the election literature produced by Africa Practice. The British Sunday Times reported the claim of ODM’s communications director, Ahmed Hashi, that Courage had “played up ethnic differences” in the campaign.

Tutu’s Nairobi sojourn has given Africa Practice’s client a bonus he could hardly have dreamed was possible one week ago, and the firm has skilfully ensured that Kibaki has made the most of his good fortune.

Tutu intends only good by his visit to Kenya. His presence has already uplifted the spirits of local Christians and has succeeded in bringing the clergy to the fore in the negotiations. But in the shark tank of Nairobi’s politics Tutu lacks the bite to make a mark. By his own admission, he represents no one but himself. The fact that the opposition thinks he was parachuted in to deflect other arbitration is enough to knock a hole in his mission. For all his qualities, a resolution to the situation demands statesmanship and international backing that Tutu just does not command.

Whether by intention or accident, Tutu is the victim of Kenyan spin. Kibaki is happy to have attention focused on ending the violence through prayer, reconciliation and national unity — Tutu’s stock in trade. For Odinga, the rigged ballot, police excesses, and the real causes of the present chaos have been pushed aside.

Right now, all Kenya’s politicians need to come to their senses, and Tutu is surely doing his level best to help that happen. No one doubts his integrity or his motives. But to pull Kenya back from the edge of the abyss will take more than sweet words and a group hug.
Anderson is professor of African politics, and director of the African Studies Centre, at Oxford University