Kenya's Time Is Near

November 25, 1991

The powerful movement for human rights and democracy sweeping Africa is touching Kenya. The beleaguered and unloved dictator, President Daniel arab Moi, who is not one of free Africa's founding leaders, ought to take the lead from those who are. Tanzania's Julius Nyerere retired. Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda permitted multi-party elections and gracefully abided by its result ousting him from power. Mr. Moi digs in his heels, lashes out at messengers and arrests patriotic Kenyans.

The tensions are coming to a head. The most important is the British police investigation that Mr. Moi ordered into the assassination of Foreign Minister Robert Ouko in February 1990. Detective Kenneth Lindsay duly reported that Mr. Ouko, a foe of Kenya's endemic corruption, was preparing a report accusing cabinet colleagues of wrong-doing at the time of his murder. Mr. Moi accepted the resignation of his powerful henchman, Industry Minister Nicholas Biwott, whom Detective Lindsay implicated in the crime.

This came three days after the government suppressed a demonstration in Nairobi protesting the arrest of 13 opposition leaders and suppression of a planned rally for democracy. Such harassment of political speech is endemic in recent years.

This ferment coincides with the government's campaign against the U.S. ambassador, Smith Hempstone, a crusty former foreign correspondent and conservative editorialist who is an old Kenya hand, an expert on Africa and a political appointee of President Bush. Mr. Hempstone got in trouble early on for saying that Congress would look at a nation's human rights record in apportioning U.S. aid. That goes for other donor nations, the World Bank and IMF as well. Mr. Hempstone would have been derelict in not warning the Kenyans of that.

More recently, the new foreign minister called Mr. Hempstone a "racist" for saying that Kenyans were ready for democracy. But such human rights crusaders as the courageous Gitobu Imanyara, editor of a monthly legal magazine that has identified abuses, credit the ambassador with providing the protection of world attention on them when they are arrested.

President Moi is feuding with Britain, Germany and Sweden, too, not just the U.S. His real quarrel is with Kenya's people. The sooner he ends the one-party dictatorship he clamped on in 1982, the sooner Kenya will recover from the tragedy of his making and restore its former status as a beacon of stability and civility in East Africa.

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