The Modular States of Kenya, perhaps

I have this brilliant idea. An idea that would, in one elegant swoop, solve our political difficulties, regardless of how many times our political chameleons change colour. It would render opportunistic crosstitutes (the majority of our MPs) superfluous. Raila would have no KANU to dump nor Ruto an ODM. Uhuru and Kalonzo would no longer be reluctant bedfellows. Eugene would only have to kick Mudavadi’s arse, or vice-versa, and Najib would finally have his day.

The new katiba got it wrong. It’s an excellent document, no doubt, but with one fatal flaw. It doesn’t take devolution far enough. All this fuss about ‘the ICC eating out of Raila’s hands’ and ‘go prove your innocence at the Hague’ is not about being County Governor. It’s about being President of the Republic. Therein lies the problem. I believe in tackling the root of the problem. We need, therefore, to uproot the Presidency. Indeed, the whole concept of the Republic.

I am not proposing the abolishment of Kenya (per se), just of a unitary Republic. Instead, I propose the creation of a loose, modular conglomeration of tribal alliances based on the prevailing flavour of the month. The Modular States of Kenya will not be a state in the conventional sense but a very liberal alliance of convenience. It will comprise several dozen (up to 42 or so) Tribal Homelands based solely on language, to the exclusion of any other language or tribe. Due to its modularity, any Tribal Homeland may choose whichever Tribal Homeland they wish to be allied with (provided the feeling is mutual) without losing sovereignty. There will be more than one alliance at any given time. Whenever one kabila gets fed up with its partner (for example, if a partner takes the wrong stance on an important issue such as the ICC), it may switch alliances on a whim, without raising an eyebrow (its own or others). It may also exist on its own. The principles governing the alliances will be up to the allies themselves. And they don’t have to sign the Rome Statute if they don’t want to.
The boundaries of the modular Tribal Homelands will be based exclusively on language, except for Nairobi, which will encompass the territory within the current city limits (and not the Nairobi Metropolitan Region. That would complicate matters and defeat the purpose) and where the only permissible languages will be English and Sheng (as a bona fide Nairobi invention). All Nairobi residents will be required to use Received Pronunciation and will be given 2 years to get rid of any vernacular inflections. The use of vernacular, including Kiswahili, will result in severe punishment (deportation, for example), as will failure to master RP within the stipulated period. Obviously, as demarcation will be necessary, some compromises will have to be made in areas that are predominantly bilingual or multilingual. Should that not be possible, the area in question will be sequestered and declared outside the law of the MSK or any of the Tribal Homelands. These Badlands will likely have no organised form of government, and those living there will have to fend for themselves. Any MSK citizen found to be preaching ethnic animosity (or anyone speaking vernacular in Nairobi) will be banished to the Badlands.
To facilitate the concept of modularity between non-adjacent Tribal Homelands, a sophisticated Sovereign Road and Railway Transport System will have to be constructed linking all parts of the MSK. The SRRTS will be sovereign territory, akin to a foreign diplomatic mission, and will therefore have to bypass major towns and cities. It will allow the Mijikenda to ally themselves with the Kisii, or the Luhya with the Meru (etc.), without falling afoul to blackmail or the like from those living in-between. Access to the SRRTS will be similar to crossing an international border. No donkey carts blocking traffic. Likewise, Lamu Free Port will serve all the Tribal Homelands of the MSK, without favour. The SRRTS and LFP will fall under and be administered by Nairobi.
Each Tribal Homeland will have its own political, legal and law enforcement system based on tribal tradition (or whatever), but no military. For the requirements of security, there will be a Central Arms and Munitions Repository in Nairobi and a professional Officer Corps, comprising those commissioned officers of the current KDF who opt to live in Nairobi and speak English only (OK, it could also be Japanese, Aztec or Kinyarwanda – whatever – as long as it’s not an indigenous Kenyan language. English seems most practical). In the event of aggression by a foreign power (however unlikely that is), a People’s Militia drawn from all Tribal Homelands will be mobilised, armed with ordnance from the CAMR and placed under the command of the OC. After vanquishing whomever might be foolish enough to take us on, all weapons and munitions will be returned to the CAMR immediately. Failure to do so will result in summary execution. No excuses, no exceptions.
There will be free movement of goods across borders but not of labour. Foreign investment will be permitted, but at one’s own risk. Intra- and inter-alliance customs unions may be formed but, due to the invariably fickle nature of the alliances, might not be worth the bother. A visa regime will exist (except within alliances), the requirements of which will depend on who is allied with whom. This year, for example, you might require a visa to travel from Mombasa to Kajiado but not to Eldoret. Next year, things might change. Visas will be easy to obtain, except for Nairobi, but rules will be strictly enforced. After serving a very lengthy prison sentence, illegal aliens will be deported to the Badlands without due process, from whence they may find their own way home.
Each Tribal Homeland will be fully responsible for its own international relations and will have to foot the bill should it unjustifiably provoke a conflict requiring the mobilisation of the People’s Militia and depletion of assets from the CAMR. Refusal or inability to foot the bill may result in annexation/subdivision of the Homeland and the assimilation of its population. The Badlands will have none of the privileges extended by the MSK until such a time as they are ready to resolve their differences and choose which Tribal Homeland they wish to belong to. Or how they wish to be partitioned.
Needless to say, the Modular States of Kenya will result in an equitable and peaceful relationship between the various communities of what, for the moment, is still the Republic of Kenya. Anyone can do what they want to without stepping on anyone else’s toes. No tribe can finish any other tribe because there will be no other tribes. No one will steal elections because a tribe cannot steal from itself. Only other tribes can. You can send your people to the Hague if you want to, or not. No one will settle or live on your land. Your president, ministers, permanent secretaries et al. will be from your tribe only. Your tribe alone will take the credit for all things beneficial and only your tribesmen will be to blame should anything (hypothetically) go amiss. But that would never be the case. It will be tribal bliss. We will all prosper and be very, very happy.

