While Obama is up to his elbows in the BP oil slick crisis, we in Kenya are all in a twitter about Joe Biden's visit. Biden's here for three days on his way to the opening of the SA Fifa World cup and arrived last night. Since he's the most high ranking American statesman to ever have visited Kenya - the question is; why is he coming? The local newspapers for one, seem to be pretty hazy on his agenda.
The party line is that he will discuss with and offer support to leaders regarding security in the region, ie. Somalia, but in fact he's probably going to look pretty hard at the implementation of reforms promised in 2008 and if previous form is anything to go by, he'll be finding the right diplomatic words to slap wrists.
A major part of the reform agenda is to implement a new constitution. The public referendum is due to take place in August. Early signs were that politicians were going to play ball and unanimously give the new draft constitution their blessing, thus encouraging the public to vote it in.
The problem is now that the big cheeses have had too long to read the small print. Many politicians are saying they will back it in public, then privately will vote 'no'. This is probably because the new constitution will trim their powers, cut back their numbers, reduce their pay and possibly take away their ill gotten land gains. There are also issues over khadi courts, abortion etc. which the church and other leaders have objected to, but if the new constitution does get in, then there is no reason why these clauses cannot be amended later. As I said before, surprise surprise, Ruto is leading the no campaign. For the past month he's been pictured in various constituencies haranguing a rather bemused looking general public.
Since journalists have only been able to speculate over Joe Biden's visit, the newspapers have run lead stories on topics like; his security detail, high tech devices that have been imported into the country and installed at the Intercontinental Hotel and whether or not city traffic will grind to a halt (it has).
Helicoptering in your own people and equipment ergo discounting what is locally available means that, reading between the lines, there's the hint of a personal snub here. Since American Joe arrived last night, things have got off to a poor start. Radio presenters this morning ranted that American secret service were bossing and disrespecting high ranking Kenyan police officers. You can just imagine the scene can't you! Starched Uniforms v. Men in Black. I hope Ranneberger (US Ambassador to Kenya) is not going to have a heart attack!
My question is, Joe's got 3 days in Kenya. Once he's met with Kibaki and Raila (scheduled individual visits today), then what on earth is he going to be up to? The plot thickens....