Saturday, November 08, 2008


So Kenya declared a public holiday to celebrate Obama’s victory. A number of goats and bulls and countless chicken have met with premature death in the name of celebration. This is all good and befitting the man soon to reside in the best-known address in the USA. All this euphoric celebration made me think of the way we celebrated our own election results some ten months ago. Instead of slaughtering goats and chicken we slaughtered each other. Instead of letting the law and legally empowered institutions take action we hijacked that responsibility and went berserk. Instead of accepting defeat in humility and meekness we still harbor grudges and seek revenge. Yet when the Americans carry out the very same process and elect their leader, we shamelessly take to the streets in tumultuous celebration and declare holidays.

What is the lesson to be learned from the American elections? First is the maturity of democratic practice. People listen, reason and react. People do not react then reason. If the power of the spoken word is not backed by the power of the character behind the word, then the prospective candidate has no chance. In Kenya we want to back our words with force not character. That is why we have politicians hiring some goons to intimidate their opponents. We saw the humility of John McCain in his concession speech, if you are defeated, eat the humble pie and live to fight another day. But Kenyans are never losers, even if they get one per cent of the votes it is rigging and not democracy.

Second we must learn to cherish our institutions. Beginning with the election process. This must be made sacrosanct. It must be beyond manipulation and bias. This can only come about if we learn to man the institutions with competent men and women. Our social, economic and political fabric has been weakened by our allowing cronyism and payback is the guiding principles of appointing people to these institutions. We must transcend this and look at competence, integrity, patriotism and devotion to democratic ideals in the appointments.

Third we must learn to appreciate our own values. We should not rush to embrace only those who turn out to be successful. There are many Kenyans who in their own small ways should make us proud. Let us also celebrate them the way we celebrate this American whose father was a Kenyan.

Fourth every child out there ought to take heart and know that the only thing that can limit your becoming what you dream is you. Obama grew without a father in the house, his mother died of cancer, and his grandmother who did not live to savor his victory brought him up. This is typical of some boys out there and they should take heart that someone has walked the path and made it. This however does not mean the fathers should abscond from their responsibilities. But there is much to learn from this victory than claiming kinship and seeking favors. The greatest lesson to me is that dreams come, true, no matter how long it takes.

Some members of parliament are bending backward looking for appropriate preachers and priests to conduct public prayers of thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong with prayers but there is everything wrong if the purpose is to be seen to be most loyal and greatest praise singer of the US president-elect. Remember the IDPs in your backyard; they need more prayers and perhaps some handouts, if not their homes. When was the last time you called for prayers or help for them or visited them? If you are religious you might remember the saying that Jesus said that if you help any of these (referring to the children and suffering) you are doing it to me. Charity begins at home. Pray to Our Father who art in Heaven, not to the one who art the Whitehouse.

Lastly, if we are a working nation we need to change our attitude to work. Kenya has at least eleven official public holidays, more if you are a Hindu, more if the president visits your area and more if Obama wins elections. Thank God it is only possible one more time. Add to this the annual leave, sick leave, funeral leave and you have two months of working time off and paid. Kenya should rethink her work ethic. The policy of hanging jackets on chairs and closing offices for lunch should be reviewed. Stagger the lunch hours, even if this will dismantle the nyama choma lunch clubs, and deliver services whole day. Pay people per hour rather than per month or per day and this will improve productivity. Instead of a public holiday, Kenyans should have worked full day Saturday, and for free.

So my fellow Kenyans as we rush to establish kinship with the US president-elect, let us first cherish the kingdom we have in our land, nurture it, and learn from the lessons of the American Dream. Blood, sweat, toil, and fatalities of Civil War and civil rights movement marked the path walked by many before Obama could start on the journey towards the presidency of the United States of America. Let us not just see the breasting of the tape but the rigors of the journey, the agonies of the afflicted, the desperation of the destitute, let us pull them up for they too have a dream.

My sentiments exactly
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