Uhuru's chief opponent, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, lost to Kibaki in 2007. Odinga is a member of the Luo tribe, which happens to be the tribe of U.S. President Barack Obama's father. After the 2008 U.S. election, Kenyans told a bitter joke. What's the difference between the U.S. and Kenya? In the U.S., a Luo can be elected president.
Odinga casts himself as a critic of the Kenyatta system. Yes, aspects of Kenya's corruption problem link to tribalism. However, Odinga's family, like Kenyatta's, also ranks among Kenya's wealthy elite.
By the way, Forbes ranks Uhuru Kenyatta as the wealthiest man in Kenya. How did the Kenyattas get rich?
Kenyans know. Last month, The Washington Post ran a story highlighting a new Kenyan website named "I Paid a Bribe." The website solicits personal reports from Kenyans regarding their experience with "kitu kidogo," Swahili for "something small," meaning a small bribe. It's a global concept. Mexicans call it "mordida" ("little bite"). The Post's article connected the website to the Arab Spring revolts, which featured large-scale use of digital media for revolutionary communication.
This circles back to 2002 and my friend the businessman. Off the road and over a cup of coffee, he opined that Kenya's disparate tribes buy and sell from one another, and all of them are abused by the political crooks. Business is people, not tribe, but favoritism, cronyism? This is why he looked elsewhere, for freedom from this subtle tyranny.
No, he didn't show me his cellphone. He'd already done that.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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