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President Moi has benefited enormously from his position as the longtime leader of a country that is considered a linchpin of stability in a region marked by a great deal of turmoil. This leverage has translated into perpetual forgiveness for the government's behavior by diplomats, even when at a high cost to human rights. In part, Moi has remained a reliable, if often difficult, ally to Western governments over the years because no clear political alternative has emerged. Foreign governments have certainly expressed dissatisfaction with aspects of Moi's rule and condemned politically motivated violence, but they have not made it a priority to press him to rein in KANU politicians and government allies whose rhetoric and actions clearly undermine public security. Moi has done the minimum necessary to deflect criticism of his government's record on this point: create commissions or committees whose work never results in action, much less accountability.

President Moi has been able to ignore important dimensions of the security problems facing Kenya because he has skillfully focused rhetoric and (sometimes) action on the areas of most immediate concern to the international donors on whom the country depends. Corruption is a primary issue in this regard and continues to receive much high-level attention. Security issues have taken on increasing importance, however, since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, and the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. But security concerns have been narrowly defined.

In recent years the Moi government has focused on major security threats in the region, and more recently the related problem of weapons inflows, but this approach has not been comprehensive nor rights-based. To the contrary, it has looked almost exclusively at the movement of weapons into Kenya from neighboring countries. To a degree, it also has focused on the channels that permit the illegal sale of these weapons inside the country. For this crackdown, it has largely targeted refugees living in Kenya, particularly Somalis, whom it blames wholesale for the problem of weapons proliferation. The government's actions, purportedly directed to stop crime, have undermined refugee protections against vulnerable groups. International donors have been loath to criticize such behavior.

Moreover, the Kenyan government, its partners in regional small arms control initiatives, and its backers in the international community have highlighted concerns about crime and rising insecurity in the country, but they have thus far disregarded the risk that firearms may be used to carry out politically motivated attacks. The 1997 Coast Province violence revealed how well-organized attackers mobilized around a clear political agenda and with relatively few guns could terrorize an area for weeks and leave a legacy of human devastation, physical destruction, bitterness, economic decline, and ethnic animosity. A solution to this complex problemdemands attention to the root causes of such discontent, but also to the irresponsible political discourse that stokes ethnic tensions and the formation by politicians of organized groups that carry out acts of violence on their behalf. So long as politicians are not held to account for inciting violence and are instead able to mobilize armed groups to carry out the dirty work, violence will continue to be used as a political tool. Add to that the ability to obtain weapons, whether stolen or purchased, and Kenya faces a much more explosive problem.

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