Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Et tu USA?

Does the USA consider Kenya an ally? For more than forty years, we have chosen to stand four-square with US as a bulwark against communism and in recent times, terror. The last few weeks have seen us deploy our forces to the northern border to help the US secure or eliminate Al Qaida terrorists in Somalia. And we have paid for that choice in blood. The embassy bombings of 1998 were at the time the worst terrorist attacks ever and our casualties taken as percentage of the population were on a par with the US 9-11 numbers. Also US strikes on southern Somalia have also reportedly killed a number of Kenyans). Given that history, it is reasonable to expect that the US considers us one of her key allies in the region. However, reason has not been a hallmark of US foreign policy of late and this is no exception.

Nine years after the bomb that killed 250 of our citizens, the US still advises its nationals against travel to Kenya, depriving our economy of millions in tourist dollars. And now according to a report in the Standard, a US senator has used his influence to block a proposed $14.4 million (about Sh1 billion) loan to expand Kenya’s soda ash industry. In February 2006, the United States Export-Import Bank (an independent US Government agency that helps finance overseas sales of US goods and services) received the application for a six-year loan to finance the export of eight American-built locomotives to Magadi Soda. Thanks to the efforts of Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the loan never came through. The Senator apparently prevailed on Ex-Im Bank chairman Mr Jim Lambright to block the loan on the grounds that expansion of Magadi Soda’s operations would harm Wyoming’s soda ash industry. "If these locomotives go to Kenya" said the Senator, "it will strengthen that country’s industry not just today, but for years in the future."

The Senator's suggestion that increased output from Magadi Soda would have an impact on world prices is hardly credible considering that the company's current total annual production is 360,000 tonnes -a pittance compared to Wyoming's 9.1 million tonnes, about 25% of world supply. Even the recently announced plans for a $97 million expansion of its plant on Lake Magadi would only raise annual production to 700,000 tons. To add insult to injury this particular Senator is considered to be a proponent of free trade. The Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies rates his voting record on free trade issues at 82%. He even voted to give permanent Normal Trade Relations [NTR] status to China, which for the first time in a century surpassed the United States in 2003 as the world's leader in soda ash production. He has also previously stated that he is "a big believer in the axiom that the worst thing in the world for the environment is poverty... a visit to any third world country will confirm this."

I guess the US position could be summarised as follows. Protecting the environment and free trade are all good unless the Kenyan economy benefits in the process. Hardly the stance of ally!

Magadi Soda did manage to raise the necessary funds from a consortium of local banks and the locomotives will be arriving in the country by the end of the month.


coldtusker said...

Gathara - This is not the view of the US Govt but one idiot who is looking at narrow interests.

This is akin to idiots who want Nairobi National Park degazetted so they can grab it. It does NOT represent the views of Kenya.

Gathara said...

If the US government doesn't subscribe to this view, then why did they not intervene to ensure Magadi Soda got the loan? And please don't give me the crap about the independence of the Ex-Im Bank. That didn't seem to matter where the Senator was concerned. And don't forget that in the case of the Benghazi Six in Libya, the US and other European countries have been pressuring Gaddafi to interfere with the supposedly independent Lybian courts so the West can secure the verdict it desires. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

jm said...

Man, I tell you some of these senators do sh*& that will make you run into a wall.
I was especially irked with the "it will strengthen that country's economy not only but also into the future"
Si that's always the aim of all Sx-Im loans?? This veto is future fodder for him to use in his campaigns, raving about how he "protected Wyoming industry, blah blah"
What a moron

Anonymous said...

"Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Export-Import Bank will not be helping a locomotive company to finance the sale and refurbishment of locomotives for a soda ash facility in Kenya, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo."

The Black Mamba said...

I will send Senator Shenzi an email through his website.

coldtusker said...

Gathara - Be realistic... this idiot is a senior GOP Senator... what was the Exim guy going to do???

BTW, I think this is idiotic. Leave comments on the link to the story (the actual story not the Standard)...

Kenya needs lobbyists who can articulate Kenyan interests. The Kenya embassy should be all over this!

The good news is that GE was involved & probably got them the funding elsewhere.

coldtusker said...

To clarify my earlier post what enzi did was stupid (not the discussion)...

EXIM should have stood up since it is 'independent' but being govt funded is a problem.

In the moi years, KCB would only loan you money if u were a poliically connected crook!

Private Banks like Citibank wud have told enzi to go f*** himself!

That's why I prefer privatisation. A pity for EXIM since they are supposed to ENCOURAGE exports from the USA.

And this idiot enzi claims to be a proponent of 'free trade'...

Gathara said...

I see your point lakini I am of the opinion that if the US government valued its relationship with Kenya, then it would have intervened to ensure the loan was approved. I am pretty sure that it has done similar things when the interests of its valued allies have been threatened.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed by the naiveté that persuades you that the USA should reward Kenya for its loyalty in its wars on the Soviet Union and on Islam.

Its business that wages war, whch is why Pinochet and the Saudis are American friends, and why Enzi is pro-China. Everyone is looking after his shirt, not thinking about his heart.

The US government, for the reasons of the privatisation campaigns ColdT so admires, has become a hostage of big business urging it to wars, blocking trade ( CNOOC and UNOCAL), DWP, steel tarrifs, etc.

Did you know that the Americans trade with the Cubans on the low, you keep up with the ideological blather at your own risk. Its all about the money.

Gathara said...

No one is asking the US to reward Kenya. What I am asking is for America to do itself a favor and start treating us like allies. Otherwise, we might just decide to be uncooperative in its wars.

Business might wage the wars, but when the casualties are Americans, even the businesses kow-tow to public opinion. The GWOT is no different. You mess with Kenya and you will find the whole of our North Eastern frontier one large terrorist training camp. Or so, I think, we need to tell them. Pakistan got away with building a nulear weapon and rejecting democracy when they made it plain to the Americans that they were indispensable in the GWOT.