What it will take to have the ‘Kenya we want’


Published on 05/02/2009

By Standard Team

High-level corruption, tribalism and the bitter legacy of post-election violence dominated debate on the first day of The Kenya We Want conference in Nairobi Wednesday.

Former President Moi shared the stage with President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to warn Kenya was hurtling towards failed statehood due to weak leadership and bad policies.

Moi described leadership as a bus ride, where the President is at the wheel, with passengers from diverse backgrounds, among them pickpockets.

From left: US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, German Ambassador Walter Lindner and Dr Salim Ahmed Salim former OAU Secretary General, during the conference at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Wednesday.

[PHOTO: ANDREW KILONZI /STANDARD]

His metaphor was amplified by Kalonzo who said: “May be it’s time President Kibaki stopped the bus in a safe place and got the pickpockets out.”

Kalonzo elaborated: “We must walk the talk. We need high-profile arrests.”

Raila and Moi said the forum should not be reduced to “another talking shop”.

The three-day conference will discuss ethnic pluralism, economic growth and equity in resource allocation. It will also discuss social conflict, rule of law, tribalism and marginalisation.

It also seeks to foster donor and investor confidence in Kenya.

About 1,500 delegates from all over the country — ten from every district — as well as foreign conflict experts have been invited to help in mitigation of the ethnic crisis.

Participants, most of them ordinary citizens came with presentations on Kenya’s desired future after diagnosing the causes of socio-economic and political stagnation.

The findings and recommendations will be used as background information for the constitutional review and other governance forums.

It is the third such forum in Kenya — the others were in 1962 and 1980.

Organisers hope the forum will also foster national reconciliation and harmony in the Grand Coalition and lead to economic recovery, especially after post-election violence.

Kibaki revisited the painful memories of post-election violence: “Majority of Kenyans were appalled and dismayed by post-election violence witnessed early last year.”

Silver lining

But the President said there was a silver lining to that dark cloud of history.

“These actions galvanised our people into searching for a peaceful solution, and made it impossible for any national or local leader to continue espousing violence as a means of achieving political goals,” he said.

Moreover, the President added, significant gains had been made even though they appeared modest.

Kalonzo said the Government should “deal a deathly blow to tribalism”, a vice he said Kenyans have rejected following post-election violence.

He said the Grand Coalition must translate rhetoric into concrete action plan. The Vice-President was applauded when he said Kenyans were frustrated by doublespeak from the Government on corruption in the public sector.

“Kenyans think we are preaching water and drinking heavy wine,” Kalonzo said.

At the same time, Kibaki and Raila admitted that Kenya’s enormous potential remains largely unrealised.

“We have managed to achieve very little that is fresh and new. Although our potential remains enormous, we have always played in the minor, not the premier, league in matters development,” Raila said.

Kibaki concurred: “If we were honest with ourselves, the many years and events of talking about a common future and destiny for all Kenyans have not borne the full range of fruits we may have hoped for.”

The President said Kenyans have sometimes missed the opportunity to underscore the many political, economic and social factors that are common to all of us.

He went on: “At times, we seem to have focused more on the few things that separate us as opposed to the many that unite us.”

Raila said leaders compare Kenya with failed and non-competitive states instead of thriving, nations of the world. Kalonzo said despite gains after the formation of the Coalition Government last year, Kenya was still afflicted by famine, tribalism and corruption.

Longterm solutions

The VP said although Kenyans require food, they also yearn for long-term solutions to endemic problems like tribalism and corruption in high places.

“The Grand Coalition must demonstrate leadership,” he said, adding that sceptical Kenyans’ faith in the Government will be restored only when top-level corruption suspects are arrested and charged.

Raila said the country had to move on and not always refer to its past.

“We must no longer cling to history to justify our poverty and deficiency, our bad politics, our injustice, and our failure to live up to the dreams and expectations of our nation’s founding fathers,” he said.

Moi wondered whether the country remained faithful to the goals that informed the freedom struggle.

“Is this republic on the right track 45 years after independence?” Moi posed, and called for a “new dawn”.

“Where did we go wrong that jiggers can still torment our people in the 21st century?” Moi asked.

He said socio-economic backwardness was neither a permanent order nor beyond redemption.

“What ails Kenya is tribalism, bad politics and corruption,” Moi said. “They (the three problems) are man-made and, therefore, reversible. It requires strong leadership to fight tribalism.”

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