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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Kenya We Want: Navigating Post December 2007

In February 2009 the government of Kenya will convene a conference on The Kenya We Want.

The proposition Kenya We Want presupposes a prior Kenya; The Kenya We Have.

You can imagine, like I do that the motivation for this conference is because we suddenly discovered after December 2007 that The Kenya We Have sucks. The fiasco in the electoral, ethnic odium, the police brutality and the murderous orgies were truly surprising.

Society is built organically from the basic, unassuming aspirations of family, neighbourhood and community. Aspirations for simple things: education for the mind, nourishment for body and soul, shelter from the elements and work.

Society is built from enduring values of sacrifice, service, honesty, giving and respect. Nation states are erected on the ideals of justice, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope of a better tomorrow, transmitted from one generation to another.

Society rises on the pillars of respect and celebration of diversity. Society springs from a fundamental belief that different is not equal to less than. That difference is novelty.

Society rises from habit. Habit is custom and tradition, painstakingly learned and transmitted faithfully from one generation to another.

After we fought long and hard, did the colonists give us the Kenya We Have? Absolutely not! Look what the cat brought home! Is that how we got the Kenya We Have? Certainly not!

The Kenya We Have was crafted through deliberate conversations by men and women, young and old, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu conveying stereotypes, myths, fear, hopes and truths over decades.

These conversations were held in the privacy of our homes, in places of worship, schools and in public meetings. These conversations were often presided over by our parents, community elders, religious leader, teachers and political leaders.

The Kenya We Have was constructed on the values of greed, impunity, power, theft, intolerance of diversity, and disregard for merit.

The Kenya We Have was build not from sacrifice and hard work but from corruption, gaming the system and instant gratification. The Kenya We Have rewards not what you know but who you know. It venerates wealth not dignity not honour. The virtues of hard work, integrity, and self sacrifice are scorned upon.

The Kenya We Have is built on the unyielding truth that politicians will protect us from the enemies of our tribe. Politicians decide which ethnic group(s) is friend or foe.
The Kenya We Have rests on the aspiration that politicians from our ethnic community must be ensconced in power and ostentatious privilege before we can get paved roads, clean water, medicines, a school, and a job.

The Kenya We Have thrives on inequality. Quality primary education, admission into a decent high school and chance to go to university is the privilege of a few and not a birth right of every Kenyan child. In the Kenya We Have, justice is not a shield for human dignity but an instrument for political oppression and humiliation.

In The Kenya We Have politicians stoke hatred and fund ethnic militia. Then they shake hands, share power lament and condemn violence and exhort their tribesmen to live in harmony with other communities.

In the Kenya We Have, at every election, we decide when we are Kenyans and when we fragment into warring ethnic states.

In The Kenya We Have, we tout free education but deny students the quality teachers they deserve while members of parliament determine how much they earn and whether or not they pay taxes.

The Kenya We Want ought to be a very personal conversation between and among Kenyans. It is a conversation that must be founded on the personal narratives of triumphs, fears, tribulations and pains of Kenyan families and communities. The Kenya We Want conversation must be fed from our personal and collective histories.

The blue print for The Kenya We Want must emerge from engaged internal debate. Vigorous, tough and direct disputations, eye ball to eye ball by victim and villain.

The Kenya We Want will be through fiscal discipline, building world class schools, better pay for teachers, investing in science and technology, investments in ICT and renewable energy.

The Kenya We Want will be built through a coalition between small government and a vibrant private sector, investment in affordable housing, public transport infrastructure, and investment in health care, agriculture, security rural electrification, and clean water.

The Kenya We Have is not the product of a workshop or conference organized by the first republic. The Kenya We Want must be built on the bedrock of family and community. It must be built in schools, churches, mosques, temples, bars, playing fields, markets and on the streets.

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