Ramesses Flikko

Today, my 9-year-old went out and bought a hamster with his pocket money. He’d been planning this all week. The critter’s name was to have been Ramesses, a rather magnificent name for a hamster, but this was changed to an unassuming Flikko at the last moment. Don’t know why. But I do know why he chose Ramesses.

A couple of weeks ago, we’d been talking about Ancient Egypt. Both kids are very interested because you get to play Egyptians in Age of Mythology. I explained to them that (the) Ramesses did not, in fact, look anything like Yul Brynner but more like Eddy Murphy, and that Nefertiti actually looked a bit like Iman. They liked that – they’re both MJ fans. The hamster thus became the great Ramesses, before his relegation to a mediocre Flikko.

Ramesses II

So, did Ramesses and the rest of the Egyptian ancients actually look like Eddy Murphy? It is a concept that Afrocentrists have been advocating with much emotion for decades and Eurocentrists have been repudiating with equal passion. The former have been overenthusiastic to demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians were black, and in so doing have shot themselves in the foot. The latter, having for centuries flogged the notion that the ancient Egyptians were – at the very least – Caucasoid, suddenly argue that the issue of race is incoherent and anachronistic. However, they add sanctimoniously, the ancient Egyptians were not black. This claim is supported by Dr. Zahi Hawaas, among others, who seems far more interested in appealing to National Geographic television audiences than getting his hands dirty in the black Egyptian soil. This controversy is inexhaustible, it has been raging for centuries. Below is a very short synopsis of a very long debate.

