Sunday, July 26, 2015

Obama Visit: Kenya Must Borrow a Leaf

Kenyans are more inclined to American politics more than any nation in the globe since Barack Obama, who derives his ancestral heritage in Kenya was elected President in 2008.

The lingering question we need to ask ourselves is this: have we learnt any lesson from the USA’s model of governance in order to improve our own or we are just proud to be associated with the most powerful country led by a President who shares our roots?

Last week, CNN branded Kenya a hot bed for terrorism while doing an analysis on President Obama’s visit which attracted a barrage of condemnations from Kenyans at home and abroad. For me, the report was a solid reality and not a fallacy.

Kenya is one of the biggest terror targets not because the terrorists hate us more but because we have faulty lines caused by a corrupt security system and the government’s incompetence to act upon available intelligence on impending attacks.

Remember, from Westgate Mall, Garissa, Mandera and Lamu; Kenya’s intelligence Service was aware but failed to mitigate the attacks.

Those who got offended by CNN’s use of “hot bed” to describe our vulnerabilities as a terror spot need to remember that, we are indeed a hot bed not only as a terrorism target, but also other vices like corruption, inequality, injustice and nepotism. Let us not whitewash the truth just because it was highlighted by a foreign media.

Remember, desperation mostly caused by corruption, unemployment and inequality, has made many young Kenyans to be radicalized by joining Al-Shabaab terrorist gang.

Back to Obama’s visit, we got excited that he landed in style and glamour in the land of his father. We felt more attached to the most powerful country and its leader in the globe. However, how can public and private citizens capture the utility of Obama’s visit to enhance the future of Kenya?

More importantly, if current leaders in government will ignore the speeches delivered by Obama in Gigiri and Kasarani, we may as well conclude that we are doomed as a nation. Remember, whoever fails to learn from his big brother with global feelers like Obama is either impervious or allergic to progressive leadership.

President Obama spoke eloquently about the impediments which bedevils the success of Kenya. He spoke about the-get-rich-quick methods by public servants which has stifled service delivery and ruined foreign investment. He stressed the need to address inequality which affects marginalized groups like women.

Shying from the truth on the state of our nation isn’t fair at all especially when we are in a quandary on many fronts for instance: the government’s unwillingness to nurture transparency and accountability in public affairs, lack seriousness to fight graft and inequality and a biased justice system which favours the rich at the expense of the poor.

President Obama urged Kenyans to change their attitudes if they expected to transform the country. I agreed with him that corruption can only be tackled if both leaders and citizens are ready to say enough is enough to stop the vice.  

I extend my accolades to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his great eloquence and confidence during a joint press conference with President Obama. He did great beyond our expectations.

However, the tragedy is: when you have a President who rocks in eloquence but is ambivalent to turn his words into action, you have a stagnated country. After all, oratorical prowess is a plus for a leader but cannot add value when it’s not translated into action.

If we can slowly adapt the American brand of politics since we borrowed heavily from their model constitution, it can help us to spur our governance- ensuring accountability, improving public service, safeguarding justice, democracy and the rule of law.

If you admire your neighbour’s manicured lawn, you need to learn how to manicure your own lawn… let us borrow a leaf from Obama’s visit and the USA’s governance systems to improve Kenya.

I urge Kenyans citizens irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds not to be shrouded in ethnic linens; often voting leaders with questionable integrity merely because of sharing an ethnic dialect. Remember, the Americans from all races voted for Obama in 2008 and honoured him for a second term in 2012 despite being black.

Finally, Obama didn’t just come to lecture us but to share his ideas and experiences. He was very candid on how the US keeps trying workable systems for improvement.  He challenged us to choose between improvement and changing our attitudes in order to float and swim as a nation or sink and drown.
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