Obama, Pope visits will revive Kenya’s cultural, social-economic hopes


Kenya is galvanised with exuberance following confirmed visits of US President Barack Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church this year.

While the two are coming for their own distinct commitments, the former for the annual 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 and the latter, a maiden pastoral visit to Africa, these are defining historical moments depicting Kenya’s increasing status in sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

Both leaders have whipped the country into a collective frenzy and it is not gainsaid to see why they are probably the two most influential individuals in the global socio-political and spiritual realms.

Both have integral implications to Kenya’s socio-econo-political and cultural setting. To many Kenyans, Obama’s lineage makes his visit a homecoming voyage than a commitment to Africa through last year’s US-Africa Leaders’ Summit to focus on trade and investment in Africa.

Through the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), part of that commitment, the meeting of entrepreneurial, government, foundations, social entrepreneurs, business people, venture capitalists and foundations will only benefit the investment space in Kenya.

Obama’s moniker as leader of the world, charged with global responsibilities to shape the world accordingly, around democratic values and ideals of equality among all, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to pursue happiness is hugely expected to illuminate positively on Kenya’s growing democracy.

On the flipside, Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Kenya’s is profound to not only the Kenyan Catholic faith but the Christian fraternity at large. The Pope is not only the supreme pontiff on earth, rather he symbolises hope itself. His presence will bolster the ethical, moral, and inspiring traditions of faith in Kenya and the region, bringing peace, a new ray of hope and spiritual bliss.

These visits come at an opportune time when Kenya is working earnestly to promote national unity in Kenya – through processes and policies encouraging elimination of all forms of ethnic discrimination irrespective of background, social circle, race and ideological belief(s).

If the 2007 post-election violence opened our Pandora’s Box of ethno-centric sensitivities, undercutting the national common good, exposing our economic underbelly, pushing us to the periphery of international pariahdom through an ICC litigation process, then these visits should be seen as vindication of our country’s restoration process.

According to the White House, ‘Kenya’s selection as the location for this year’s summit highlights the country’s role as an economic leader in East Africa and the dynamism and innovation that characterises Kenya’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.’

With diverse low-hanging fruits expected to spark innovative enterprises, these high-profile visits will create an understanding of the close co-relation between a National Values System to economic and social stability, improved institutional effectiveness, a strengthened democratic process, and a strong national identity- all of which are a precursor to creating an enabling environment for achievement of business and social dreams.

Certainly, Kenya’s Constitution, in Article 10 of the Constitution seeks to ensure this is achieved by codifying a set of values and principles geared towards unifying and integrating Kenyans into a cohesive society guided by national values and the principles of governance.

In Obama’s political triumph in a world’s most advanced political civilization and Pope Francis’ expected interfaith reconciliation, both visits could serve as lessons to appreciate our own underestimated diversity, which provides this country with strengths of proportional magnitude and submits to put in place measures that enhance ethnic acceptance and accommodation of other emerging identities.

Kenya is at the cusp of a transformation, only determined by our ability to unite as a nation and around our common aspirations as Kenyans. To echo our President HE Uhuru Kenyatta, ‘Kenya is not a collection of 42 tribes who have to live together.’ Let’s work together and build a united Kenya leveraging on the tremendous potential for growth and development.

This will not only earn us respect in the global stage but will also help to build structures that will improve the lives of Kenyans in social, political and economic spectrums.

(Sakaja is the National Chairman of TNA and Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunities)

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