The controversy surrounding the race of the Egyptians began as a product of scientific racism, which typically adopted Eurocentric racial hierarchies. This was necessitated by the fact that Ancient Egypt preceded all European civilisations by several millennia and that the Greeks learned, borrowed and adopted from a superior Egyptian culture. And the Greeks, as we know, form the bedrock of all European civilisation. Therein lies the problem. Currently, the majority mainstream view is that the ancient Egyptians were neither black nor white. But what are the facts?
When the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago, people from the surrounding areas moved into the Sahara and lived there for millennia. By around 3400 BCE, the wet phase of the Sahara came to an end, leading to its gradual desertification. The Saharan population retreated south towards the Sahel and east towards the Nile Valley. These populations brought their food crops, sheep, goats and cattle to the Nile Valley, and together with the indigenous Merimde and Badari, were the progenitors of the proto-Egyptians and founders of the Egyptian state. By about 3150 BCE, the first of the Dynastic pharaohs solidified their control over lower Egypt and founded Menfi, or Men-nefer, the Greek corruption of which is Memphis. Memphis was also known as Hi-Ka-P’tah, rendered into Greek as Ai-gy-ptos. The rest, as they say, is history. This is the African origin of the ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians spoke a Semitic, Afroasiatic language, members of which include e.g. Arabic and Hebrew. The Afroasiatic language family’s Urheimat, its original homeland, is generally believed to have originated in a region stretching from northeast Africa to Kenya (no, seriously). There are other theories as to the origin of Afroasiatic languages but the African hypothesis is accepted by most linguists because of the greater diversity of languages. This is the African origin of the ancient Egyptian language.
These two hypotheses have been widely accepted by the scientific community.


Attention then shifted to the portrayal of the ancient Egyptians by themselves, in their art. There are all shapes, forms and colours of Egyptians depicted in Egyptian art, from rather pale to pitch black, but the vast majority are a reddish-brown. This is the basis for interpreting Egyptians as non-black, non-African, indeed, Caucasoid or even Caucasian.
Originally, the entire population of this planet was black. Following the Out of Africa migration of mankind, necessities and redundancies arising from a changing local environment triggered genetic mutations that resulted in, for example, a paler skin or straight hair or slanted eyes. Such major mutations require about 20,000 years to take root in a specific population.
As there is no indication – not a shred of evidence – to suggest otherwise, it must be assumed (as logic dictates) that the Saharan and Nile Valley populations were originally black. Under the scorching African sun, Nature had no incentive whatsoever to lighten their skins. The fact that the ancient Egyptians portrayed themselves as fairer-skinned than their Nubian neighbours, a people still considered as black as coal even by African standards, is something I can very easily relate to. No ancient Egyptian was ever portrayed as Caucasoid or Asiatic. The pigment they used was actually reddish-brown, something akin to the Amhara or Somalians today.
The argument, therefore, is that the Egyptians were too light – not black enough – to be considered black. The problem with this theory is that is pigeonholes Africans into a rigid type, existing somewhere south of the Sahara. Africans vary widely in skin colour, facial shape, hair type, etc., more so than other racial types. There is more human genetic diversity in Africa than anywhere else on Earth. The theory defines Black Africans as narrowly as possible, as an extreme sub-Saharan race that excludes anyone who doesn’t fit the African racial stereotype as perceived by the West. This would mean that present-day Ethiopians, Somalians and a host of other African peoples are not African per se, merely African by chance, much like the Boers of South Africa, the Asians of East Africa and the Lebanese of West Africa. And much if not all of North Africa. This, of course, is a perversion of the truth and reality. It just doesn’t sell. By the same logic, the blond Scandinavian, freckled Caledonian and swarthy Sicilian cannot be regarded as belonging to the same European race. But the definitions of Caucasoid groupings have been expanded as broadly as possible to include the Egyptians.
A majority of academics disavow the term “black” for the Egyptians, but there is no substitute terminology. They could, one imagines, belong to their own unique racial grouping. The Reddish-Browns.
This is a controversy that will not soon end. The Egyptians did not understand the concept of racism and distinguished themselves from all their neighbours. Like most ancients, they considered themselves the Chosen People, and their cultural, scientific and military dominance served to reiterate that belief. Perhaps it really is senseless to attach a racial tag to the Egyptians, they would be puzzled as to what we meant. But a perversion of history is equally senseless. And why study history if it makes no sense?
If Alexander was Greek, if Caesar was Italian, if Charlemagne was French, if the Lionheart was English, then Ramesses was most certainly African. The only question is whether he was black. I guess that depends on what “black” means to you.
Thank you, Cheikh Anta Diop, Shomarka Keita and others. And Shelley.
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Abdi, Ahmed, Sharif and Kenyana

