Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Saturday, April 19, 2014
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Font:
Behind the Chaos in Kenya By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Friday, February 01, 2008


A MONTH ago, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki brazenly stole a national election, abruptly reversing the nation's progress toward a mature democracy. Violence since Election Day has taken nearly 1,000 lives and left a quarter-million homeless.

Now a legislator allied with Raila Odinga - the man who actually won the election - has been assassinated. The police and military have been unable to contain the savagery in the streets.

First, Odinga's outraged backers ethnically cleansed members of Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyus. Then put-upon Kikuyus struck back, driving out Odinga's Luo and other minority tribes. Spontaneous rage coalesced into organized purges. Ex-UN chief Kofi Annan's attempts to reach a compromise continue to fail.

But it's not only corrupt local pols who are to blame. Kenya's sudden nightmare is also the fault of pompous Western theorists and impossibly arrogant diplomats. (Our embassy in Nairobi's botched response to the stolen election alienated both sides in turn.)

The horrific violence in Kenya has its roots in three things: the corruption we overlook, the forms of democracy we demand - and, above all, the tribes that left-wing academics insist are only wicked European inventions.

Our tolerance for corruption (our ambassador initially hailed Kibaki's "victory") may be the most pernicious remaining form of racism - our all-too-ready acceptance that developing countries just can't rise above it. And corruption is a cancer that infects every organ of a society.

At least we grasp, on some level, that corruption is wrong. It's the other two factors - ill-fitting forms of democracy and the persistence of tribes - that steer our good intentions into the express lane to Hell.

Kenya was long one of the continent's few stable states - yet people there kept on voting along tribal lines. As they do in Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria . . . just throw a dart at the map. Impose Western forms of democracy, and majority or plurality tribes win - then view their victories as license to loot. It doesn't even occur to them to share.

The process has played out hundreds of times, in dozens of countries, but we still insist that democracy means "one citizen, one vote" for a central government with Western-style ministries. The model we've enforced around the world assumes that enlightened citizens won't be bound by tribal or religious loyalties.

But they are. So, in a country where an alpha tribe has the clout to dominate at the polls, a democracy that fails to formally apportion power among a country's various ethnic and religious factions just doesn't work.

Our type of democracy works in homogeneous countries, such as Sweden or the Netherlands, where campaigns are strictly about issues - or in countries, like our own, that are so diverse no "alpha tribe" can lord it over everybody else.

But democracy as we know it doesn't work in countries where competition for resources persists along tribal or religious lines. (Kenya also has a Christian-Muslim fracture, though it's not at the forefront now.)

At the bottom of virtually every electoral mess in the developing world are indestructible identities that Western academics long insisted didn't exist. In the 20th century, no end of professors declared that differences in ethnicity, tradition, language and perceived identity were all in our heads: European imperialists had created tribes to screw up Eden.

But our attempts to ride roughshod over fundamental identities to which human beings cling for dear life only resulted in the sort of failures we've witnessed in the post-colonial years - and the problems we faced in Iraq as we brushed aside sheiks in favor of corrupt bureaucrats.

To make democracy work in the developing world, you must adapt it to the pre-existing social structures and traditional loyalties, rather than assuming they'll wither away at the first election. Even Stalin couldn't finish off the Chechens. Afghanistan's Pathans won't vote for Tadjiks, or Sunni Arabs for Sunni Kurds.

The utterly wrong-headed and ultimately deadly insistence that everybody is just like us has led us to prescribe poison: In tribal societies, Western-style presidential or parliamentary systems produce, at best, authoritarian regimes. (As I argued years ago, our question in 2003 shouldn't have been "How do we bring our democracy to Iraq?" but "What would an Iraqi democracy look like?")

The immediate cause of Kenya's brutal street murders, slum rampages and neighborhood purges is a stolen election that cheated those who hoped democracy would finally work for their tribes. In the simplest terms, one tribe stole from the others. Now there's tribal warfare.

When we in the West analyze our own societies, we start with the individual and extrapolate to the mass. In tribal societies, whether in Africa, the Middle East or the Subcontinent, you must begin with the mass and work down.

We vote our individual consciences. In much of the world, that's unthinkable: You vote for your own kind.

Until we see the world as it is, rather than as we wish it to be, elections will tear tribal societies apart - as in Kenya today. The problem isn't democracy. It's "one size fits all" democracy.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus




Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com