Karibu to the smiling nation

August 28, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 28 – Ranked as a developing country, Kenya is a unique land that leaves a lot to be desired.

The country is rich in exceptional resources that draw the whole world to its doorstep, one of which is Kenya’s outstanding tourism attraction that ranges from animals to natural sights that cannot be found anywhere else.

The more than 40 tribes offer an affluent diversity of cultures and languages.

But the country has its dark side that many Kenyans are ashamed of: massive corruption.

The post election violence also served to brand the East African country with yet another name, closely related to genocide.

However, despite the numerous ups and downs, there is somebody that thinks differently of Kenya.

The superb smile

German Ambassador Walter Lindner describes Kenya as a resilient country. He says that even with the sweeping poverty and dehumanising conditions that more than half the population lives in, their hopes never die.

Lindner is a different ambassador.

He says: “The concept in Kenya or in other African countries of an ambassador is a different one. An ambassador is filthy rich, you can’t talk to him because he is always surrounded by yes men and he likes the titles and hanging out in helicopters and golf courses. If this is the ambassador you have in mind then I am not that one.”

True to his words, Lindner is a man who went to the middle of Kibera – one of the most violent and dangerous slums during the post election crisis – to moralise peace.

His urge to understand the country even deeper saw the ambassador visit several other slums within the city of Nairobi; namely Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mathare 4 and Kawangware.

Through his visits, the ambassador says he was shocked to realise how inhumanly most of the population in the country lived.  But he is happy for one thing he found inspiring; something that he has decided to borrow from the Kenyan people: The strength to smile, even when there seems to be no sign of a way out!

“The most interesting thing is how people keep smiling and are happy even if they are at the worst economic conditions. In Germany, I think people we would have a high suicide rate if people lived in such conditions,” he said.

The envoy continues: “When you go to Turkana, people have almost nothing, but if you talk to them and they are smiling, just smile back and they just become incredibly happy. That’s something we can learn when we are nagging in the German Supermarkets demanding for different types of sausages, while you already have forty types!” 

He says there is a lot to learn out there, especially the struggles those who have nothing undergo to make ends meet.

Political class a let down

Lindner however sympathises with the poor smiling faces. Despite the hassles and the hardships to make a better Kenya, politicians seem to have turned a deaf ear to their cries.

“My one wish is for the politicians to consider they are elected by the people and work for them. They should be responsible, not coming to power and start to eat for his family and his ethnic group but for Kenya…. They should look back and check their real achievements, not five new cars,” he spells out.

Lindner, who is also a musician, has widely networked with several local artistes in the country. Through his network, he says he has seen determined young people make a successful career out of music.

For this reason, he managed to get a slot for Kenya’s Eric Wainaina and the Mystic Fusion Band to perform in Berlin in September, during a conference of German ambassadors.

Wainaina will play his song, Daima Mimi Mkenya at the conference, where former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will be the guest of honour.

He says Kenya is a special country that has something in common to share with the Federal Republic of Germany – a coalition government.

He says despite the hard times resultant of the post election violence, the country rose up and united once again.

The ambassador is particularly pleased that the coalition is so far working hard and that people have stopped fighting.

But most of all, his love and joy of living in Kenya are the generous hearts of hope, strength and resilience of the people, who no matter how huge the difficulties may be are always laughing and smiling.


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