The whistle-stop state visits Deputy President Ruto and his entourage made to Central and West African nations achieved tremendous success going by its mission and intent. In some quarters, most likely for lack of facts, this mission generated heat of kiln proportions but very little light.
This 15-person strong delegation was my first ever official trip since I was sworn in as Senator. I can attest without any fear of contradiction whatsoever that it was a memorable and worthy eye-opener to members of our delegation as it was to our hosts.
Mr Ruto’s entourage comprised government leaders drawn from several departments and hierarchies. In the spirit of role-sharing and creating synergy, each stratum represented took home its portion of assignments from the overall experience offered by the trip. This, in my opinion, is the way to erase presumption and second-guessing on the part of those involved in formulating government policy.
That this is Africa’s moment is no longer idle talk anywhere in the world. And Kenya’s current regime is aware that romanticizing Africa without taking real action in propping it up, clothing her people with dignity and guaranteeing them security is a waste of time.
Africa is the world’s next frontier and also home to vast resources that the rest of the world is thirsty for. Yet, because of a colonial heritage dictated to by multiple masters, Africa has not found a coherent voice that can mobilize states right round the continent to approach issues that affect her from a united front.
This lack of coherence in her approach to solving her challenges has made Africa vulnerable to all manner of manipulation and misuse by all divergent selfish interests across the globe. This sad situation in turn has made nonsense of the ever elusive quest for lasting peace in the continent and also denied her of the chance to trade profitably with her more than one billion-strong population.
Kenya’s current regime, encouraged especially by her privileged geopolitical position in the continent has decided to play a leading role in ensuring that Africa benefits fully from her status and resources. The re-emerging pan-Africanism – and the desire to go beyond mere armchair ideological posturing of the 1960s – requires closer bilateral cooperation and lasting watch-my-back-I-watch-yours friendship.
In a nutshell, the foregoing summarizes the rhyme and reason of the much misunderstood Ruto-led delegation to Central and West Africa.
During this trip, I was shocked to realise that parts of Central and West Africa still import basic commodities such as foodstuff from Europe. In fact, whole populations in that part of the continent are hooked to Europe in a manner that manifestly stifles the development of their own region. The irony is that some of the goods citizens of the countries we visited need are readily available in other parts of the continent. African countries must surely find ways of talking and reaching out to each other. After all, the challenges facing the continent are not too dissimilar.
If there ever was a living threat to Africa’s peace and prosperity it is in the security sector. In the present day setting cross-border criminals, drug dealers, freebooters, economic hit-men and assorted saboteurs of the rule of the law have easier time exchanging information and finding their way to any part of the continent. Such derelict and their accomplices are a security nightmare in the wider sense.
To contain them, elaborate interstate security collaboration is an absolute necessity. With my experience in Central and West Africa, I am persuaded that unless we deliberately curtail Africa’s security threats, our efforts to improve our lot will always come to naught. To that end, the Ruto-led sojourn to Central and West Africa opened fresh impetus to re-evaluate and act upon security hurdles in the continent.
Africa does not have a choice but to share the burden of her displaced peoples so that the weight does not overwhelm and disadvantage some parts of the continent at the expense of development. Kenya currently is host to over one million refugees – 600,000 of them of Somali extraction in Dadaab alone.
This, by any means, is a heavy load. While the solution does not lie in distributing the refugees among African nations, it is instructive that the case for peace is taken as a continental mandate so that we reduce the runaway numbers of civil strife.
The desire of the Uhuru-Ruto government to grow the economy by double digit is well within reach if the African market opens doors further to our tea, airline network and so on.
Ruto’s was a sowing mission. The diversionary outbursts sound more like products of malevolence, misinformation and myopia. So before we shout ourselves hoarse over the nitty-gritty of the visit to Central and West Africa, let us not forget that we harvest where we have sown.
Naisula Lesuuda (OGW) is a Senator, Communication consultant and Peace Ambassador.