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Let the proud Kenyans stand up

Najivunia kuwa Mkenya  is a Kiswahili  word for  "I am proud to be a Kenyan"  that is conspicuously printed on colourful hand bills circulated by the office of the Government Spokesman, Alfred Mutua.  The Spokesman is always reluctant to elaborate to curious Kenyans on what to be proud about in the country whose Golden Jubilee is less than four years away. 

Like any other citizen,  Dr Mutua is too familiar with the habitual chest thumping, self praise while the country mires in catalogues of failures that so far outweigh its successes. Our shortcomings and misplaced priorities are many and countless; but few examples illustrate the gravity of policy weaknesses and laxity in moving this country to another level.

The proud and enduring Kenyan sleeps on an empty  stomach because the shameless political class have depleted the strategic grain reserves in a race to a millionaire status. Rains have failed, drought has set in, livestock are dying in numbers as famine looms large with 10 million people threatened with starvation.

Eighteen months ago even a fool knew there would be famine after post election violence uprooted farming families from crop fields in the bread basket Rift Valley region. No emergency measures were put in place to forestall the looming disaster by those who want Kenyans to believe that everything is okay in the country that often boasts success in the vicinity of imminent failure.

The income per capita of some of the Asian Tigers was lower or compared to Kenya at independence in 1963.  Today, we are shameless beggars of famine relief from countries that were no better in economic terms. More than four decades later the country still imports sewing needles, razor blades and other cheap items from China amongst other Asian countries.

Amongst third world countries, Kenya is a lucky one that should be the last to be lumped together with failures.  It boasts infrastructure,  industries and communications network  unsurpassed by its contemporaries save for South Africa. 

Because of its strategic importance, the country hosts the headquarters of two UN specialised agencies whose expertise and resources are at the disposal of the country to push itself to role model level.  There are no immediate tangible plans to do away with unplanned settlements in urban areas and in the cities that house the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (HABITAT) Ironically, the country is home to the biggest slum in Africa amongst others that mushroomed in the post-independent period.

Another UN agency on environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is based here but the country is far off from being an environmental conservation model given the raging debate on water catchments destruction and careless waste disposal.   Unfortunately, we have not reciprocated the honour to host  these UN bodies. 

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It is worth noting that the leadership of this country once declared poverty, ignorance and disease as number one national enemies.  Today, these enemies are not our best of friends but are incontestable bedfellows of  some of  who survive on less than a dollar a day and resident in the many unplanned urban settlements.

Mr Government Spokesman, do the foregoing scenarios strike you as success stories to be proud of or should we be an object of self  pity?. Time  to  conduct a postmortem  on  when the rain started beating us  is now not tomorrow before reference is made on fifty years of  lost and missed opportunities.

Some of the countries with success records never chest-thump but do a lot of soul searching on how to  put food on the table. It is not a distant dream here though. A constitution should  be amended  now to allow  for a dual citizenship  so that  Kenyans  in the Diaspora  can  participate  in building this economy.

Those who suffer in silence are not amused at the Najivunia campaign  posters but make a mockery of the phrase "Navumilia Kama  Mkenya".

The writer is a former Cabinet Minister and  top official of two major political parties including the longest  ruling party, Kenya  African National Union (Kanu) email:


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