Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's all about preserving face.

Juristic persons, that is things like companies, political parties or even states, are not moral beings. The officers of these beings may or may not be moral beings, but juristic persons have no human personality to which we can ascribe feelings or morality. they exist as their creators intend them to exist and they do what their creators intend them to do. No more and no less.

Kenyans frequently forget to make this distinction when reacting to what a juristic being has done or been accused of doing. Take, for instance, the scaremongering perpetrated - by men who should know - over the recent economic and financial deals struck between Kenya and China. Some commentators and editorialists have argued that Kenya should be wary of the intentions of China; that because China has a record of getting into bed with dictators and such like, Kenyans should ensure that Kenya does not end up with a dictator at home fronted by China.

States, especially so, do what they must to serve their purposes. Frequently, their purposes are the purposes of the men and women who form the government, whether they be in the Executive or the Legislature, and on some very rare occasions, in the Judiciary. For the most part, however, it is the National Executive that determines what that "purpose" is, and the National executive is frequently the President and his closest advisors (not even the Cabinet).

So, if your president is a deeply moral individual (that is, he makes decisions based on whether they are morally right or not), then your nation will be seen as a moral state. If he is not, it will get the reputation of China, which is frequently accused by many of being a handmaiden to gross human rights abuses. The problem with that perception (other than the image of hypocritical politicians declaiming on Chinese amorality) is that it focuses too much on China and not enough on China's so-called client-regimes.

Despite the accusations and indictments levelled against our President, for example, and despite his sometimes bare-knuckled political Kung-Fu, Kenyans generally repose great faith in Uhuru Kenyatta. Indeed, many believe that even if he is not a "good' Christian, his neither amoral nor immoral. Some will argue strongly that he is a deeply moral man. There is nothing to suggest otherwise. But the decision to invite ever greater investments by China in Kenya suggests to many that he is becoming, at the very least, amoral. They are wrong. He is doing what he is doing because he knows, or believes, that it is the right thing to do in the interests of the nation. And that is as it should be.

It is irrelevant what your personal feelings are. When you occupy a national seat of power, the decisions you make (in addition to preserving your power or authority) must be made with the good of the nation in mind. If this means supping with the Devil, the only consideration should be the length of the spoon. Dealing with the United States, the United Kingdom or the European Union is an endurance test for Kenya; we must endure publicly humiliating lectures on our "human rights record" or our "pace of democratisation." With China, if there are any lectures to be given (or threats to be made), they are done in private, where the leaders can arrive at an understanding that preserves the semblance of comity, builds up the confidence of the people in their government, and our standing on the world stage.

No comments: