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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Remebering Twenty Thirteen

Tonight the curtain falls on twenty thirteen. It has been one of the most momentous years in our history. A year distinguished by great triumph and consequential failure. Hope and despair. Pride and shame. We remember, with the rest of the world, Mandela and strive to follow his example.

In March we reined the demons in us and witnessed the third constitutional transfer of political power from one president to another. Five decades ago, a band of old ethnic societies, hitherto coerced into a colony, won the right to self-determination, raised a flag, sang out a new anthem and embarked on an improbable journey toward nationhood. And on the 2013 CECAFA finals, which coincided with Jamuhuri day, Harambee Stars team made us all truly proud.

On this last day of 2013 we stand with countless unnamed everyday heroes and heroines of this great land – girls and boys; men and women; fathers and mothers; uncles and aunties; brothers and sisters; friends and neighbors; grandmas and grandpas; husbands and wives – who have put a smile on our faces and made possible numerous but unsung ordinary miracles. In the face of trials and tribulations, pain and despair, they lifted us up and inspired us to believe that our better days were yet to come.

On this last day of 2013 we stand with the countless fellow citizens, who lost loved ones. My heart goes out thousands of children, orphaned because our roads have been turned into killing fields. Enabled by avaricious law enforcement apparatus greedy bus/matatu operators, like the Black Death of the medieval times, have served death and disability to passengers. We must also remember our fellow citizens who because of an unprecedented gust of insecurity met brutal death in their homes and on our streets.

Today we stand on the bright threshold of a new beginning. But the mid morning of September 21, 2013 will be forever forever in our hearts and memories. Once a tranquil neighborhood hangout, Westgate shopping mall had a beastly visitation that beautiful Saturday morning. And everything changed. Demented merchants delivered death, not in the name of God. Children, women and men, young and old were butchered. A staggered country grieved and our hearts still bleed.

We may never know who and why. But we are eternally thankful for the moments we shared with those murdered in the mall. Many of them, young children especially, departed too soon. And for the not so young, the void of lives unfinished pervades our sad but grateful memories. Moments of tragedy often tempt us to think this life as brutish. But we must not neglect to ask, brutish compared to what? We must not despair. We must be invigorated by gratitude for the gift of life, eternally enchanted by the mystery of love, life and death.

In our darkest hour, the bright stars of this country have come out unfailingly. We remember the lionhearted first responders – many unknown and countless unsung – ­often found undeserving of titles or national decorations of honor. These everyday heroes have risked their lives for us. Every single day these great men and women come through in the wake of tragedy. These stars came out at Westgate, resisting the temptation to plunder, and dodged bullets and dared death. We saw these stars come out to drench the dawn inferno at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with buckets in hand.

Ours is a land brimming with everyday heroes and bursting with ordinary miracles. We witnessed patriotism and unfailing citizen power. Ordinary citizens transcended small-minded differences, often amplified by politics, to reach out and extend love and hope in the hour of need. We are especially strong when state capability frays.

This last day must be about grateful contemplation – our triumphs and failings, our joys and tears. This last day is about our hopes and deepest aspirations. It is a celebration of the essence of our existence; ordinary miracles, love, family, citizenship and service. It is not about empty and contrived resolutions.

To my readers, especially those piqued by my views, your engagement enlivens me. You have my best wishes as we turn the page and write our singular, but shared life stories in the year 2014. May you find in yourself love, vigor and urgency to make Kenya, the only home we have, the most hopeful place on the planet.

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