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Who said Kenya does not receive foreign aid?

Discussion in 'Kenyan News and Politics' started by Geza Ulole, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. Geza Ulole

    Geza Ulole JF-Expert Member

    Jun 26, 2011
    Joined: Oct 31, 2009
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    [h=1]Why Kenya opts for K-Street PR to clean up its battered image abroad[/h] [​IMG]

    Two years ago, the Kenya government raised eyebrows at home when it hired Chlopak Leonard Schechter and Associates (CLS), a top lobbying firm in Washington DC that also represents Google and Intuit.
    The controversy was centred on two issues: First, the cost, which at $1.7 million looked pricey for a poor country; and second, why the country was paying to fix its image in Washington DC.
    Last week, there were some murmurs when Elkanah Odembo, Kenya’s ambassador to the US, opposed to the renewal of the contract, which some insiders say could be valued at $2 million after factoring in inflation and the weakening shilling. According to Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Information, the contract was awarded after wide consultations within government and the National Security Advisory Committee.
    So, as Kenya renews this contract, the key question now is whether by hiring a K Street lobbyist, the country has managed to spruce up its image in the eyes of politicians, policymakers and influential editorial boards in the American media. K Street in Washington DC is the epicentre of lobby groups and think tanks in the US capital, many of them representing foreign governments.
    According to the semi-annual disclosures required under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, which requires that agents representing the interests of foreign powers be properly identified to the American public, Kenya was the eighth among the top 10 African spenders on lobbyists in America in the period 2009 and 2010. South Africa was by far the largest with a budget of $18 million during that period, followed by Angola at $7 million, Libya at $4.1 million, Egypt at $3.5 million, Equatorial Guinea at $2.4 million, Nigeria at $1.8 million and Ethiopia at $1.2 million. Uganda and Tanzania spent $503,000 and $225,000 respectively.
    Country on the brink
    It is noteworthy that these questions appear on the week that Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace published the seventh Failed States Index. This is an influential barometer of how the elite in America’s foreign policy circles and media view the world and in this case Kenya and East Africa.
    One year before Kenya hired CLS, it was ranked as the country that was 26th most likely to collapse in 2008 with a score of 93.4. Kenya had just transformed in the eyes of the world from a vibrant emerging democracy into a state heading to a civil war.
    This week, FP ranked Kenya at position 16 with a score of 98.7 — which shows progress, but at a slower pace compared with other countries. At this position, Kenya was in the bad company of Somalia (the worst off), Chad, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ivory Coast and Iraq.
    In East Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda were in the good company of emerging democracies such as Ghana and South Africa at positions 65 and 34 respectively. Uganda and Burundi at position 17 and 21 respectively were basically, in the same rough neighbourhood.
    At the time CLS was hired, Kenya desperately needed an image makeover in the aftermath of the 2008 post-election violence, which was later followed by the global financial crisis. The political violence in Kenya had shaken America’s faith in one of its most important allies in Africa, and the global crisis threatened to close the taps of foreign aid from Kenya’s biggest giver and most vocal critic.
    It baffles many African observers just how condescending the relationship between Nairobi and Washington is when they see American presidents lecture Kenyan presidents on how to govern their subjects, but the foreign aid numbers explain how symbiotic this relationship has become, first during George Bush’s presidency and now under Obama.
    American largesse
    According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, Kenya is set to receive $3 billion in foreign aid between 2008 and 2011. Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, and South Africa came closest, getting between $2.3 billion and $2.6 billion. Tanzania and Uganda got $1.8 billion and $1.7 billion respectively. Rwanda got $802 million and Burundi $141 million.

    Data from 2008 shows that Kenya was the seventh largest recipient of foreign aid at $600 million in that year, behind Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Israel.
    That Kenya in the past four years received such a colossal amount of foreign aid is attributable to the special relationship the country has cultivated with the US in the latter’s Global War on Terror.

