Opposition licks its wounds after Obama’s visit

By: KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA

Until last week’s visit by US President Barack Obama to Africa, Kenya’s opposition leaders had long postured as America’s bosom buddies.

Not any more.

These enemies of their motherland drank copious amounts of diplomatic hooch while whispering lies about the illegitimacy of their country’s government; its corruption and its alleged dysfunction.

Their poison about the criminality of the leadership dissuaded American entrepreneurs from putting their dollars into the Kenyan economy.

Even when an electrical fault was burning down the arrivals lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport; or terrorists had taken siege of the Westgate Mall, or Al-Shabaab were slaughtering scores of Kenyans, opposition leaders were misadvising the American ambassador to maintain only ‘‘essential contact’’ with the legally elected government.

Well, they all got their answer when the leader of the free world came calling and told them off to their faces.

For starters, Mr Obama had no truck with that ethnic navel-gazing that would have required him to visit his father’s birthplace in Kogelo, Siaya, thus avoiding the accident of spending more than the 30 minutes with the tribal leader.

Back in 2006 when Mr Obama visited Kenya, the unnamed opposition leader foisted himself onto the visit by claiming close kinship ties in order to host the visitor.

When Mr Obama was first elected President, the coalition government of Kenya declared a national holiday to celebrate his victory.

HELP THEM ASCEND TO POWER

Opposition leaders, who were then in government, began to entertain the notion that Mr Obama would help them to ascend to power because they shared his ethnicity.

This time round, there was none of that ethnic navel-gazing from Mr Obama as he hugged the President and his able deputy, backslapped and publicly danced with them in a pointed statement to an opposition threatening to boycott elections that they could go eat a hat.

The unpatriotic spying for and reporting to America would earn the opposition credit counted for nothing.

The personal chemistry between the two presidents was palpable as they compared notes about their similarity in age and other quirks like writing with the left hand.

Continuous grousing about corruption, which Mr Obama acknowledged had been endemic in his Chicago home state, had sullied Kenya’s image abroad and discouraged investors.

Shorn of their hypocrisy and double standards in criticising ethnicity and favouritism, the opposition leaders were left clutching at straws to cover their naked ambition for power.

HOPES WENT UP IN SMOKE

Their hopes of America tightening the screws on the government by denying it much needed investment and aid went up in smoke when they were ordered to support the government.

Later, at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, when Mr Obama spoke sternly to African leaders against clinging onto power long past their prime, opposition leaders who have been in the game for decades must have known that they were the real audience of his lecture.

It is a shame that it had to take a personal trip by Mr Obama to Kenya for the opposition to see the progress their own government is making in changing lives. America is putting its money where the government is.

Moreover, America has a great conversation going with the government, and the opposition is not invited.

Mr Obama’s public chastisement of the opposition provides a good opportunity for them to abandon their tired campaigns focusing on corruption, ethnicity and increasing the number of women in elected institutions, and instead focus on empowering the youth through the National Youth Service.