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From championing impunity for suspected masterminds of crimes against humanity, to frustrating total African liberation and unity by working in cahoots with Empire; from publicly supporting Israel's desire to join the African Union, to being a major conduit for illicit financial flows from Africa; Kenya is fundamentally unfit to lead the AU. Its candidate for Chair of AU Commission in the January election, Amina Mohamed, is part of a deeply entrenched kleptocracy that has ruined Kenya and actively undermined African interests for over half a century.


The African Union will choose a new Chair of the AU Commission in January 2017. There are six candidates for this position, viz. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of Botswana, Farki Mahamat of Chad, Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal and Jakaya Kikwette of Tanzania. The post of Commission Chair became vacant after the expiry of the term of South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who had been at the helm since 2012 and did not apply for a second term.

At the last AU meeting held in July in Kigali, the election was suspended because, after seven rounds of voting, none of the top three contenders from Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Uganda obtained the required two-thirds majority. Since the suspension of the process, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda dropped out and three new candidates have appeared. Kenya has offered the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs to lead the African Union. The government of Kenya has embarked on a multimillion-dollar diplomatic offensive to persuade Africans that Kenya should lead the African Union. Should Kenya lead the African Union?

Let’s begin this analysis by going back 53 years ago. At the dawn of independence in 1963, the political leaders in Kenya under Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga had agreed that, after independence, all British troops would leave Kenya. A few weeks after independence in December 1963, the so-called ‘Shifta rebellion’ began and the political leaders of Kenya requested Britain to maintain their armed personnel in Kenya to assist in crushing the ‘rebellion.’ The British troops have remained in Kenya since then.

Was Britain instrumental in fomenting this ‘Somali question’ within Kenya? This and related questions have become pertinent as the records of the British are open and we know of the findings of the Northern Frontier District (NFD) Commission along with the debates within Britain over the future of Somalia. Fifty-three years later,  Somali descendants who live in Kenya are still being used as political football as Kenya has vowed to close the largest refugee camp in the world, the Dadaab, that hosts mostly Somali refugees following the collapse of their state in 1991.

Kenya is fighting the so-called war on terror in Somalia and there are credible reports that this has been a very lucrative business venture for sections of the financial and sugar barons in Kenya.

It is this section of the barons that leads Kenya that has now put forward the name of Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to be the next head of the AU Commission. It is in this context of the lobbying by the Kenyan government that this author wants to put forward a number of reasons why Kenya cannot lead the African Union.

The political leadership of Kenya since President Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta has been servants of imperial intrigue and skullduggery to undermine African independence and Unity. Kenya had been used as a base to foil genuine support for decolonization, and since the so called ‘War on Terror’ Kenya has been serving as an ally of the US providing the political support for the US Africa Command and activities of the West in the Indian Ocean region.

For a short while when the questions of the killings with impunity suggested the possibility of international justice, the present Kenyan leadership of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto (both indicted for crimes against humanity) embarked on an overheated campaign to represent themselves as African nationalists opposed to imperial machinations of the International Criminal Court. Kenyan diplomats, with Amina Mohamed in the vanguard, led a diplomatic offensive against the ICC and since the charges have been dropped against President Kenyatta and Ruto, the leadership has been going on overdrive to harness international support for the accumulation of prowess of the barons in Kenya.

These political forces hosted President Barack Obama for a global ‘entrepreneurship’ conference in August 2015, followed by Pope Francis’s visit in November. Kenya hosted the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization in December 2015 and in 2016 hosted the meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). These latter meetings set back the agenda of Africans who had been struggling within the WTO for the rich countries to accede to the DOHA development round. While scuttling the African agenda in the WTO and without notice withdrawing its ‘peacekeeping’ forces from South Sudan, the Kenyan leadership is asking Africans to support Amina Mohammed for the top position as AU Commissioner.

In light of the aggressive diplomatic forces of the Moroccan leadership to reverse the position of the African Union on the independence of Western Sahara, it will be important for progressive forces within the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) to raise their voices about the present diplomatic campaign of not only Kenya, but also the other countries, Botswana, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and Senegal who have fielded candidates for the position of AU Commissioner. Below we detail the number of reasons for opposing the leadership of Kenya at this historical moment.

