by Rachel Kitonyo
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast",.wrote Alexander Pope. Though social and economic conditions are at an all-time low, there's still hope for what Kenya can be in the 21st century. This is what I hope for:
I envision a country in which every person is a master of their own destiny and where success is the outcome not of who you know but of how hard you are willing to work. A society in which diligence and integrity replace corruption as the institutionalised means of acquiring wealth. A society of equal opportunity for all ready to keep their noses to the grindstone.
The Kenya I hope for is one in which clean and safe drinking water for all is more than a pipe-dream. A land where everyone has access to electricity and other social ammenities, where provision of services for which we pay is seen as the council's duty and our right, not a priveledge.
It has been said that variety is the spice of life. Then, Kenya's tribal and cultural diversity ought to be a veritable potpourri which we appreciate instead of a pot fermenting ethnic strife and favouritisms. I hope for a society in which we accept one another not because one is a fellow tribesman but because one is a fellow kenyan. A society in which qualifications and merit, not the my-relative syndrome that determines who gets the job.
I long for a society in which the role of women in politics, social and economic affairs is appreciated. A society in which the term 'housewife'"is as much respected as the term "career woman", and where mothers, wives and daughters are held in high esteem. Where women are enabled to achieve their potential and the playing field in all areas of life is equal. A society which respects and protects its women from the twin spectres of rape and domestic violence. A society in which detrimental customs like female genital mutilation and wife-inheritance have been done away with.
I dream of the day kenyans will no longer have to barricade themselves in burglar-proofed fortresses in the name of security. When once more it will be safe to walk on our streets, drive our cars and go about our businesses without fearing for life, limb and property.
I hope that the Kenyans of the 21st century will learn from experience, and will avoid making history repeating itself. That they will be a people who prefer to prevent catastrophe rather than bolting the stable door after the horse has been stolen. A Kenya where incidents like Mtongwe Ferry and Ngai Ndethya train disasters will only happen as acts of God and not as the result of gross human negligence. A society that will respect the value of human life.
The Kenya I would like to see is one in which politicians do not have a finger in every pie, where people don't have to seek political patronage or lick the boots of the high and mighty. A society that understands the tenets of democracy and respects the freedoms enshrined in the constitution. A society in which the rule of law prevails.
I would like to see a reverse in the trend of quality education becoming the reserve of the rich, a decrease in the gap between the haves and the have-nots and a concerned effort by the government and the public to deal with the problems of street families, slums and unemployment.
The Kenya we need is one we can be proud of. Not a country known for corruption, insecurity and garbage heaps but famous for its athletes, tourism, hospitality and peace. A society that is proud of Kenyan goods instead of being a dump heap for other nations' refuse. A society of people whose hearts still thrill and who stand erect when they hear the national anthem intoned, and the flag being raised, not because they happen to be passing the local chief's office but because they are dyed-in-the-wool patriots.
My vision of Kenya in the 21st century is one of a people who don't fear policemen, are able to work, can afford three decent meals in a day and are united. A people who have the liberty to pursue health and happiness, the freedom to express themselves and achieve their dreams and aspirations. A people at peace with themselves and others. A society that has managed to deal with the three enemies of man -- ignorance, poverty and disease.
However, to achieve this vision, some things have to change. The people of Kenya need to change their attitude towards what social values they hold and are passing on to their children, how much they are willing to put up with from their politicians and service providers and their complacency and apathy to what is going on around them. People have to change as individuals before the whole society can change. Since it takes two to tango, bribery would be wiped out if all of us would resolve not to grease the policeman's hand. If you don't throw your litter carelessly, thre'll be one less bag of litter to collect.
Kenyans also need to stop being passive and protest a la Karengata Association style, over non-delivery of services. We also need to realise that we determine who our leaders are whether we vote or not. We need to vote for personalities and issues, not for political parties.
The leaders we have also need to change and be changed. We need a government with the political will to do what is best for the country. Leaders who are patriotic and seek their positions, not for personal aggrandizement but in order to serve the people. Finally, we need leaders who will not swallow all the medicines prescribed by the West wholesale but will try to come up with their own workable policies. If they embrace democracy and good governance, they should have no problem getting aid to implement their policies.
Finally, the economic and social orders need to change. There needs to be equitable distribution of resources, incentives to local industries and creation of jobs. Kenyans need to appreciate all work as being noble, whether manual or white collar, and be prepared to start from the bottom and work their way up.
Personally, I will try to protect the environment around me - no more throwing away of sweet wrappers. I will sensitise others to their personal responsibility towards their country, discuss with my fellow youth our role to play in nation building. Come election time, I will vote for the person I feel is best suited to serve Kenya's interests. I will try to be a person of integrity and dilligence. And I will not loose hope because change is inevitable and it will come. And when it does, I shall be there to celebrate the birth of the Kenya I envision.
The Online publishing of WAJIBU is by Koinonia Media Centre.