February 7, 2008


What the Chinese don't know about Africa: As the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan tries to broker a deal between rival politicians in Kenya, China's much-touted new importance on the continent seems almost irrelevant (Lindsey Hilsum, 07 February 2008, New Statesman)

The Chinese believe that they have understood the problem in Kenya. "Western-style democratic theory simply isn't suited to African conditions, but rather carries with it the root of disaster," said a comment piece in the People's Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Party. This analysis tells us more about China than about Kenya. China's long-held policy of "non-interference" is simply a pledge to support those in power in any given country, however venal or corrupt they may be. The idea of an opposition is anathema to the one-party state, where ideology has given way to the notion that economic growth depends on stability, and stab ility requires repression.

The belief that Africans are not ready for democracy is scarcely new, but it is not an analysis that resonates among most of the Kenyans I have met this past week. They say that if their elections had not been stolen by the ruling party, if a corrupt elite had not creamed off so much money, if politicians had listened to the voters, then Kenya would not be teetering on the edge of the abyss. In other words, the problem is a lack of democracy.

The refusal to accept a non-representative government demonstrates that they're ready for democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2008 12:00 AM
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