Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Lunacy in Kenya

Sometimes I can't help despairing for a continent that has been cursed with so many awful leaders.

Thousands of Britons expelled by Kenya

By Adrian Blomfield in Nairobi
(Filed: 29/10/2003)

Thousands of Britons are facing banishment from Kenya following the announcement by President Mwai Kibaki's government yesterday that it would expel two-thirds of the country's expatriate workforce.

British businessmen and economists denounced the decision, which will force out more than 16,000 of Kenya's 25,352 working expatriates, along with their families.

Between 30,000 and 50,000 Britons live in Kenya, more than half of whom are thought to be British Asians, prompting comparisons with Idi Amin's expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972.

"This is a racist and economically suicidal move by the government," one British businessman said. "What is the difference between this and what Idi Amin did or what Robert Mugabe is doing?"

Aware of the damaging publicity a mass exodus would cause, the government said the expulsion would be implemented over the next two years.

"It will not be a blanket removal," said Ali Mwakwere, the labour minister. "The process has already begun, but we are honouring existing work permits until they expire."

Mr Mwakwere said he would target skilled and semi-skilled foreigners in the manufacturing industry, many of whom are Asians from Britain and the Indian sub-continent.

Asian-dominated commerce is also in the sights of the minister, whose ruling will be welcomed by poor, nationalist Kenyans. "Quite possibly British Asians and Asians in general are the target," a British High Commission official said. "We are watching the situation closely."

Non-Asian Britons are likely to be forced out too, as Mr Mwakwere said the clearout would sweep through the hospitality and tourism sectors.

"We are looking at anywhere where a foreigner is doing a job a Kenyan could be doing," he said. "We have well-qualified tour guides and so on who are out of a job."

This kind of populist nativism would be economically ill-advised even if it were to occur in a wealthy country, but for a country as lacking in human resources as Kenya, it is nothing short of madness. Why do development economists bother to root around for subtle explanations for economic failure when blatant misrule of this sort is so frequently on display? I mean, it isn't as if people are exactly clamoring to abandon the developed world to live in Kenya, is it?