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An open letter to President Barack Obama on his visit to Kenya

COMMENTARY
By Adhere Cavince | July 27th 2015
President Barack Obama addresses gathering at Safaricom indoor arena, Kasarani where he called on Government to tackle the vicious cycle of corruption and ethnic-based politics. (Photo:George Orido/Standard)

Dear Barry,

First of all, let me pass sincere gratitude to you for finding time to visit Kenya.

Whether it was on account of your roots here or the acknowledgment by the US of the significance of Kenya in tackling a number of global challenges, we are honoured to have hosted you.  As the first Kenya-American head of US government and the first sitting US President to visit Kenya, we could not be more proud of you.

Throughout your stay, you struck a unique chord with Kenyans, beginning with your host, President Kenyatta. We saw in you a man who despite his incomparable influence, was still humble enough to exhibit little things that define all of us, like emotion. And besides the overwhelming presence of military hardware, we were unnerved more by your soft power.

Let me highlight just a few of the key messages that I believe can make us better, if observed.

Democracy

On democracy, you got us where we hurt most. Yes, we have a new constitutional dispensation. And yes, the civil rights space has expanded considerably. But we still erroneously equate democracy to regular elections, where the winner takes it all.

Time and again we have undertaken electoral races fashioned purely on ethnic basis.

Such approach has fanned tribal and regional divisions leading to vengeance and bloodletting. The worst scenario came with 07/08 post-election violence. Your message that a democracy must go beyond the ballot is one that I believe our political chiefs listened to.

Corruption

On corruption, cronyism, favouritism and all other –isms, your message was clear. I believe Kenyans now appreciate that it will take all to uproot these social ills that have held back our progress for decades.

Women, girls’ empowerment

Your take on women and girls’ empowerment corroborates empirical researches undertaken in different parts of the world. That the world functions better when women and girls function, is a fact. Often time when I get on the phone with my two year old son, he constructs sentences or sings to me songs whose lyrics I would get lost trying to follow. His abilities have been largely shaped by the mother, a high school teacher. So I agree with you that not tapping full potential of women is truly stupid.

Conservation

On wildlife conservation, I hope your administration will push for elimination of ivory market in Asia and US through new avenues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Help us stop the cartels that kill an elephant every fifteen minutes.

The new initiative to power our cities and villages is a noble one. It will foster industrialization while freeing our people from health and sanitation complications that comes with traditional energy sources like firewood.

Economic empowerment

More importantly Barry, your announcement of Sh100 billion to nurture and grow entrepreneurial ventures in Africa is a first. It speaks to economic empowerment through job and wealth creation. This will spur continental growth and has a sure chance to keep our youth away from contemporary maladies like violent extremism.

Closely tied to this is the Young African Leaders Initiative that will give our youth opportunity to sharpen their skill, expand their worldview and imagine new things for the continent. These actions show the commitment of US to walk with Kenya and Africa through the journey of self-actualization.         

As you pull another first to Ethiopia for talks with African Union, see how your administration can help Africa achieve Agenda 2063. The new African narrative has a chance only if the continent can sustainably navigate out of the myriad shortcomings holding it back. We look forward to new deals and initiatives that hold promise for Africa and indeed whole of humanity.

So again Thank you for coming, I hope you have adequate pictures and videos to share with your lovely family once Air Force One touches down back at home. Pass our love to Michele, Sasha and Malia and the entire crew at the White House.

So long.

Respectfully Yours,

AC

The Writer is a Communications practitioner based in Nairobi. Email: [email protected]

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