Illicit financial flows from Eastern Africa

The number one reason why Kenya cannot lead the African Union is that Kenya has been a base for illicit financial flows out of Eastern Africa. Most of the fraudsters that steal from their societies have a base in the real estate and financial sectors of Kenyan society. Two years ago the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimated that economies of Africa lost approximately US$1Trillion and about US $50 billion per year from illicit financial flows. The Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa drew attention to the varying forms of fraud that had been employed to export capital from Africa, noting that,

“Some of the effects of illicit financial outflows are the draining of foreign exchange reserves, reduced tax collection, cancelling out of investment inflows and a worsening of poverty.  Such outflows which also undermine the rule of law, stifle trade and worsen macroeconomic conditions are facilitated by some 60 international tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions that enable the creating and operating of millions of disguised corporations, shell companies, anonymous trust accounts, and fake charitable foundations.  Other techniques used include money laundering and transfer pricing.”

This High Level Report went on to highlight the role of Kenya in illicit financial flows out of Africa: “Kenya is believed to have lost as much as $1.51 billion between 2002 and 2011 to trade misinvoicing. The role of IFFs and their adverse effect on the country’s GDP cannot be ignored. A recent study shows that Kenya’s tax loss from trade misinvoicing by multinational corporations and other parties could be as high as 8.3 per cent of government revenue, hampering economic growth and resulting in billions in lost tax revenue.”

It does not take rocket science to grasp the fact that all of the malfeasance of disguised corporations, shell companies, anonymous trust accounts, fake charitable foundations, money laundering and transfer pricing are present in Kenya. From the period of 1960 and the gold scandals from Eastern Congo, Nairobi has been the base for money laundering in Eastern Africa. Illicit funds from the Eastern DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Southern Sudan and Somalia all pass through the money laundering facilities of Kenya. Other illicit money grabbers from as far afield as Nigeria use the recourses and networks of the Kenya financial barons; the real estate boom in Kenya in the past fifteen years is directly linked to these fraudulent funds being laundered in Kenya.

Most recently, there was a report on the nexus of corruption and conflict in the Sudan, which brought out revealing figures on the extent of the real estate holdings in Nairobi and of the top officials of the South Sudanese state. Entitled War Crimes Shouldn't Pay, the report found that "top officials ultimately responsible for mass atrocities in South Sudan have at the same time managed to accumulate fortunes, despite modest government salaries".

Kenyan bureaucrats and financiers have been implicated in the top four ways of draining valuable resources out of South Sudan: (a) extractive services, (b) the military state (c) state spending and (d) money laundering.

Questions on the complicity of Kenya in the debacle of the struggles between differing factions in South Sudan increased after Kenya decided to pull its troops out of South Sudan after the Secretary General of the United Nations sacked the Kenyan commander of the UN ‘peacekeeping’ forces in South Sudan.

When the High Level Panel outlined the extent of illicit financial flows out of Africa, they had given clear recommendations as to how to stop these forms of drainage out of Africa. The Panel called for member states of the African Union to inter alia: (a) Determine the nature and patterns of illicit financial outflows from Africa; (b) Raise awareness among African governments, citizens and international development partners of the scale and effect of such financial outflows on development; and (c) Propose policies and mobilize support for practices that would reverse such illicit financial outflows.

It is the expectation of millions of the working poor in Africa that their representatives at the African Union would be at the forefront of calling for the return of stolen assets to African societies. One would have expected that because Kenya has been so prominent in the business of money laundering, the loudest calls for ending these forms of capital accumulation would come from inside the society. However, as one component of the disorientation of activists, the NGO mentality predisposes many to seek solutions from ‘donor agencies’ without understanding that these so called ‘donors’ form an essential link in the chain of draining resources out of Africa.

Instead of robust voices exposing the role of Kenya in money laundering, the Kenyan political leadership has invested millions of dollars to send Vice President William Ruto on a spirited tour proclaiming the candidature of Amina Mohammed. On these trips to other African countries, Ruto has been proclaiming the virtues of Kenya as a base for trade and investment.

