Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kenya: the Next Sino-Indian Flash Point

The New York Times has a summary article on Kenyan politics last week.  For all the talk about Americans' self-obsession, the Old Media does a pretty fair job of covering world events, for those who care to look.

Anyway, the article basically says that the old Mau Mau Uprising never went away.  The ethnic fissures in Kenya are as explosive as ever.  This instability, coupled with Indian and Chinese ambitions in the area, may well make Kenya the next Sino-Indian flash point.

Here I am not saying that either China or India will instigate a crisis, but rather, that their local allies have an incentive to drag the two countries into the conflict.  Both countries are expanding their commercial relationships with Kenya.  Their alliances with local politicians and powerbrokers will start to line up along Kenya's ethnic fault lines.  When Kenyans go to war against each other, they will call on their external allies for support, thus widening the conflict.

In a sense, this is similar to the dynamic covered in Freakonomics and Gang Leader for a Day: The powerful chiefs have an inherent desire for peace and quiet, because war is bad for business.  Their underlings, however, are trigger happy, because war improves their odds of advancement in a tournament-style system.

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