Gays and Kenya:
When in Rome, Obama, 'Respect the Romans' (The Star, Kenya)
his team should refer to the saying, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.'
Americans have the tendency to go to Rome and expect Romans to do as Americans
do. I urge Obama and his team to try very hard not to do that here. … This I
say specifically on issues like homosexuality. … Kenyans, for example, struggle
to understand how a society can publicly support same-sex marriage. How does such a society expect to survive if everyone were to
follow such a law?!"
I've been closely following the flurry of activity around
President Barack Obama's trip to Kenya. In true African spirit, when hosting
distinguished guests, the lawns have been mowed, gates repainted and flowers
replanted. We've sent the crazy child to visit the grandparents, our best china
is being dusted and we've also invited distinguished neighbors to attend. In
Africa, hosting an important guest is a community event.
Meanwhile some among us have begun positioning themselves to
engage our rich "Cousin Barry." Long lists of how bad "Daddy"
has been [referring to opposition complaints about President Uhuru
Kenyatta] are ready for presentation to our guest, who we hope will Daddy in
future to behave. Those who failed to get the girl during the last election
have also prepared a list of how badly the new groom is treating the girl; they
hope Cousin Barry will advise the girl to chose the older more experienced
suitor next time around - especially as he failed to use his power and wealth
to intervene last time. As for the younger ones at University; they've
threatened all manner of things if Cousin Barry spends some time in their
This sounds like how we're behaving, right?
But let me burst some bubbles. One: Obama is in Kenya for a
few hours - not as our rich cousin, but as the most powerful political figure
in the world; Two: he isn't here out of a deep-seated love for the land of his
father, but because Kenya has proven to be one of those small countries that
even a superpower ignores at its own peril. Kenya is becoming like Israel -
like those fellows pissing out that you need in your camp, because if they were
outside of your camp they'd be pissing into it. So let's not get carried away, because
Obama and his team won't. He is here to pursue American interests, period.
As he does his thing, let me give him three pieces of advice
- since that seems to be what everyone else is doing.
First, he should refer to the saying, "When in
Rome, do as the Romans do." Americans have the tendency to go to Rome
and expect Romans to do as Americans do. I urge Obama and his team to try very
hard not to do that here. However, if they think they are too big to be polite
and abide by the customs of our society when here as our guests, let them, at
the very least, respect our "roman" way of life. This I say
specifically on issues like homosexuality.
Posted By Worldmeets.US,
Secondly, Obama should strive to contextualize what people
tell him. He must remember the America is 239 years old, while Kenya is only
52. On other words, there are many things America has done that Kenyans will
not understand. Kenyans, for example, struggle to understand how a society can
publicly support same-sex marriage. How does such a society expect to survive
if everyone were to follow such a law?!
When he meets the opposition, they will essentially complain
about President Uhuru Kenyatta. They'll tell him how Uhuru has refused to withdraw Kenya's troops from Somalia;
how he has squeezed Kenya's democratic space; how he has made it difficult to
access public information; is failing in keeping Kenyans safe; and runs a
corrupt government, etc.
Obama must contextualize this. He needs to know that Kenya
has one of the widest democratic spaces on the continent - which is why our
opposition can get away with insulting the president whenever they like or make
wild unsubstantiated allegations against his government whenever they see a
We were just packaging a column about Obama's visit to Kenya on Friday and stumbled on this colorful column from 2008:...
Obama should also tell them that his own government is
hounding an American citizen for sharing sensitive government information
[Edward Snowden]; combating U.S. insecurity by such unorthodox means as blowing
up suspects in foreign lands without a trial; torturing suspects off-shore to obtain
information necessary to keep Americans safe, etc. He needs to let them know
that running a government is not about big cars and entourages; it's like
making sausages - very messy.
By the way, Obama might also want to advise the opposition
that whereas opposing government is fun, it doesn't get anyone into office.
What gets one into office is an alternative vision for the country - one that's
better than the incumbent government's. And Obama should tell them that fighting
insecurity is an all-hands on deck affair!
For me, though, what I expect from Obama's trip is a lot
simpler. The 10 percent of the Kenyan population that lives in Nairobi and pays
most of our taxes will be completely inconvenienced in terms of communications
and transport for about 72 hours. Businesses will suffer greatly. I expect that
what Obama is bringing to town will more than compensate for these losses.