Faced with growing international pressure, Kenya’s President Daniel Arap Moi has backed off his harsh campaign of revoking basic freedoms and denying human rights. In a speech to his political party--the nation’s only party--Moi promised last week to restore the secret ballot. That small reform, though welcome, is not sufficient to warrant the restoration of substantial and punishing cuts in U.S. foreign aid.
Lack of multiple political parties, freedom of expression and fair treatment for prisoners prompted Washington to cut nearly one-quarter of foreign aid to Kenya. The foreign aid bill slashed $15 million in military assistance to Kenya, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest recipient of U.S. assistance. It also denied Moi’s government a share of an additional $200 million in economic development funds allocated for Africa.
Free expression has now become a crime equated with treason and sedition in the intolerant climate. The editor of the prominent Law Monthly was jailed and his magazine banned. Other critics have simply disappeared.
To regain U.S. assistance, Moi’s government must meet certain conditions. Prisoners must be charged and tried, or released. Inmates must not be mistreated. The judiciary must again function independently. Free expression--including publication of critical magazines--must be restored.
Reinstating the secret ballot is a step in the proper direction. The secret ballot, which was in place until two years ago, is due to replace an unfair system that forces voters to express their choice by lining up publicly behind posters of their favorite candidate.
Moi has also agreed to restore the independence of judges and the attorney general, which the Kenyan Constitution mandates. That restoration would be another small indication of progress, but it, too, is not enough for Kenya to merit the resumption of the foreign assistance on which it depends.
Kenya no longer enjoys the reputation for political stability and tolerance in a region dominated by authoritarian rulers and repression. Moi must restore basic freedoms or face the threat of even greater losses in foreign aid and international respect.