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Kenya is still trapped in deep existential crises

OPINION
By Njeri Kiereni | November 10th 2013

By Njeri Kiereni

I have come to the conclusion after conversations with various people, that we, indeed, do not have a reading culture as a nation. Winston Churchill has been quoted to implore, “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” And the secrets to why the world is the way it is.

The underlying problem could be the way the arts are taught in our schools. I remember losing patience as my history teacher dictated notes. Perhaps she found herself indisposed as far as how much fanfare and romanticism she could inject into her lessons. As I reflect on our nation today, 50 years old, four presidents later, a new Constitution, more women in government, a free press, freedom of expression and much more, I feel a vacuum in leadership.

As detailed in her autobiography, Margaret Thatcher first got elected as MP for Finchely on a Conservative party ticket. Once in, her male contemporaries handed her some pieces of advice; the first was to begin making an impact on less popular topics on which she could make a mark. The manifesto of the Conservative party 1959 contained within it the desire to reform and strengthen the structure of local democracy. One of the strategies was to ensure that the Press had proper facilities for reporting the proceedings of the local authorities.

It quickly became apparent to her that the detractors of that motion were the officials from the local government who were fierce in their opposition of the local authorities to any democratic check on their powers. She was mentored in drafting her bill by senior members. She also got to know her colleagues on a personal level by appealing to them through handwritten letters.

Madame Thatcher wrote 250 letters in total. She must have had a really beautiful handwriting, her speech was a success and they won handsomely. The next day Daily Express read, “A new star is born in Parliament.” However, Margaret realised that she could not ride that wave of fame forever and shaped her political career on issues.

An existential crisis is often provoked by a significant event. The West Gate attack is significant enough to provoke us reexamine our values as a nation. Kenyans exemplified true nationalism. Now someone has to move forward with that.

I am appalled by how much our women leaders have ignored and underestimated their potential to provide harmony and balance to this nation. For in short, the notion that gender balance can be achieved without even a tincture of pragmatic feminine wisdom to redeem it, is a deeply unattractive creed. You are a victim of a system in as far as you allow yourself to be.

There are countless examples of women leaders; Prime Minister’s Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and our own Professor Wangari Maathai among many others. They all stood for something.

We demand consummate leadership from you. Otherwise, politics without a few good women is unbearable!

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