No Kenyan should die because of an election

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America’s Founding Fathers took a step 241 years ago; a step of extraordinary courage… a step that has echoed across the years. In our Declaration of Independence, they declared themselves and the 13 colonies they represented to be free.

We honor the brave men who signed our Declaration of Independence. The declaration began a revolution that continues to today… a revolution that promises liberty, equality, and justice for all. We are not yet finished; more remains to be done to realize fully the ideals.

Nevertheless, for over two centuries, across the world, our Declaration has inspired and moved men and women who dream of a better future for themselves and their children.

America is strong because we hold true to the principles and values set out in the Declaration, and in our Constitution. America is successful because of our diversity. We are a nation of many traditions, cultures, religions, and languages. We come from everywhere… from England, from India, from China, from Mexico, from Egypt, from my great grandparent’s home, Slovenia, and, yes, from Kenya.

And we are brought together – thanks to our Declaration and our Constitution – through democracy to forge a shared future. In America, it is democracy that lights the way.

And so it is in Kenya too. Kenya, just like America, fought for its freedom and its democracy. And, as Kenyans approach elections in just over a month, Americans stand with you – with your constitution and your democracy. To be clear, the United States does not support any candidate or any political party.

We support the Kenyan people’s right to chart their own course. We support the democratic process. We support Kenyans having a free, fair, credible, and peaceful opportunity to choose their own leaders and decide Kenya’s future on August 8.

Over my nearly five years in Kenya, I have crisscrossed your great and beautiful country many times. I have seen so much of its remarkable diversity and rich heritage. I’ve spoken with pastoralists in Turkana, artists in Taita-Taveta, entrepreneurs in Nakuru, elders in Meru, fishermen in Lamu, young people in Kisumu, women activists in Garissa, farmers in Laikipia, and religious leaders in Eldoret.

From them, I’ve learned that Kenyans want peace, the rule of law, good governance, and prosperity for their country. They want jobs, a good education, a clean environment, a safe and healthy community, and a bright future for their children. I’ve learned that Kenya’s diversity – just like America’s – is its strength.

As a friend, the United States is doing all it can to help Kenya hold successful elections on August 8. For example, we are assisting the IEBC, supporting voter education, and contributing to peace-building. But while our support is important, only Kenyans can ensure the polls are free, fair, credible, and peaceful. All Kenyans should exercise their right to participate while refraining from hate speech and incitement to violence.

I’ve said this before, and I will again: No Kenyan should die because of an election. From my experience in this great country, I know Kenyans can hold successful elections… if they work together and commit themselves to the principles of their Constitution. If Kenyans do, they will build a remarkable future and inspire Africa and the world.

And as you do so, the United States will continue to stand with Kenya, our steadfast partner for over 50 years. Our relationship is a rich tapestry, woven of many threads. It includes our excellent government-to-government relations. We work together to improve health care, educate children, assist farmers, and build prosperity. And, we stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The tapestry includes the growing number of American companies investing in Kenya’s future. American business contributes to Kenyan manufacturing, telecommunications, aviation, and much more. Our firms create tens of thousands of jobs for Kenyans.

Education is another piece of the tapestry. American universities collaborate with Kenyan universities in medicine, business, and countless other fields. The University of Nairobi alone has more than 50 partnerships with American universities.

This year, over 3,000 Kenyan students are attending colleges across the United States, including every school in the prestigious Ivy League. And American students and professors are here in Kenyan at many of your schools to learn from you.

And the tapestry includes the deep personal ties between Kenyans and Americans. These ties are created by the more than 100,000 Kenyans living in the United States and the 20,000 Americans living here. Another 100,000 Americans visit Kenya each year to see your beautiful country for themselves.

From each thread in the US-Kenya tapestry, our partnership, our friendship, is woven.In the past year, we have gone from strength to strength. But I know – you know – we can do more yet. Together, we can accomplish so much. Together, we are realizing the hopes and dreams of both Kenyans and Americans for a better world.

(Godec is the United States Ambassador to Kenya)

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