Like many of my colleagues writing for British newspapers I have spent the past few weeks waiting for Britain’s response to the unfolding catastrophe in Kenya. Ministers have expressed their deep concern and said vaguely that there could be no “business as usual”, parroting the same line delivered by the US and our European partners. There have been suggestions that London could go the same way as Washington by refusing visas to a dozen or so Kenyans thought to be linked to the violence. And that was it.
Until now. The Department for International Development, which has largely taken over control of foreign policy from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has unveiled its new position on Kenya.
“It’s encouraging to see that more and more people recognise the benefits of buying products from developing countries as a way of supporting the poorest people on this earth. Everyone can make a difference on Valentine’s Day including to the lives of Kenyan farmers who, given the current political crisis in the country, have been working so hard in such difficult conditions to ensure their flowers reach the market in time for 14 February,” he said.
“Buying flowers from developing countries makes it easier for people there to make a decent living. It’s also important to remember that flowers flown in from Kenya aren’t grown in heated greenhouses so they use less energy than most of those produced in Europe.”
Shameless stunts like these are no substitute for targeted sanctions against Kenyan leaders guilty of inciting hatred. And buying Kenyan roses – while helpful to the country’s floriculture industry – is not going to keep up pressure on Raila and Kibaki to seek a political accommodation.