by Bernard K. Mogaka
In the 21st century, I see a Kenyan society where we are proud of ourselves and of each other by virtue of our achievements and our diverse cultural backgrounds. I see a society where our intrinsic African warmth, love and support is shared not only within the family and ethnic group, but among all Kenyans as well as with visitors to our land. I envisage a society whose fabric is strong so as to provide a stable launching pad for academic endeavour, artistic inspiration, athletic performance, cultural pride and understanding, visionary leadership, business success and economic prosperity.
However, all is not well in our Kenyan society. Tribalism has become our guideline, greed and corruption our lifeline. Land grabbing, misappropriation of public funds, fraud and corruption are the order of the day. Most of us are victims, a minority are beneficiaries.
We are scourged with social injustice, violation of human rights, gender abuse, and police brutality. AIDS is killing our work force, drugs are destroying our youth and the West is draining our brains. Unchecked market liberalisation is milking our economy dry while public amenities like hospitals, roads and prisons are in a pathetic condition. Overpopulation and rural urban migration continue to aggravate the problem. Crime is on the increase and poverty prevails, as the gap between the rich and the poor widens. The future looks bleakżbut there is hope because our country and our people have potential, an inexhaustible resource of potential.
There is no easy remedy to our situation. What we need to do is harness our potential, and a change in attitude would be a first step. The mess we are in has generated in us a negative attitude towards our own society. Many young people do not see a future here and long to fly out. People look around themselves and see street children and beggars; they lose hope and become indifferent. Some who get the opportunity are driven to amass wealth and promote themselves and their kin. For example, when a job is offered to someone on grounds other than merit, the victim in turn does the same on reaching a position of authority. A vicious cycle ensues in which we get caught up with the means by which we live and forget about the ends for which we should strive. Concepts like patriotism, sharing, national development and concern for future generations become secondary.
Kenyans, both young and old, rich and poor, powerful and meek must be made to realise the potential in themselves and in their country so that we may rise up and work together for the Kenya we want. We need a more holistic and optimistic outlook. We have scholars, artists, athletes and strategists among us. We have come a long way in bringing education to most, and Kenyans can be found the world over in influential and important positions. These are the signs of the great nation Kenya could be. Nairobi is one of only four cities in the world, alongside New York, Geneva, and Vienna, that hosts a UN headquarters.
Our port Mombasa is the central harbour for all freight of Eastern and Central Africa and to and from the rest of the world. Nairobi is host to head offices of several multinational companies and NGOs operating in the region. The recent COMESA summit demonstrated Kenya's strategic placing in the Common Market. Kenya, land of the original safari, is a uncut gem in the world of tourism and travel. It hosts a myriad of natural splendours, from the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kenya to the savannah carpeted floor of the Great Rift Valley.
I am personally in the process of identifying my carrier objective and aligning it towards the improvement of our society and economy. I would eventually like to start my own enterprise, generating employment and investing my profits right here. I know that with hard work, a little creativity and an objective attitude, anyone can succeed in this nation. I try to promote Kenyan made products, from the items of clothing I buy to my choice of groceries when shopping at the supermarket. On the issue of the AIDS scourge, I believe in abstinence, having a single partner or otherwise the use of condoms. On population growth, I plan to have not more than three children, and have them study in Kenyan schools.
Information is the key to success, more so now in this new age of information and communication. Computer literacy and internet technologies must be made a priority in our education system. However, we should be cautious about the negative influences that inevitably come along with this. I feel that in our syllabus, more emphasis should be put on our own history and heritage and the promotion of Kiswahili, our national language. In the words of our founding father, "The value of a people lies in their culture." Given a strong identity of who we are, and infused with the moral principles inherent in our African culture, our children will be able to make the right choices. This is the responsibility not only of parents and teachers but of every individual in society.
I like to participate in discussions with colleagues and friends over everyday issues concerning our society. We need to respect, educate and promote our women, for besides their vital role in the family, they can make a profound contribution to the society. We need to stop paying our workers mediocre salaries that cause them to strike. The attitude that Kenyans are a supply of cheap and easy labour should be done away with. Managers should understand that if employees are paid according to the earnings of the company, there is more consumption leading to greater demand and therefore more production. Following these principles, will help us to get out of economic recession more quickly.
I will campaign and vote in the next elections as I did in 1997 where my choice then was social democracy and a lady for president. After all, who is better placed to change the people's attitude than our leaders. We need vibrant, visionary and development oriented leaders who can stir the country in to action. As of now, I support the constitutional reform lobby and I am ready to put my signature down for a people driven constitutional review process. I think we need to reduce the powers of the highest office and have a more decentralised government where institutions and policies shall be created and implemented with more involvement by the people they concern. We must have policies which are firm and specific, focusing on the pressing issues in the various ministries.
We need more transparency and accountability in public offices and in parastatals. We need proper strategies, especially in agricultural marketing, and firmer controls on import and export to protect the local market and industries. We need to push for greater international cooperation and focus more strongly on regional integration as we move towards a competitive global village.
We are all in the same boat, riding on the wave of a new millennium. There is no time to waste, the world is racing and we cannot afford to be left behind.
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