We need honest leadership for real prosperity

Civil society groups picket along Parliament Road, Nairobi, on December 28, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Honesty and courage alone can save our wounded and disunited country. We need courage to speak the truth - including painful truths that unsettle not only our foes but also our friends and, mostly, ourselves.

We need the honesty and courage to honour the contributions of the great men and women who have come before us, those who articulated and defended true principles of justice and the common good, built or helped to preserve worthy institutions, and modelled important virtues.

We need honesty and courage to recognise the faults, flaws, and failings of even the greatest of our heroes - and to acknowledge our own faults, flaws, and failings.

We need to recognise progress toward justice and movement toward the common good that our civilisation and nation have made - and the blows against injustice, oppression, and tyranny we as a people have struck, sometimes at incalculable costs of blood and treasure.

We need honesty and courage to recognise the blights on our history, the grave wrongs that have been done, reflecting the failure of our leaders and institutions - and our own failures - to honor our principles of liberty and justice for all.

We need the honesty and courage to express dissent - to say, “No, I will not go along” - when conscience tells us that our own ideological or political tribe has gone astray or gone too far or become fanatical and blind to integrity and the dignity of all.

We need the honesty and courage to stand up - to stand alone, if necessary - to speak the truth, as God gives us to see the truth, to the politically, economically, and culturally powerful as well as to the relatively powerless.

We need the honesty and courage to think first of the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, and the impact on them, for good or for ill, of our own actions; the actions of institutions - be they economic, social, educational, or philanthropic - in which we play a role; and the actions of government at all levels. This will not generate unanimity as to what policies are best. Reasonable people of good will often disagree.

But this can - and we believe must - be a starting point on which there is common ground. We need the honesty and courage to treat decent and honest people with whom we disagree - even on the most consequential questions - as partners in truth-seeking and fellow citizens of our republican order, not as enemies to be destroyed. And we must always respect and protect their human rights and civil liberties.

To President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, Kenyans hope you will consider their plea, though we, from our different vantage points, have been critical of both of you. You must hold you to higher standards.

We plead with you to exemplify the honesty and courage that all of us must embody if we are to reunite this nation and rebuild the civic friendship - what Tom Mboya called the “bonds of affection” - without which no democracy “can long endure.” Where you have failed or fallen short, as we all fail and fall short, strive with God’s help to do better.

-The writer is Ford Kenya National Organising Secretary