Iman is not the only hot thing about Somalia. The hottest, but not the only. Somalia is a land rich in history and culture; yet steeped in strife and grief. Twenty years hence, Chaos replaced Order and the situation has been seemingly hopeless since. Warlords, pirates, insurgencies, famines, refugees, death. This is how the world views Somalia.

The security and economic issues Kenya is facing as a result of this instability are a cumbersome fact: the influx of all manner of weapons and the corresponding effect on crime; rising tensions resulting from an influx of Somali refugees to our urban areas; the impact of Somali capital on the real estate and other economic sectors; the financial burden of supporting a large refugee population and the resulting security problems – Al Shabaab are in Kenya, in those refugee camps, albeit not as combatants, yet; the relocation of international terrorism from Afghanistan to our doorstep; not least, the negative impact on the not-so-insignificant tourism and other sectors; and the general feeling of insecurity among wananchi due to the above. Etcetera.
It has been argued that, from a security standpoint, an unstable Somalia is preferable to a united Somalia as a check to Somaliweyn, territorial pretensions to NEP and the Ogaden. There have already been several regional wars and conflicts on that account. However, Somalia is not united. At the moment, Somaliland, Puntland and southern Somalia (TFG) are, de facto, three separate entities.
The question is: would there be an actual threat from a united Somalia in a conventional military sense, one that would justify the perpetuation of instability across our borders, keeping millions in limbo and grief? It would take decades before a united Somalia could recover its economy sufficiently to build a military capacity that would pose a threat to Kenya or Ethiopia again. A century before it could take on the combined strength of both. We have a huge head start.
 In the mean time, we continue to build and expand our common market, which is set to jump into hyperspace any minute now. Lest we forget, it was ultimately economics, not military conflict, that brought the Cold War to a close. Carrots are far more appealing than sticks. The EAC is that carrot and Somalia, all three of them, will go for it. If we give them an alternative – an opportunity to thrive, improve their lives, pursue happiness – territorial expansion will lose its appeal. It would, of course, also be beneficial to our own economy.
 However, this cannot be achieved whilst Jihadist are running wild around the country. Or, indeed, running the country. That is a bull that must be taken by the horns. Our military deterrent must therefore remain in place and we must escalate our involvement while we are still able to exert sufficient influence. I’m  guessing that the commissioning of a second airborne light infantry battalion and the purchase of three dozen F-15Es might be a pointer that our strategists have something of that nature in mind. Or not.
The reluctance of GK to become directly involved in Somalia is understandable. We invested a great amount of effort and resources to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table, even though events have since overwhelmed the initial successes. The financial burden would be prohibitive and, frankly, we can’t spare the cash. We need to build other capacities at this time. There is also the danger of a backlash, such as happened in Kampala. Perhaps an insurgency within our own borders? So, as a provisional measure, containing Al Shabaab and keeping them at a manageable level does make sense. However, they seem to have become unmanageable. They’re practically running the show. The travesty that is Amisom is fast evolving into a humourless comedy of errors. It was so prophesied and the proverbial sh*t is about to hit the fan. The East River mandarins need to not only revert the failure of their mission but prevent the wholesale slaughter of these men as well. Kenya is instrumental to this. There is increasing pressure for Kenya to go in officially.
But this is tricky. Go in alone and risk a war of attrition. Go in with Addis and you are the friend of an enemy. Go in to occupy and you become the enemy. Go in to extract UPDF and you allow Al Shabaab to turn its attention elsewhere. If we go in, it must be to cast lead. But then we cannot stay. There must be a compliant local authority to mop up the stains and show us their eternal gratitude for having, once again, saved their sore backsides when no-one else would. And to look west instead of West.
I think peace in Somalia is better for Kenya. Provided that there are 3 Somalias. Right now, three Somalias are better than one.