War on terror as a business in Kenya

The second reason for objecting to the bid for Kenya to take over the position as AU Commissioner relates to the role of Kenya in Somalia and the fact that the socalled ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ has for all intents and purposes been a business venture by the sugar and military barons of Kenya. The African Union had committed its reputation on the future of peace in supporting African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). However, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia have played geo-political games with the lives of the people of Somalia and there is credible evidence that this Kenyan mission has been using the peacekeeping mission as a business venture. For years the United Nations Monitoring Group for Somalia has been reporting on the scale of the involvement of AMISOM troops in the sale of charcoal and sugar using the port of Kismayo under the control of AMISOM.

When progressive forces in Eastern Africa did not take up the issue vigorously, a group named Journalists for Justice documented the reality that elements from the Kenyan army have been involved in a US$400 million sugar smuggling racket in Somalia and have also funded militants that they were supposed to be fighting. Far from fighting the Al Shabaab, the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) are ‘in garrison mode sitting in bases while senior commanders are engaged in corrupt business practices.” This report on Kenya’s Criminal Racket in Somalia has produced enough evidence to corroborate the information that has been produced for nearly a decade about how war is a business in Somalia.

Progressives have shirked from quoting from the reports of this organization in so far as the organizations also seek to use information on KDF involvement in racketeering in supporting the voices of those calling for the disbanding of the African Union.

Layering and the barons of Kenya

Apart from investigative journalists who have been documenting the war business in Somalia very few scholars have actually interrogated how the global war on terror feeds into the illicit global economy. It has been estimated by the World Economic Forum that the international illicit economy is valued at over US $3.8. trillion. This means that in terms of GDP, the illicit economy is among the top 10 economies in the world. It is in this global illicit economy where one finds the layering of barons with the financial barons at the top of the food chain. Next to the financial barons are the real estate barons, the land grabbers/barons, the sugar barons involved in smuggling and illegality, the drug barons – (see cases of cocaine smuggled as sugar), education and business of procurement, barons in hospitals and medicine – (see the Constant Gardner and Kenya as a place for fake drugs), military and security barons - war on terror as a business venture - ethnic and regional power brokers, political fixers and counterfeiting barons.

These barons form the base for the Kenyan capitalist class and they have an agreement among themselves to divide the working peoples of Kenya on the basis of ethnicity, regionalism and religion. In the particular case of Kenya, there is public knowledge of the criminality of the cartels with the former Chief Justice Dr .Willy Mutunga raising questions of how these barons and cartels pose a threat to the wellbeing and security of the peoples of Kenya and East Africa. He had noted that, “The influence of the cartels is overwhelming. They are doing illegal business with politicians. If we do not fight the cartels, we become their slaves. But leaders who do take on the cartels must be prepared to be killed or exiled.”

The statement of the Chief Justice provides the context for better understanding the spate of killings that have been labeled as ‘terror’ attacks since the Kenyan Defense Forces invaded Somalia in 2011. A series of high profile incidents such as the Al-Shabaab siege of the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi that left 67 people dead, ensured that there was international support for counter-terrorism in Kenya.  This was followed by the killing of approximately 68 people in Mpeketoni, Majembeni and Poromoko at the coast in June 2014; the killing of 28 people in a bus in Mandera in November 2014; the killing of 36 people in a Mandera quarry in December 2014; and the killing of 147 students on the campus of Garissa University College in April 2015. It is these kinds of killing with impunity that disqualify Kenya fundamentally since the aggressive stand on the ICC was not accompanied by an equally aggressive stand to pursue the perpetrators of the post-election killings in Kenya in 2008.

Kenya undermining the African cause at the WTO

One of the supposed strong points of Amina Mohamed was her leadership of Kenya at the 10th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in December 2015. Prior to the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, Kenyan intellectuals had been at the forefront of challenging the intellectual property rights claims of the pharmaceuticals.  After the debacle in Seattle, the Global South had organized collectively to ensure that the rules of international trade did not continue to deepen the impoverishment of the billions of poor farmers in the South. Since 2001, there had been negotiations with the former colonized peoples over the future rules in a round of negotiations that had been named after the city of Doha, Qatar. From the moment of those negotiations in November 2001 until December 2015 there had been nothing but duplicitous back and forth between the North and the peoples of the South. The designation of these negotiations as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) never seriously considered addressing the obstacles placed in the global trading system to foster real trading cooperation, which supports socioeconomic transformation in the South.

