Where I grew up, there was an idiom that was used to describe people who were so good that they sometimes suffered out of that goodness. Loosely translated, that idiom would go something like this: “The goodness that destroyed the innocent girl”. The understanding was that there was a young girl who was so naïve that she said yes to whichever proposal that was made by whoever. She just went along with anything and anybody. As a result of this “goodness” borne out of naivety, things did not end up so well for her.
Going back a few weeks ago when Kenya presented a candidate for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC), one might ask whether Kenya could not be compared to that innocent girl. For instance, so much has happened between Kenya and the South Sudan. Quite a number of those who fought for the liberation of Southern Sudan had their base here in Kenya. There were other bases but Kenya would have been a favourite on account of the proximity.
The Kenyan government – plus some Kenyans – was seriously involved in the process that led to the agreement between the warring Sudanese factions and when the talks were concluded, the signing of that agreement happened right here in Nairobi. Right up to now there are several of those Sudanese leaders who own homes here and there are quite a number of Sudanese who live here.
One would have assumed that there would be a positive and supportive relationship between these two countries. Did someone say the Sudanese did not vote for our candidate in Addis Ababa?
Diplomacy has its own issues which lay people may never understand but there are some basic human assumptions that one can be excused for holding on to.
There is a similar story with Somalia. Our soldiers are being killed over there trying to free that country from a terror group that evolved over time as a result of the vacuum of leadership that has characterised that country for decades.
Kenya has been involved in matters to do with making Somalia a functional state. As a matter of fact, I remember a time when their parliament was meeting here in Nairobi. Many of them – including some of their leaders – live here. Now we are told Somalis have taken us to court over a border dispute. Given the role Kenya has played in this region, it would only have been fair to have our Foreign Minister elected AUC chairperson. Could we be that innocent girl?
Dominic Wamugunda is dean of students, University of Nairobi.