A Tsunami of Hope

There’s something exciting happening in Kenya: Heracles is cleaning out the Augean Stables. The new constitution has set loose a tsunami that is sweeping away the culture of unaccountability and impunity. It is bringing the high and mighty to heel. It is felling the tallest migumo trees. It is touching the untouchable. It is beginning to work. Or so it seems.

For some time now, the threat of the Hague has been hanging heavy over the heads of  our most powerful politicos. A mere 10 years ago, such a situation would be unimaginable. We don’t know who they are, or aren’t supposed to, but there are whispers. And the names are big.

But if the International Criminal Court is merely a tool of the West, tasked with whipping us into place where economic sanctions are ineffective, or where they will cause corporate grief in the Master’s own backyard, why does the ordinary mwananchi embrace Luis Moreno-Ocampo as a saviour? Because Señor Luis carries a very big stick, which he intends to use, and no amount of intimidation, threats, brainwashing or hush money can stop him. Suspects are scrambling to cut immunity deals with the Señor and suspicion is rife. Of course, the Señor’s taskmasters could always be impressed upon to pull the plug on the investigation, in exchange for, say, certain concessions. But that wouldn’t go down very well with anyone, except for the obvious. It is unlikely at this advanced stage. It would toll the end of the ICC. But it’s not the ICC that’s exciting. The ICC is old news.

What’s new is that the migumo trees have started falling, and by our own doing. Better still, we have reached this point through evolution, not revolution. Ruto has been shelved. Wetang’ula ditto. Majiwa spent a night in the can, a taste of things to come. Kiplagat is strapped onto an ejection seat. Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing are being exhumed. Mudavadi, Kimunya, Makwere, Kilonzo, Wako, Nyagah, even Charity Ngilu are under the spotlight. The Mandarins, finally, are being neutered. Attention is turning to Parliament, a House no longer at ease nor so August, an infestation of self-serving pests, a few good apples in a barrel of rot. PLO has turned on the ignition and is revving up the engines. The new katiba has released the brakes. The countdown has begun.
There’s only one problem: it sounds too good to be true. I have an innate distrust in the Kenyan politician, a firm belief that they will wiggle themselves out of any situation, cut any deal, sell any grandmother and return to the scene of the crime stronger, wealthier and unscathed. Or try to. They will fight, tooth and nail, to preserve their ill-gotten power and fabulous wealth. Reputation doesn’t count. What we actually think is irrelevant. The sheer absence of any sense of responsibility or morality is astounding. I’ll be back, like Tusker, is a true Kenyan original. Nothing to do with Arnold.
To prevent this from happening, we must be unrelenting. The ICC and the new Constitution present us with a unique opportunity. This lethal combination could very well be the Aspirin that cures our headache. Civil society, the media, Wanjiku, you and I, our neighbours, matatu touts, farmers, shopkeepers, IDPs, golfers, COTU, convicts, McDonlad Mariga, KCs, the jua kali and even our local flavour of Al Qaeda, our laibon, imams, bishops and brahmin, we must all see this thing through. There’s only one kabila here and we all belong to it. This is our future, not that of an undeserving few. We deserve a break and, after 47 years of simony, extortion, corruption, murder, assassination, oppression, derision, pomposity, disregard, malfeasance, desecration and debasement,  they don’t. We have before us the perfect storm. It must not be allowed to pass before sweeping away the filth that has plagued us for so long.
We have our faults, we Kenyans. But we are deserving. This opportunity cannot be allowed to pass. It comes once in a lifetime.


On Wednesday, 20 October 2010, Kenya marked her first Mashujaa Day, set aside to commemorate our bygone and contemporary heroes, the men and women whose deeds and sacrifices have made Kenya a nation worth living and dying for.

