, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – I woke up this morning and it dawned on me that the holidays truly are here. I wondered why it doesn’t feel like the Christmas of yester years, when carols were being played in homes at the beginning of December and the streets of Nairobi were usually deserted with families having gone up-country to visit their relatives.
What has changed? Surely, it can’t be the effects of the global economic crisis and post-election violence coming home to roost? Or could it be? Can these two issues completely obliterate the Christmas Spirit?
As a country, we have gone through a great deal but we also have much to celebrate. We have been to the edge and have made it back from the brink of war. We heard earlier of families turning against their loved ones because they were of a different tribe, but we also heard of strangers giving their time and love to people they barely knew. We have witnessed poverty and hunger that makes a young mother feed her children “Ugali and salty water”. And it has been very disheartening. But as Martin Luther King said, “… only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”
On a personal front, I have been tried and tested. I have been through fire like never before, but I am very encouraged. For fire sharpens the sword and trials build character. My eyes have been opened, I know that I am not alone and am ready to take on whatever else is slung at me.
As we wind up the year, I want to encourage those who’ve been through fire and have come out somewhat scathed. A voyager who doesn’t encounter some turbulent waters never quite feels as if he/she has sailed the high seas. Even more encouraging is the fact that true leadership is forged in times of great trial and instability. You must remain hopeful; you must work harder for a better tomorrow; and together we’ll show the world that we may be down but not out.
It is also worth noting that there is a movement; a stirring in the hearts of our Kenyan brothers and sisters. They are no longer afraid to speak out on issues affecting us, be it about maize flour, taxation or the media bill. This is the calling of great leaders; that they may carry the cross for others who are under oppression, are weak or voiceless. For this reason, I am optimistic that 2009 will be a better year. As a country, we will continue to scale greater heights of prosperity, equity, fairness and justice. I challenge you therefore, to reign in the Christmas spirit of giving. Share the little that you have with those around you, especially those without.
I take this opportunity to remember the Internally Displaced Persons, whose families are still languishing in camps around the country. I want to let them know that, even if they do not have the resources to celebrate Christmas, Jesus also died for the needy who may not have a place to call home. This is the true meaning of Christmas. I call upon our leaders to stop and take note of the needs of our IDPs, who also have the capacity to be our future leaders.
I hope that as we relax and enjoy ourselves, Kenyans will be invigorated to come back to the drawing board in the New Year, and map strategies that can resolve common and recurring problems related to food and hunger. We must also be able to deal with problems attributed to the soaring inflation which diminishes the buying power of Kenyans and makes it really difficult for them to meet the needs of their loved ones.
I want to remember our poorly paid civil servants in the education and medical services sector. Year in, year out they have continued to dedicate their lives to giving the citizens of this country their very best. I hope that our Legislators will seriously consider their needs and the benefits that the country derives from their services and adjust their salary levels to comparatively competitive rates. In the future when we have accomplished Vision 2030, I would hope that we will pay them the best the country can afford instead of our leaders serving their own interests first.
To our media fraternity, there has been much clamor and clatter about the Media bill. But it is not an end in itself. I implore those in the industry to self-evaluate before reporting. Let them continually question themselves on whether they are being fair and objective, whether the information is to the best interest of the citizenry, whether they are supporting and highlighting developmental issues and causes and whether we can all do more. As leaders, we should lead by example and practice what we preach.
I am concerned about our environment and wonder whether we are being good stewards of what has been entrusted to us. From Mt. Kenya, to Mt. Longonot, to Mt. Elgon, to the Aberdares, to the Mau, Tana River and others not mentioned here, I emphasise that these are all critical catchment areas and are equally important to our well-being. Let us firmly resolve to protect them so that our environment and natural resources are not diminished and we together with our offspring can continue to richly enjoy them. It is my belief that we can live a legacy through which our offspring will be proud and grateful to their forefathers.
I dream, hope and pray that as President -elect Obama takes over in January, Kenyans will be ready to celebrate and support him and the Americans. He is a great son of our land as well as of America, and I urge our leaders to emulate his passion, his selflessness, and his willingness to put aside his own interests in order that he may serve his people. I wish him God’s wisdom as he takes on this very important role.
My final prayer is that we will improve security in the country and empower our police force to deal with upcoming and present imminent threats. May we protect our women who are our mothers, sisters, wives and children as they build our country. May we entrench and in-calculate values in our children that make Kenya a country that is respected and admired. And may our youth learn to live responsibly.
To our political and religious leaders, we will continue to look upon you for guidance especially for the youth who own this country.
Merry Christmas to all Kenyans and foreigners residing here, may your lives be full of blessings.
(Mr Kirubi is the Chairman, Capital Group Limited)