Kenya, The Puzzling Jigsaw

In 1963, during which Kenya was lowering the Union Jack for the last time in this country and we raised the red, black and green both physically and figuratively, we were richer than South Korea economically and competing with the likes of Malaysia. South Korea was grappling with severe poverty and in 1962 the government decided to introduce the Economical Development Plan of 1962 of whose fruits they are witnessing today. So dire the situation that Kenya actually donated loan and relief aid to South Korea in 1963. Imagine that? When president Obama's father left for studies in America, Kenya was actually richer than South Korea. Kenya on the other hand was in the midst of clamoring for self rule which she achieved a year later. We had an energetic workforce ready to build her country in the hopes that we would milk and drink the spoils of having one of our own as our ruler. We had a bountiful of resources that would galvanize any nations to an economic powerhouse status. We were on a white canvas ready to be made beautiful. I would have loved to live in that time. The possibilities must have been endless.

South Korea is, as of 2012, 25 times richer than Kenya. They are one of the most powerful nations in the world. Companies such as Samsung and Hyundai are from South Korea. They have hosted a world cup and are at the forefront of the worlds industrialized nations. Oh, I forgot to mention, South Korea paid back the loan in three years. How do you explain this bewildering outcome? I am sure you've heard the joke everywhere online; An African and an Asian make friends at a university in America before becoming politicians in their home countries. Years later, the African visits the Asian and is impressed by his mansion, with a Mercedes-Benz in the drive. "How can you afford this?" he asks. The Asian points to a majestic highway outside. "See that road?" he says with a wink. "Ten per cent." Later the Asian visits the African's home - a palace with a dozen Mercedes-Benz. Anticipating the question, the African says: "See that road?" The Asian sees bushes. "100 per cent."

It's frustrating. Like having all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but constantly and consistently putting them in the wrong end of the puzzle. Every country has their struggles but Kenya, like the majority of African countries lack certain qualities that if overcome will make us much greater than we are today.

One of the major sore is bad governance. You cannot separate politics and development. As our second president aptly put it, "Siasa mbaya, maisha mbaya" (Bad governance leads to a bad life). We lack visionary leadership. And if you do your research you will notice that this is heavily inculcated by the founding fathers of African countries. Look at Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, they are celebrated as examples of good governance. They did not see a country that was but a country that could be. Nkrumah eliminated tribalism and was well known for his Pan-Africanism approach, Nyerere fostered and entrenched unity for all Tanzanians and Mandela, well, Mandela was on a league of his own. But see their visionary leadership has been emulated long after they are gone. Good governance trickles down generations.

You may not like me saying it but the brutal truth is Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's founding father, failed to curb ethnic differences that were just suspiciousness at independence. He consolidated power among his henchmen who were bias from his tribe. A practice that failed to be stopped by later rulers. And even troubling is that he failed to reward and recognize the true fighters of independence, including members of his own tribe who were at the heart of the struggle. The emergence of the outlawed mungiki gang, a trickle down from disgruntled Mau Mau children, a few years back proves this. Same way good governance trickles down generations, bad governance does the same. Tribalism is now a fully grown monster that showed its true color in the violence that erupted in 2008. And sadly, we have yet to pay the teacher for those lessons, we are yet to learn. We can actually trace the roots of our insecurity to tribalism and corruption. In order for Kenya to be truly great, we have to treat each other with equality no matter your last name or how you look like or from what region you are from.

Another area that would make Kenya a force is Education. We have long cried about our crippled education system and an overhaul is long overdue. The recent burning of a school and the arrest of several student caught with illegal drugs have raised the debate on our education system. But just like clockwork, the debate will have died down by next week and we'll move on to some socialite who has a new tattoo. The fact is we are not producing world beaters in terms of academics. Our education is geared towards certain grades and not equal opportunities for those who are not gifted academically. A student will do everything, legal or illegal just for good grades. In the end we have graduates with degrees and no tangible difference in the graduate. Neither academically nor in the integrity of this person. And not just education, the same can be said in our athletics, football, music, and even in science, research and the greater arts. We've made progress but we are not doing enough.

Finally, I cant stress this enough; We don't see the bigger picture. We run for leadership positions for the wrong reasons, we seek employment for the money, we go into business to be called entrepreneurs. Don't get me wrong, it is not bad to want such things for ourselves, but who is it benefiting? Will it outlive you? Will your great grand children benefit? Will your community be beneficiaries? Do those who benefit have the potential to spread these gains to other communities and future generations? We have to stop thinking about the me, here and now and think of what impact we want to have in the next century. We have to start seeing the bigger picture.

When we solve these; visionary leadership, good educations system, embracing different ethnicity and voting in competent leaders and encapsulating all these in a big grand picture we will be well on our way to becoming a nation we can all be proud of.

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