    This has seen the Americans build one of their biggest embassies anywhere in the world in Nairobi, one that hosts a major CIA station and co-ordinates humanitarian, diplomatic and military activities for South Sudan, Somalia and the Indian Ocean. Locally, this money has not only helped retool Kenya’s military and intelligence, it has also helped Kenya roll back the spread of HIV/Aids, TB and malaria, kept thousands on antiretroviral drugs, bought food aid to millions and helped to secure the country’s notoriously porous borders that facilitate transnational crimes.
    On the business side, the US continues to run a favourable trade balance with Kenya primarily due to technology imports and the aircraft orders Kenya Airways places with Boeing. However, in terms of foreign direct investment flows, the major businesses that have set up their regional bases in Nairobi are IBM and General Electric.
    Kenya’s economy has benefited mostly from European firms such as Nestle setting up regional base in Nairobi and Indian firms such as Bharti Airtel.
    Benefits of a failed state
    In a way, Kenya’s poor ranking on the Failed States Index has been a blessing in disguise, particularly in the face of tragic circumstances like the post-election violence, the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam embassy bombings of August 1998 and the terror attacks of 9/11.
    After 9/11, president Bush, while outlining his country’s national security strategy, said that America was “threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones.” With Kenya hosting the largest population of Somalis displaced by war and the growing influence of Al Qaeda and Al Shaabab in the region and offshore in the Indian Ocean, it was easy to bunch the country together with the likes of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq on the frontlines of America’s counterinsurgency strategy. Perhaps no one has bolstered this disturbing image more than Kenya’s top terrorist, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was killed two weeks ago in Somalia.
    The $3 billion that Kenya received from Uncle Sam helped underwrite a significant portion of the social progress that did not automatically come with the economic growth in the first term of Kibaki’s presidency. This money helped ease the disease burden on the population and continues to pay for crucial child and maternal health programmes and interventions in times of famine. This is in addition to increasing the capacity of the spy network to monitor terrorists and other armed civilian groups.
    The brief
    When CLS was hired, its key mandate was to help restore Kenya’s image as a regional leader following the post-election violence by educating US opinion shapers and decision makers about positive aspects in Kenya such as economic growth, leadership in the East African Community and Vision 2030.
    The secondary goal was to support the military and intelligence services in advancing Kenya’s defence and geostrategic interests on issues such as piracy and Somalia. On the first issue, it is debatable whether CLS has managed to change the entrenched view of Kenya as a country that continues to be hobbled by predatory political and business elite that survives on stealing taxpayers’ money and foreign aid. The factional wars in the coalition that continue to be played out in DC and New York also contribute to fuelling the image of a country stalling on reforms. The high point came with the passing of a new Constitution and the recent appointments to the Supreme Court.
    On the second issue, Kenya has in the past two years woken up to the risk posed by Al Shabaab and the situation in Somalia. This is especially after the 2009 census, which revealed a swelling tide of undocumented or illegally registered Somali refugees. Kenya has developed an interventionist Somali strategy that has helped train thousands of soldier fighting for the Transitional Federal Government. The Kenyan military offers “advice” to TFG generals and it is widely believed that there are Kenyan Somalis who have been fighting on the ground.
    With the help of CLS, Kenya has also helped raise the profile of the Somalia crisis in Congress and at the Senate by calling for increased funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom. At the White House, Kenya wanted President Barack Obama’s support in lobbying the United Nations Security Council to upgrade Amisom into a full peacekeeping force of 20,000 soldiers who could fight to keep the peace.
    The White House has balked at this, but Obama’s Somalia policy now includes key elements of Kenya’s proposal such as increased funding, engagement with progressive clan leaders and eventually recognising autonomous regions such as Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland.
    There is an active Somali Working Group in DC and a number of senators who have taken interest in this issue. In a February 2011 presentation to permanent secretaries in Nairobi on their achievements so far, CLS said that they had “put the issue of Somalia on the radar of policy makers on [Capitol] Hill” and “organised informal Somalia working groups with key members of the US Congress.”
    The firm also reportedly executed an aggressive outreach plan around Kenya’s new Constitution, resulting in positive editorial articles in prominent media including the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Washington Post, as well as a lead feature in Global Finance highlighting Kenya as an investment destination.
    Dr Ndemo defended the renewal of the contract by saying CLS has made major strides in restoring the country’s image in the US, asserting that countries all over the world hire PR companies to lobby for their interests among key decision makers in strategic world capitals.
    “This is common practice around the world. There’s a big difference between diplomacy and PR. The firm is not taking over the embassy’s job, and we are satisfied with CLS’s work so far,” he said, adding, “We have proposed that we should have people working for the government of Kenya in certain strategic capitals — such as India, China and the EU. These people have the contacts and connections — they can advance our interests, and package them in a way their audience will identify with.” CLS’s list of current and former clients includes the governments of Congo (Brazzaville), Brazil, Mexico, Spain and Serbia.
    EAC nations spruce up
    Last month, the government of Somalia hired PR firm Park Strategies to advance its agenda in the US.
    Other East African countries, too, have engaged with global PR firms to help burnish their image. In 2005, the government of Uganda engaged the services of the UK-based Hill & Knowlton for a fee of $700,000 to turn global attention away from the civil war in the country as well as from its tarnished human-rights record. Uganda then took on the services of US firm Whitaker Group in 2009 — whose ranks includes no lesser a luminary than Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in George Bush’s administration — at a fee of $1 million.
    Rwanda has engaged Racepoint UK to help turn around its global reputation as a genocidal state to Africa’s newest success story, pumping out information about its favourable investment climate, low corruption and tourism potential. Goodworks International represents Tanzania.
    The new mandate for CLS is to push the image of Kenya, as Tanzania is highest ranked in East Africa, and has consistently been so since 2008. This year, Kenya and Burundi are at the bottom of East Africa’s rankings. The higher the position, the more stable the state is perceived to be.

    The East African:  - News |Why Kenya opts for K-Street PR to clean up its battered image abroad
  2. Bantugbro

    Bantugbro JF-Expert Member

    Jun 28, 2011
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    All sub-Saharan African countries receive foreign aid...