Let the Secretary of State lavish praise on her LGBT employees. But she mustn't expect to be applauded in Kenya.
If the average Kenyan
knew that their favourite son, Barack Obama, had declared June the
Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Pride Month, they would simply not believe it.
Nor would they believe that in his proclamation for Fathers’ Day, he’d said
that nurturing families comes in many forms, including being raised by two
“fathers” -- even if neither of them
is the true father.
To top it all, Hillary
Clinton recently told “LGBT members of the State Department family”
that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay and that her first
concern for Africa is how LGBT persons are treated on the continent. “Our
regional bureaus are working closely with our embassies on this issue. The
Bureau of African Affairs has taken the lead by asking every embassy in Africa
to report on the conditions of local LGBT communities. And I’m asking every
regional bureau to make this issue a priority. ”
This was greeted
with thunderous applause in Foggy Bottom. But I wonder if she would dare to
make this announcement in Nairobi. Indeed, it is fortunate that the US does not
have an embassy in Mogadishu, because if the word got round that THIS was the
African priority for the present US administration, there would be a repetition
of Black Hawk Down. And not only in Somalia.
Of course, most
Africans are completely unaware of Ms Clinton’s agenda. They sense no danger to
their way of life from Uncle Sam’s quirky obsessions. But they should. Issues
like these are achieved covertly, patiently and using the legal systems.
And before the electorate knows what’s happened, these new “rights” have been
enshrined in a Bill of Rights.
US Vice-President Joe
Biden’s recent trip to Nairobi seemed part of an effort to impose Uncle Sam’s
values on Kenyans. It was a typical operation: arrogant and extreme security
measures, chaotic traffic jams, and the token visit to a Kibera slum. He went,
at huge expense to the US taxpayer, to boost the proposed Kenyan Constitution,
and promise that “once it’s approved” his boss will make his first official
visit to Kenya.
Constitution leaves the way clear to sign the right to abortion – and later on,
gay and lesbian rights -- into the new document without passing through
Parliament. From an African point of view this seems to be one of the top
priorities of the Obama/Biden/Clinton triumvirate.
perceived by outsiders as the most “Western” African country after South Africa,
is being used as a guinea pig. The perception is mistaken. Only some sectors of
youth in the capital, Nairobi, are Westernised, by Afro-Americana, especially
rap, rock and reggae, which fill in a cultural gap and are a sign of protest
against the older generation.
Even the cosmopolitan
coastal resort of Mombasa staged a strong public protest when two “gays” tried
to “marry” recently in a suburb, Mtwapa, known for its strange characters and
commercial sex tourism.
But the pattern
seems clear: first apply pressure to Kenya, then move on to other East African countries.
Uganda has already had its knuckles rapped by Clinton over its
If the truth about
all this were to get out, the embers of anti-Americanism, which have been
smouldering since the invasion of Iraq, might burst into flame. Africans are
ambivalent about the US. “Let us in to share your wealth, expertise, high
standards and your experiment with democracy,” Africans say. “Your hand-outs
are welcome too, provided they reach the people they’re intended for, and
provided that there are no strings attached. But leave us to run our own
affairs, and do not interfere with our culture, our values and traditions. We
may not have got our act together politically and economically, but we know
what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. So leave us alone!”
LGBT rights, a
priority in Kenya? When we’re starved for food, education, basic health care,
shelter, food, work opportunities and humane working conditions, and
accountability? Pull the other one!
writes from Kampala, in Uganda.