From the formation of the WTO the African members along with others from the Global South had taken a collective stand on the hypocrisy of the North in relation to trade and investment, intellectual property and agriculture. Since the WTO came into existence, the countries of the European Union and North America failed to live up to the expectations at the end of the Uruguay Round that they would liberalise their agriculture sector and significantly reduce their subsidies. In the particular case of farmers from Africa, there had been opposition to the subsidies granted to European farmers, while African farmers live in poverty.

In the particular case of African cotton exporters - Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali – collectively known as the Cotton 4 or C-4 – they had successfully urged fellow WTO members to stand with Africa on questions of food security and the outstanding questions of subsidies. At the Nairobi 10 Ministerial Meeting, Amina Mohamed as Chairperson of the meeting jettisoned the claims of the Global South and hurriedly agreed to exclude the “African Issues” before the WTO. The newspapers of the financial barons in Kenya then proceeded to publicize the outcome pointing to a nebulous ‘Nairobi package’ that postponed real discussions of the trade war against the South by the North.

Somalia a political football: Question of oil and gas discoveries

Attention had already been drawn to how the question of Somalia has been manipulated for the past fifty years by the Kenya barons. The manipulation of the poor refugees reached new heights as the Kenyan leadership has threatened to close the largest refugee camp in the world.

The anti-Pan African position of the Kenyans reached new lows over the question of the demarcation of the land and sea boundaries. After Kenyans had agreed with the British to maintain the Northern Frontier District as part of Kenya in 1964, there were questions as to the real boundaries between Kenya and Somalia. These questions became more urgent after oil and gas companies began to explore the very large reserves of oil and gas from the Somalia coast through Kenya, Tanzania, down to Mozambique. Faced with differing maps from the colonial offices of Britain and Italy, the Kenyans and Somalians have been disputing a narrow triangle off in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles).  Capitalists and speculators from Kenya, Somalia and their external supporters covet this area because it has a large deposit of oil and gas. Neither the political leaders of Kenya nor the possible leaders of Somalia offered a Pan-African vision of shared responsibility and cooperation to develop the resources in order to benefit the peoples of Africa. Instead, Kenya sought to use their legal, economic and regional muscle to start exploration and to begin discussions with foreign oil companies.

Faced with the aggressive position of the Kenyan barons, the Somalis decided to take the matter to the International Court of Justice. Kenya objected to legal arbitration of an area that should not be disputed if Kenya supported the goals of a future united Africa. The position of Kenya thus far on border issues in Eastern Africa goes against the spirit of the African Union’s position with respect to Delimitation and Demarcation of Boundaries in Africa.

Kenya ineligible to lead Africa at this point

From the above reasons, this author wants to remind readers of the role of Kenya in becoming the champion of Israel and hosting the Israeli Prime Minister in July of 2016. The Kenyan President proudly claimed that Kenya would be an advocate for Israel before the African Union. This leadership under Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Amina Mohammed has thus agreed to undermine the Pan African position of supporting the self-determination of the Palestinian peoples.

One can raise similar questions with respect to the real commitment of Kenya to continue to respect the rights of the peoples of Western Sahara. For the past two years the government of Morocco has been on an intense campaign to rejoin the African Union. In principle, progressive Africans welcome the return of Morocco to the African Union, but it must be spelt out clearly to Morocco that their return will be without conditions. That is, the political leadership of Morocco cannot demand that Africa drop recognition of the Polisario leadership. The summit of the African Union in January 2017 will be a testing ground to see how many societies of Africa will stand firm against Morocco and their supporters in France.

If not Amin Mohammed, then who?

Of the current six candidates to lead the African Union, the one candidate with a clear track record of commitment to the goals of Pan Africanism is Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal. As a progressive historian, Bathily made his mark among a generation of intellectuals. Unfortunately, however, this position of the AU Commission Chair is being pushed by the government of Senegal with both France and Morocco dictating the foreign policy choices of Senegal. Without this subservience to France and Morocco by the Senegalese leadership, Bathily would be the obvious choice.

