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The simple fact that Kenyan courts defied the political class this week and kept a travel ban on Sudan’s president is an amazing step forward.
The simple fact that Kenyan courts defied the political class this week and kept a travel ban on Sudan’s president is an amazing step forward.

If one looks back in history, these are the headlines about Kenya that hit American papers in the last 50 years, according a Google search:
1952: British Arrest 72 Terrorists; 1964: British Troops Move to Kenya; 1969: Order Breaks Down in Kenya; 2007: Post-Election Violence Kills Hundreds.

If one does not pay close attention, these are the images. They’re very similar to the pictures painted of both China and India by western media in the last few decades.

So the rule of law in Kenya, as in the case against Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, is a refreshing sign of progress. It’s exactly the opposite of what’s expected.

Al-Bashir’s destiny is a trial before the ICC. He is accused of crimes against humanity. At some point, he will meet his fate, and it would be wise for Kenya to keep him out of the country.

The reasons are obviously on moral and legal grounds, but they are also profoundly economic.

A series of economic reports this year are predicting that Africa’s growth may soon surpass that of China and India.

Each day, there are new signs. Finnair is again flying to Mombasa, opening the Indian Ocean city to tens of thousands of Scandinavian tourists.

Russians recently held an economic conference in Ethiopia. Of course, the Chinese are building throughout the country, and Indians have been there for a long time.

The economists tout the natural resources and a growing middle class in Uganda. In Tanzania, they note gold and stability. In Kenya, natural resources are not mentioned, but they do mention Nairobi as East Africa’s business hub.

Cities have come and gone in the course of history. In America, we label the losers as ghost towns. Usually, a decision was made by business to relocate because rail lines, highways and shipping was simply more convenient.

Since Kenya was not blessed with an abundance of natural resources, it must be a leader in education, technology, tourism and transportation.

South Korea, which is mostly a peninsula of rock, has done this and is now one of the largest economies in the world.

But political stability is the key, and so is image. Africa seems to only make the news when something tragic happens: famine, genocide, war.
Look at American media and you’ll see three images of Africa: the Tarzan era of the 1960s; the Out of Africa era of the 1980s; and the Darfur and Charles Taylor era of the last 20 years.

Why did so many in the West expect the World Cup to be a disaster when it was held in South Africa? Of course, it was the opposite. But Africa needs more victories like that one on the world stage.

China is particularly sensitive to publicity. Look at the recent Olympics.

Yet, people are amazed when I travel to China each year and talk of the constant progress there. The same is true whenever I visit Africa. Some American friends expect me to come home sick or not at all.

Kenya must have a real system of justice if it’s to do well in the coming renaissance of Africa. The rule of law will pay dividends beyond imagination.