Renaming Kenyatta Day was a bold move. To date, Jomo Kenyatta remains an icon, the Father of the Nation, the Light of Kenya, a Pillar of Strength, a Demigod, Untouchable. He has been etched into our collective memory and strides the annals of history. Verily, he has achieved immortality.

But there is more to the man than meets the eye. Not all is flattering. His stature has been tarnished by his fabulous wealth, ambiguously acquired during his reign. The aura of his personality was meticulously woven into a cult. Under his watch, many of our finest heroes – Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Kung’u Karumba, Gem Argwings-Kodhek, Ronald Ngala, J.M Kariuki – were assassinated, or alleged to have been. Yet there remains reluctance, even among the most critical, to point a finger at Mzee and cast a shadow of doubt over his integrity. Such is the power of veneration. And perhaps it should so be. Kenya needs her heroes.
It is said that not everyone is destined to become a hero. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is merely the most prominent name on the list. So who are the Chosen, our Mashujaa? Ultimately, it is the Nation and History that will  decide.
Our earliest and pre-colonial heroes –  Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei. Mekatilili wa Menza. Waiyaki wa Hinga. The Great Laibons –  Mbatian and his son Lenana. Ezekiel Apindi. Moraa Moka Ngiti. It is heartwarming just to contemplate their names.
Our freedom heroes and post-colonial leaders: Dedan Kimathi. The Kapenguria Six. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Masinde Muliro. Jemima Gecaga. Pio Gama Pinto. Harry Thuku. Gem Argwings-Kodhek. Ronald Ngala. J.M Kariuki. Robert Ouko.
Our academics – Ali Mazrui. Bethwell Ogot. Wangari Maathai. Mike Boit. Ratemo Michieka. Tom Odhiambo. Yash Pal Ghai. Florence Wambugu. Richard Leakey. Calestous Juma.
Our scribes and cultural heroes – Ngugi was Thiong’o. Grace Ogot. Meja Mwangi. Fadhili William. Daudi Kabaka. Fundi Konde. Super Mazembe. Maroon Commandos.
Our sports heroes – too many to enumerate, from Kip Keino through Shekhar Mehta, Steve Tikolo, McDonald Mariga and Humphrey Kayange to Jason Dunford.
And our everyday heroes – Kimani Maruge, who went to school at the age of 84. The traffic cop who won’t take a bribe. The mama mboga giving you a better deal on the sukuma. The wanajeshi, risking life and limb to defend our borders and keep the peace in nations far away. And millions more.
I am glad we have Mashujaa Day. It allows, nay, obliges us to reflect on the deeds of these men and women born or bred of our soil, and compels us to achieve the same high standards of patriotism. To build this Nation.


Denial is not a river in Egypt,” goes a running joke in psychiatrist circles. It certainly isn’t. Denial is Egypt’s response to the Nile Treaty. The Nile, on the other hand, is a river that flows through Africa. It is also a brand of Ugandan beer, but that’s beside the point. It gives life to Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt, a total of 420 million souls. Egypt and (Northern) Sudan represent just about one quarter of this population, yet they would claim nearly 90% of the Nile’s waters.