The candidacies of Chad, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea already foundered at the meeting of the African Union in Kigali. Like Senegal, the government of Chad fronts for western interests and Chad was one of the few countries to send troops to fight with NATO to destroy Libya. Africa needs to take an independent position on the question of the manipulation of the so-called war on terror and on this matter, Chad ranks with those who need to account for their relationship with Boko Haram.

Jakaya Kikwete has been a colorless leader of Tanzania for ten years. His friendship with leaders of the George W. Bush party in the USA will raise questions; however, with the arrival of Donald Trump, that faction of the US militarists, the Bush faction is no longer in the driver’s seat.

African intellectuals and activists cannot afford to be bystanders at this moment. In this short essay, this author has pointed out how at every step of the way since 1963, Kenya worked against African independence. During the anti-apartheid struggles, Kenya supported UNITA and the MNR and for good measure, western security established the banking infrastructure for illicit dealing through Bank of Credit and Commerce International. There was the formation of the ‘Safari Club’ – France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Morocco and the conservative elements of the USA - to support the apartheid regime in South Africa and the conservative leaders of Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Since the global war on terror, Kenya has participated in the rendition programmes of the US intelligence agencies and stepped up their business operations by working with the CIA to fund groups such as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (APRCT). ARPCT was a coalition of military entrepreneurs who understood war as a business and knew how to manipulate western intelligence agencies.

According to a report in the Washington Post in 2006, “Despite its name, the ARPCT probably does little to combat terrorism and is more interested in maintaining the lawless status quo in which the warlords thrive. Experts say the moniker is an attempt to make the group appealing to Western governments, highlighting their battle against the spread of an Islamic militia.”

Ten years after this exposure, organizations such as the Bell Pottinger group continue to wage information warfare against Kenyans and Africans on the so-called terrorist threats in Eastern Africa. If Kenya had spent every cent that it has been spending on Operation Linda Nchi on building schools, roads, hospitals and water supply systems in Somalia, then the issues before Africa and the African Union would be very different from the divisive questions of illicit trade in sugar, charcoal and the question of boundary demarcation.

That eastern Africa continues to be strategically important to western security interests can be gleaned from the patience that the British exhibited in ensuring that Kenya maintained a military agreement with Britain for Britain to base troops in Kenya. In this case, Britain is acting as a front for US military interest. Kenya is important strategically to the U.S. Access to Kenyan air and a seaport facilitates imperial capabilities to project air and naval power in the Indian Ocean.

The political leadership of China has bought into the idea that the Kenyan leadership is anti-imperialist because the leaders were taken to The Hague and the ICC. This kind of analysis by Chinese strategists exposes their limited understandings of class struggles in Eastern Africa and the history of Kenya selling out Africans. From time to time newspapers and journalists revisit the scandals after scandals with respect to primitive accumulation in Kenya.


What needs to be understood is that Kenya’s Goldenberg or Anglo Leasing scandals and others are components of a model of capital accumulation in the illicit global economy. This illicit global economy is a legitimate component of the financialization forms of capital that diminishes real production and commerce.

When the AU was formed, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) had been mandated to bring to the fore the questions that affect Africans in all six regions. It is in this context where there needs to be new focus of the AU. At the last meeting in Kigali, there were feeble efforts to raise revenues for the AU. None of the governments took seriously the illicit global economy and the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows. The western ‘donors’ dominate the discussions on how to stem financial flows and downplay the importance of the return of stolen assets. Kenya was quite willing to raise the question of reparative justice with respect to the crimes of Britain during the colonial wars, but that same Kenyan leadership refuses to support the reparative claims of the global African community.

* Horace G. Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University and the newly appointed Kwame Nkrumah Chair at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.



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Comments (1)

  • Bob Kirenga's picture
    Bob Kirenga

    Prof.Horace Campbell raises fundamental questions when he interrogates Kenya's front for the position of AU Chair. The question in my view, however, should be beyond Kenya and goes to the heart of the Continent. Does the continent's unity body care about its own people? Do they understand the global positioning of the African continent? Not until Africans try their own as human beings who deserve dignity. Africa is going nowhere and will always remain a "dark continent"! AU Chairpersons are fronted to represent parochial and narrow class interests of lost souls.

    Nov 28, 2016