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Despair to renewal: How to ‘re-member’ Kenya

By Jennifer Muchiri | April 11th 2015

An honest and critical look at Kenya today would reveal that our moral, social, cultural, political, and economic fabric is utterly dismembered. News about all sectors of our nation is often negative and citizens are overwhelmed by the immense sense of dysfunction.

How can we recall our sovereign nation from the depths of rot to which she has sunk? How can we reinstate citizens’ pride in their nation and give them a sense of belonging so that nobody has to say to fellow country(wo)men “habari ya Kenya? “ or “salimiana Kenya ukirudi” when both of them are actually in the same country? These are the questions a recently published book, (Re)membering Kenya Vol.3 (Twaweza Communications, 2014) edited by Mbugua wa Mungai and George Gona, addresses.

The essays in this book, contributed by scholars drawn from various disciplines, engage with questions around Kenya’s governance, citizenship and economics. While the writers deal with different issues regarding the dismembered Kenyan national fabric, their essays reflect on the reality of the Kenyan state today and offer insights into how the nation state can be restored to its rightful place as a dignified nation. A few essays suffice here to illustrate the main issues discussed in (Re)membering Kenya.

Mbugua wa Mungai’s “A Hustler’s Diary” is a piece that perhaps every Kenyan, regardless of their social-economic situation, should read. The text is a reproduction of the writer’s interview with a young man called Karathe whose experiences in the 32 years he has lived can be a good teaching aid about the real meaning of the word ‘hustler.’ Karathe’s story reveals the reality of youth unemployment while at the same time encapsulating dreams and aspirations of many Kenyan youth. Samuel Owuor looks at the challenges and opportunities for making Nairobi a 24-hour economy. This is an idea that has been mooted before but not a single step has been taken towards achieving it.

Paul Kamau examines the intricate connection between economics, gender and race with a special focus on Kenya’s export processing zones.

Purity Kibui scrutinises Kenya’s system of formal education and argues that it needs a complete overhaul since it has failed to meet the national goals for which it has been fashioned.

Martin Njoroge and Gladys Gakenia discuss the sensitive subject of reproductive health among adolescents.

The essays address various areas in which Kenya’s collective body has been scarred and suggest ways through which healing can be achieved. The enduring message is Kenya can still be on her way to a renaissance.

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