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What does it take to keep the Kenyan spirit alive?


On Wednesday morning I woke up to poignant TV scenes from Chile where some 33 miners who had been trapped for almost 70 days were being rescued. I remember watching the build up to the rescue efforts and how the entire Chilean nation united behind the miners and their families, turning the event into a national affair, when even the Mining Minister had to set up camp at the site.

On Thursday morning, President Sebastian Pinera popped a bottle of champagne as the whole country celebrated their ability to handle a calamity of such magnitude.

I am told that during the cold war days, countries would use such events to boast of their prowess in handling such matters and this, by extent, gave their nationals that feel-good attitude that gives one the audacity to brag that their country is the best in the world.

It is this thought that made me wonder what would make us Kenyans draw such a sense of patriotism – seeing how we recently reduced a major ceremony as the enactment of our Constitution into a back-and-forth about one foreigner in attendance.

Let me rephrase: What would it take for us, to show the Kenyan spirit that we are famed for all over the world but never exhibit right here at home?

I know some of you would be quick point to your support for our athletics, rugby or even football team but then I would ask you how long it takes for the sense of pride to die down soon after a victorious match or race.

Sample this: This week, my office colleagues and I watched our 4×400 metres men’s relay team at the finals of the Delhi Commonwealth games. I observed, with interest, as some workmates started off by rubbishing our boys, only for them to change their tune when it appeared evident that we were headed for a podium finish.

Take another example; during the Harambee Stars Vs Uganda Cranes match at the Nyayo National Stadium over the weekend less than 2,000 Ugandan fans painted Nairobi yellow and also out-cheered us (and how many Kenyans were we in that Stadium again excluding the PM, the VP and their security detail ?).

So the question I ask is; what exactly would make you feel Kenyan?

I attended a talk by former Trade Minister Dr Mukhisa Kituyi who shared with us that the difficulty of marketing Kenya when the citizens have not internalized the image.

Dr Kituyi told of a recent conference that was held in Rwanda where a delegate showered praise on Kenya but was quick to add that Kenyans are instead portraying themselves as being the most corrupt people in the world, having the most inefficient systems in the world…… I don’t have to belabour the point; I think I know what I\’m talking about.

In short what the Rwandese delegate was saying is that we are our own worst enemies.

So why are we always more than willing to pull the rag from beneath ourselves? I have a simple theory for an answer – we can’t help it because for ages we have relied on others to define us. We have fought amongst ourselves to the point that we have forgotten how it feels to be a united nation…the feeling that urges you to rise up early on a cold, rainy morning to witness a national event such as the promulgation of the new Constitution.

You see, it’s not the big things that are remembered the most. It the small things that matter and that always stick with us.

In short it’s not our politicians, our media or international media that give us a bad image; we are individually responsible for it.

(Laban Wanambisi is a political/ parliamentary affairs reporter with Capital FM)

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