BY CANON REV PETER KARANJA
Last week ended with somewhat good news on the efforts towards fighting the current famine.
The government emphasised that it had set aside about Sh14 billion for various projects while the efforts of ordinary Kenyans and corporate organisations yielded over Sh500 million in the Kenyans4Kenya initiative.
Special appreciation goes to every Kenyan and the companies that gave towards the great initiative. More acknowledgements to every Kenyan who has in one way or another assisted in this crisis in their small way. May be at work, in your church or by feeding a neighbour, all these efforts deserve appreciation.
The word of God commends those who reach out to assist the ones in need around us. Our Lord Jesus in Mathew 25:40 reminds us that, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
On the positive side, the resilience of Kenyans as exhibited by the Kenyans4Kenya initiative and individual and organisational efforts is impressive and encouraging. Beyond the giving and the saving of lives the collective action of Kenyans exhibited the power of unity and resolve.
It validated our long standing conviction at the National Council of Churches of Kenya, that Ordinary Kenyans can be the change they want to see even as we continue to hold those in power accountable. The private sector and the citizenry have shown the good example of commitment and sacrifice for a better Kenya.
On the negative side, we must ask ourselves difficult questions: What are the concrete plans of government on the table to address the perennial water problems of the people in the North? What have the MPs of northern Kenya done using the CDF and the funds meant for the arid and semi arid areas? Do we have any rain water harvesting initiatives, however amateurish?
That ordinary Kenyans are giving to feed hungry Kenyans even after paying tax should put government to shame. This is clear evidence of failure on those responsible for public affairs.
After the emergency is gone, we must ask the question, “How do we harness the resolve, unity of purpose and goodwill of Kenyans for causes which promote human dignity and national pride?”
The media has done a superb job in highlighting the problem and mobilising support.
Is it possible for the media to withdraw their unwarranted focus given to prominent politicians and mobilise attention to the causes, initiatives, personalities and institutions which engage receptively and creatively on initiatives and programmes that transform lives and our nation?
Kenyans will walk alongside and reward media whose focus is their good and not the interests of persons pursuing personal good at public cost and whose only values is mere rhetoric.
What if corporate organisations put together a percentage of their Corporate Social Responsibility budget into a basket fund to finance projects and programmes that change communities’ landscapes for the better?
Our corporates have networks and expertise which if well applied can establish interventions of great value. A collective effort will always achieve so much more value than piece meal subjective small partial interventions. If they led the way and the media gave the necessary support many smaller organisations and individual Kenyans can continue to give to such worthy causes.
Indeed if the media, corporations, professional organisations and leaders sustained the “think about Kenya first” spirit we will keep all ordinary Kenyans mobilised.
Such efforts would be by no means a substitute for taxpayer funded development and targeted intervention measures when we have genuine crisis.
Indeed it would lead the way in demonstrating to politicians and public officers the direction in which Kenyans want to see themselves led towards. It would provide a yardstick for measuring the relevance of such officers. It would increasingly liberate the ordinary Kenyans from the ridiculous grip charismatic politicians seem to have over them.
I appeal that we use the lessons learned from the Kenyans for Kenya initiative as an entry into a different conversation among Kenyans.
(Canon Rev Karanja is the General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Kenya)