Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Glory of Kenya

Let all with one accord

In common bond united

Build this our nation together

And the glory of Kenya

The fruit of our labour

Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

Last stanza of the National Anthem

There hasn’t been much glory in Kenya lately. The body politic continues to spin out of control. The press regales us daily with detailed tales of who in government is doing what to whom. The country recoils with hunger; the nation limps on in despair.

The air is filled with the sounds of complaining and griping, moaning and blaming. Starting at the very top and trickling down to the very bottom. The Minister of Justice complains of corruption and the slow delivery of justice. The Minister for Energy moans about the disappearance of oil. The Minister of the Metropolis gripes about the inefficiencies at the City Council. The Minister of Gender bemoans the absence of women in high level appointments. The Minister for Agriculture shouts for the umpteenth time ‘It wasn’t me’. The Prime Minister says his life is in danger. The President’s wife complains of inefficient male ministers. The President complains about his wife’s complaint. And the entire population complains about everything else.

In Kenya today, it is all too easy to point fingers and there are more candidates for blame than fingers to point. But I should be slow to cast the first stone since I am the single biggest culprit in the woes that have befallen the land; I together with my fellow countrymen and women. For we freely chose the men and women whom we have made a hobby of disdaining in private and dismissing in public– the 222 who run this country on our behalf and make the laws by which we live but which do not bind them. And it is I together with my brethren who shrink daily from our sovereign responsibility to call these honourable individuals to order when they step out of line, and resort instead to endless complaining.

And so today, although the temptation to complain is overwhelming, I must choose a higher road, a more excellent path. I must pause and contemplate the Kenya I will set out to build for my children and their children after them. I do so with faith that there are many patriotic citizens who, like me, are concerned that we have chosen to murmur where we should be working; and to weep where we should be fighting for the survival of ourselves and our country.

Rather than watching the morals of the nation go down the drain we should vigorously promote virtue in our own private lives, in our homes, in our communities, on our roads, in our workplaces. We must take personal responsibility to make our personal spaces a little part of the Kenya we want. We must create little islands of excellence every day and have faith that at some point in the not too distant future, these islands will meet and squeeze out those in our midst who labour to destroy rather than to build.

In private therefore, I choose to consider every moment of every day as an opportunity to build Kenya. I will make myself aware that every time I choose to act unjustly in private, I am destroying my own island of hope and so postponing that day that we all work towards when the glory of Kenya shall be realized and fill every heart with thanksgiving. It is a project of great honesty. For it allows no space to drink water in public while imbibing wine in private. It leaves no room for pointing fingers because all the hands available will be too busy building the new foundations of our nationhood.

This personal responsibility will inevitably lead to our public greatness as a people. It will contribute to creating a Kenyan society that is - to paraphrase 18th Century English writer, Samuel Johnson - opulent without luxury, and powerful without faction; its counsels will be steady, because they will be just; and its efforts vigorous, because they will be united. The governors will have nothing to fear from the turbulence of the people, nor the people anything to apprehend from the ambition of the governors.

The encroachments of calamities we cannot always avoid, but we will certainly be prepared to defend ourselves, for scarce any civilized nation has ever been enslaved till it was first corrupted… Difference of opinions will never disturb our community, because every person will dispute for truth alone, look upon the ignorance of others with compassion, and reclaim them from their errors with tenderness and modesty. Persecution will not be heard of among us, because there will be no pride on one side, nor obstinacy on the other. Disputes about property will seldom happen, because no man or woman will grow rich by injuring another.

As I call on my fellow countrymen and women to unite with one accord in order to build this our nation together so that the glory of Kenya, the fruit of our labour, might fill every heart with thanksgiving, the prayer of Rabindranath Tagore rings in my ears with increasing urgency:

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up

Into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depths of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not

Lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by Thee

Into ever-widening thought and action –

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,

Let my country awake.

In the big scheme of things, Kibaki and Raila, Karua and Ruto, Uhuru and Saitoti, mean nothing. They will be confined to the footnotes of history before you can say “Kenya Tuitakayo.” You are free to choose to join them on their long journey to nowhere, or you can hide behind the fig leaf of endless complaining.

As for me and my house, we choose to work towards building a new Kenya, one where the dark days of despair shall soon begin to give way to our new season of hope.

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