Major Aid Donors Target Kenya For Violations of Human Rights

THE money will go first to African nations adopting democratic reforms.That is the message flashing across Africa from Western donors meeting in Paris Nov. 25 and 26. After more than a year of threatening to link aid to democracy, major donors have decided to draw the line. They have drawn the line across Kenya, a one-party state whose president, Daniel arap Moi, is one of a declining number of African leaders still resisting multiparty elections. At the Paris meeting, a number of donors refused to pledge more money for Kenya pending political and economic reforms, said an official attending the sessions. The United States is putting a hold on roughly half of its economic aid to Kenya pending more economic reforms, a US official said. But, he added, "we linked our aid to economic performance and [made] general statements about the political issues. This is not business as usual." A World Bank official at the meeting said donors are saying "there is a strong connection between the government [of Kenya's] economic management and political participation. The two go together." Kenyan police arrested the leaders of a Nov. 16 pro-multiparty election rally and used tear gas and clubs on Kenyans trying to attend the demonstration. President Moi, though saying he agrees to multiparty elections in two to three years, still calls those seeking change "anarchists." Donors have been equally concerned about reports of high-level corruption and last year's murder of Kenyan Foreign Minister Robert Ouko. In testimony on Nov. 18 at a public inquiry in Kenya, a now-retired Scotland Yard detective, John Troon, said Ouko had been murdered, probably to prevent him from finishing a report on alleged corruption by former Energy Minister Nicholas Biwott. Mr. Troon named Mr. Biwott and Kenya's former internal security chief, Hezekiah Oyugi, as prime suspects in the murder. There were unconfirmed reports Nov. 26 that Mr. Biwott, Mr. Oyugi, and several other Kenyans were arrested just after the government disbanded the inquiry commission. International donors' new pro-democracy approach, if it lasts and if it is applied to other African states resisting democratic reforms, could have profound effects across the continent. Most African nations, including Kenya, depend heavily on outside aid. Donors' resolve to take action also comes as world demands for foreign aid are rising. "The competition has increased for the pot of funds," says Scott Spangler, assistant administrator for Africa for the US Agency for International Development. Mr. Spangler cited the newly independent Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and the possible appearance of new states in the former Soviet Union. Eastern Europe is also vying for aid. Spangler notes that many donor nations are experiencing economic downturns and that in the US some politicians are calling for more attention to domestic issues and less spending abroad. Both factors, he says, are limiting Western support for aid, making it a logical time to be more choosy about the conditions under which it is made available. Linking foreign aid more closely to moves toward democracy in Africa makes sense, says Pauline Baker, Africa analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. If the West does not take a stand in favor of democratic reforms, this will result in prolonging African resistance to change. "If Moi gets the message he'll be cut off at the knees, he'll go into a snit, then change," Ms. Baker predicts. "What the American ambassador [Smith Hempstone] is doing is the right thing." Ambassador Hempstone, until now almost alone on the African continent in his stance, has spoken openly about the likelihood that Western aid would flow most favorably toward nations adopting democratic reforms. "There's been ferment in Kenya the last two years to go to a multiparty system, and the government has refused so far to do so," Hempstone said recently. "They are not even letting this so-called Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), which says it is not a political assemble peacefully to express their dissent." FORD members, along with several other outspoken critics of the government, were arrested in connection with the banned Nov. 16 rally. British Overseas Development Minister Lynda Chalker says Britain will "watch and wait" to see if President Moi acts on what she says are indications from the government that it will to hold multiparty elections early next year. "If he doesn't, we shall come to our own conclusions." After the rally was blocked, the European Community also complained, asking Kenya to end one-party rule. A statement issued by the Netherlands, current holder of the rotating EC presidency, called on Kenya to release those arrested and "press ahead with further political reforms to reflect global trends toward multiparty democracy and respect for human rights." The Kenyan president still contends that if change is forced upon the country too quickly in the form of a multiparty system, tribal conflicts will break out. But Moi has been backpedaling rapidly as pressure from Kenyans and foreign donors has mounted in recent months. About a month ago he said multiparty politics would come in five years. More recently he shortened his forecast to two or three years. Two senior Kenyan government officials contacted say they resent the pressure from abroad for change. They contend Kenya is doing better than many African nations, both economically and in terms of political stability and civil liberties.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.