The Nile Water Agreement, granting Egypt the lion’s share (87%) of the Nile waters and veto power over upstream projects, is an obnoxious colonial relic whose aim was to pacify Egypt in order for Britain to advance her interests. It was signed by Britain – representing her East African territories – and Egypt in 1929 and amended in 1959 in favour of Sudan. It is an obsolete colonial-era treaty drafted by foreign powers with their own interests in mind.
The primary objective of the Nile Basin Initiative, launched in 1999 as a partnership of the Nile riparian states, is to develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way in order to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples. For Egypt, the NBI was in effect akin to a government commission whose sole purpose is to obstruct rather than facilitate any solution and maintain the status quo.
Egypt’s intransigence in negotiations on the management of the Nile river basin waters prompted the “seed countries” to adopt the Nile Treaty which seeks to develop the resources of the Nile through a permanent Nile River Basin Commission. Five countries – Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya – have signed the treaty so far. The DR Congo, Burundi and Eritrea are mulling following suit. The treaty is vehemently opposed by Egypt and Sudan, who have said that they will sign only if it protects their current use and retains Egypt’s continued veto power over any new irrigation projects. How is that anything new?
The Egyptian government has always cited her “historic” rights to the Nile’s life-giving waters. But the rights of upstream riparian states predate and supersede those of Egypt. Upstream peoples depended on the Nile’s waters millennia before the first proto-Egyptians fled the encroaching Sahara and set foot in Kemet. And these original, pharaonic Egyptians, whose scions today still occupy the the length and breadth of the Nile, from the Luo of Lake Victoria to the Copts of the Nile Delta and all the Nilo-Saharan peoples in-between – Maasai, Kalenjin, Acoli, Dinka, etc. – have little genetic or cultural relation to the Arab invaders from the east.
The Egyptian government described Kenya’s intention to withdraw from the 1929 accord as an “act of war” and reserves the right to take whatever action necessary to defend her right to the waters of the Nile. Egyptian officialdom has made the threat of war before. Anwar Sadat declared that Egypt would not hesitate to go to war with anyone tampering with the Nile, a sentiment echoed by his successor, Hosni Mubarak.
As sub-Saharan Africa experiences a demographic boom, water security and agriculture become of paramount importance and upstream states demand new allocations of Nile water for their expanding populations, industrial capacity and agricultural growth. While the Source of the Nile is constantly ravaged by drought, Egypt and Sudan reap the full benefits of its water. In Egypt, vast commercial farms flourish and lush golf courses flank the river. If Egypt and Sudan do not sign the treaty they will not be bound by it. There are no allocations in the treaty. It’s about principles.
The world has changed a tad recently. Global financial institutions and bilateral donors are no longer the only viable options. Egypt has been using her diplomatic clout to lobby Western institutions to deny loans to any upstream nations wanting to invest in water-harvesting projects. But as the dominant investor in Africa, China has complicated matters and has given sub-Saharan Africa the confidence to promote its own interests without the fear of Western intervention.
The Egyptian government is plagued by a calamitous misapprehension of the social, political and economic complexities in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite its strategic importance, East Africa has been completely ignored by Egypt, which is oblivious to the changing balance of power and political context in East Africa.
Israel, however, is not. Avigdor “Bomb-the-High-Dam” Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu party, led a high-powered delegation to East Africa in September 2009. This was not a mission motivated by some obscure fondness for the African soul. The purpose of the mission was as much to compromise Egypt and keep her preoccupied with water security as it was to promote Israeli business interests. Kenya has adopted a very opportunistic diplomacy, with an aim to shifting donor reliance from traditional partners towards China, India and other emerging powers. Israel has read the script and reacted accordingly. Egypt, however, has not.
Israel – perhaps for reason of her own – is ready to share her experience in halting the desertification and turning the wilderness into arable land. Lieberman concluded several agreements through which Israel would finance and implement several massive water projects. This will require a more intensive utilisation of the waters of the Nile.
Israeli officials were also accompanied by arms dealers and manufacturers. Ethiopia holds strategic importance due to her proximity to Arab states and her position overlooking maritime routes to the Suez Canal. And Israel has been notably involved in training elite forces in Kenya. The point will not have been lost on would-be belligerents.
For all of Egypt’s sabre-rattling and diplomatic angling, the upstream riparian states clearly have no intention of backtracking on the Nile Treaty. It is up to Egypt and Sudan to join. It is obvious that Egypt is vitally reliant on the Nile and needs to develop a new strategy that is less concerned about maintaining regional hegemony. Egypt will have to accept the fact that the West will not indefinitely defend Egypt’s interests against East Africa, whose strategic importance is increasing by the day.
Greater effort should instead be invested in articulating a more equitable sharing of the river’s benefits. Egypt should start making concessions in exchange for guarantees instead of reverting to diplomatic blackmail and threats of jihad.
Egypt’s officialdom,” to quote Chege Mbitiru in the Daily Nation, “appears stuck in a pharaonic mindset.

