Just because we are poor?

Author:Kamau, John
Position:Brief Article - Editorial

Why do the Americans treat us so badly? This is one angry Kenyan who says he is really fed up with being pushed around.

Americans never cease to annoy me. Two years ago, they almost brought me to tears when they blocked Kenyans from rescuing survivors of a bomb attack that targeted the US embassy in Nairobi but left more Kenyans entombed in a nearby Ufundi Co-operative House.

The US marines literary fought and scared off wailing Kenyans who were attempting to get to some survivors via the US embassy building. The Americans at first said the Kenyans were "looters". Although they later apologised for "that mistake", it appears that the Americans still take us for granted in the name of security. So much so that they doubt even our very intelligence. Which makes me go gaga with madness. Here we go.

Dateline, Arusha, Tanzania, October 2000: President Bill Clinton was invited by Nelson Mandela to Arusha to witness the signing of a peace accord between the Burundi antagonists. And the drama began.

Perhaps to please Clinton, Tanzanian leaders and administrators went into deep pains as if Jesus Christ was coming to town. For those of us who had been to Arusha at ordinary times, Arusha was sparkling clean this day. Roads were literary washed with water and soap.

The streets were cleared of the usual hawkers who wanted to cash in on the event. The streetlights started working, garbage was collected on time and the street kids were nowhere to be seen. God knows where they had been dumped.

And that was not enough. We once again allowed the US marines to throw their weight around, intimidating the soft-speaking humble Tanzanians. For those who have never been to Tanzania, they are some of the most humble Africans you will ever come across; the word Tafadhali (Swahili for "please") flows freely, even from armed policemen.

And Tanzanians tasted the marine power starting with their president, Benjamin Mkapa. Mkapa had just embarked from his sleek Mercedes Benz when the marines arrived with sniffer dogs. To his consternation, they opened the presidential vehicle, and let in their dogs ostensibly to check for bombs. To the Americans even the Tanzanian president was capable of carrying bombs to, perhaps, kill Bill Clinton.

Mkapa watched as the marines opened the boots and bonnets of the entire presidential convoy and sidelined his security detail who were shoved and pushed like small children!

One Kenyan journalist who covered the visit overheard a Tanzanian...

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