BY MICHAEL RANNEBERGER
As I depart Kenya after half a decade of service as the U.S. Ambassador, I want to extend my profound appreciation to the Kenyan people for your warm hospitality, and for your friendship. I thank the Kenyan government and its leaders for their constructive engagement with me. I am delighted to be followed by such a worthy successor, Ambassador Scott Gration.
I leave with an enormous respect for the wisdom of the Kenyan people and for your determination to achieve the New Dawn promised by the Constitution. On behalf of my government – and with the strong support first of President Bush and then of President Obama – I worked to help resolve the post-election crisis, to support the constitutional review process, to empower the youth, and to promote reform and reconciliation.
During my tenure there has been an unprecedented expansion of the partnership between the United States and Kenya, which has increased five-fold over the past five years, and now amounts to over $3 billion in resource flows from the U.S. to Kenya annually. I was fortunate to have the support of a wonderful team at the U.S. Mission.
I am proud of the role I played, but mindful that you, the Kenyan people, have been and must continue to be the driving force for change. The agenda for change cannot and should not be imposed from the outside. I depart in the knowledge that a process of profound change is underway in Kenya. Attitudes and institutions are being transformed as Kenyans increasingly realise they must put the country first, because the well-being of each individual and community is linked to the well-being of all. Hollow political rhetoric resonates less than it once did, and people are increasingly questioning those who claim to be, or aspire to be, leaders.
Fundamental reform and change are essential to ensure the future democratic stability and prosperity of Kenya. I am confident that you will achieve this, but I also fully appreciate the serious challenges you face.
Powerful political forces are struggling to maintain the status quo, despite the fact that the Kenyan people have made clear they want to move the country forward by putting in place transparent, honest governance, and by ensuring that only the most reputable persons are appointed to key positions. Indeed, a struggle is underway for the heart and soul of the nation.
The necessary reform and change – including full implementation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution – cannot be achieved without the responsible, intensive, peaceful participation of all citizens in the democratic process. A heavy responsibility falls on you, the Kenyan people, and on all political leaders, to work together to end impunity, to counter negative ethnicity, and to promote national healing and reconciliation.
Seize this transformational moment to bring about fundamental reform through the democratic process. Hold leaders accountable; make clear that enough is enough. Reject hate speech. Insist on prosecution of corruption and the imprisonment of those found guilty. The U.S. Government will continue to speak out forthrightly and to provide strong support for your efforts – including in the search for truth and justice. Politicians who claim to control their “communities” – and to speak for them – are presumptuous, and individuals must carry their own burdens.
I am greatly encouraged that youth are increasingly working together across ethnic, political, and social lines to promote their common interests to secure a better future. Young people are more aware than ever of the realities in the country, and of their rights. They are increasingly determined not to be manipulated politically. The U.S. Government is deeply committed to continued support for the empowerment of the youth of Kenya. We will continue to implement the “Yes Youth Can” program and to work closely with the National Youth Forum and others to achieve this.
As I have traveled throughout Kenya, I have interacted with many of you through town hall forums and in other encounters. Many times wananchi have greeted me on the street or in shops, or called out as I was driving by, with words of support and encouragement. Many times I heard the refrain, “We’re behind you 100 percent,” and I always replied: “No, I’m behind you 100 percent!” Your national anthem is a prayer to unity and hope. I urge you to fulfill the great promise of this nation.
I know that many would have wished for a longer, more drawn out farewell, but emotions run high, and I thought a relatively quick and simple departure best. Many enriching experiences and magical moments color the recollections of my time in your wonderful country.
I am deeply honored and humbled to have been made an elder by many communities. I have learned a great deal, and I have developed an enormous respect for your culture and traditions.
For reasons both professional and personal, Kenya will always occupy a very special place in my mind and heart. The roots I put down will not be severed. I wish the Kenyan people a bright future.
(Michael Ranneberger is the outgoing ambassador of the United States)