An East African Arms Race?

A number of Kenyan blogs and fora have been discussing the military buildup in the Great Lakes and Nile Basin region. The purchase of several Su-30MKs by the Ugandan government and MiG-29s by Tanzania and Sudan seems to indicate that the race for control of East and Central Africa‘s mineral wealth is in top gear. In response, Kenya is purported to be acquiring three dozen F-15 Strike Eagle aircraft. Are we witnessing an East African arms race?

In addition to unfathomable quantities of every sort of industrial mineral imaginable, East and Central Africa is awash with oil and gas deposits. At the same time, dwindling oil reserves in the Middle East are expected to be depleted by mid-century. This makes African hydrocarbons particularly appealing. The entry of China into the equation and the increasing influence in Africa of emerging powers such as Brazil and India is leveling the playing field. The age of unfettered access and exploitation by the Old Economies is coming to an ignominious and much-anticipated end.
The controlled exploitation of this wealth is vital to Kenya’s economic growth and enfranchisement, and her ability to independently manipulate – and dominate – these mineral resources is fast becoming a reality. With the prospect of near-exponential economic expansion knocking at her door, Kenya has taken a number of far-reaching measures to secure and protect her vital national interests. A new political dispensation, promotion of rapid economic growth through public investment, incentives for private industrial development, expansion and diversification of the manufacturing base, massive investments in physical and fibre optic infrastructure and the extensive rearmament of her military are powerful indications that Kenya is indeed gearing up to do so.
The scale of the latter two is particularly impressive. The Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor is projected to cost $16 billion. The project comprises Lamu port and Manda Bay, a standard gauge railway line, a superhighway connecting Lamu to Juba and Addis Ababa, an oil pipeline to S. Sudan, an oil refinery at Lamu and three international airports at Lamu, Isiolo and Lokichoggio, which will be developed into resort cities. The magnitude of this project is mind-boggling.
The proposed trans-African Lamu Free Port will serve a vast hinterland – Kenya, the EAC, S. Sudan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Chad. It  will be the largest port on the continent and a mega-hub for transshipment traffic. It will also serve as a landbridge port for an international transport corridor that will eventually extend all the way to Douala. The port will be located well away from Lamu Town, which is a Unesco-protected world heritage site. Mombasa port will be dredged and expanded and will continue to serve Kenya, Uganda and the Great Lakes states. The two ports will play a complementary role and are crucial to the development of Kenya into a global maritime power. The integrated transport corridor connecting Lamu port to Juba and Addis Ababa will include a high-speed (160 km/h) standard gauge railway and a transcontinental superhighway and fibre optic link.  An important objective of the corridor is to export oil from Sudan.
To protect her vital interests, Kenyan political and military strategists have deemed it necessary to develop an aggressive military deterrent due to the concern that the region’s vast resources could ignite a regional conflict as a proxy manifestation of Western interests. The rearmament includes the imminent delivery of three dozen F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft and a similar number of F-5Es to replace the current ageing fleet. This represents a massive upgrade in firepower. In addition, the Kenya Army has already taken possession of 110 T-72 tanks (of the MV Faina fame) and there have been major acquisitions of other military hardware, including APCs/IFVs and self-propelled artillery systems. An unspecified number of Mi-35P helicopter gunships to complement the Air Cavalry’s existing arsenal are also said to be under consideration. The newly-commissioned air-borne light infantry Ranger Battalion will complement the elite 20 Para Battalion and military planners are developing a doctrine of offensive defense, which calls for compact, specialist units that are easier to deploy and with a substantial ability to project themselves.
This isn’t an arms race. This is merely the logical evolution of the region’s economic and military superpower.