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Kenya and the US will always be on the path of mutual respect

By Kyle McCarter | January 17th 2021
United States Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter [Courtesy]

Kenya has always been a part of my life. First through my father’s good works to bring health and education to children in need in Tharaka Nithi, then as Victoria and I continued his vision and Tharaka Nithi became a second home.

To return decades later as US Ambassador was the greatest honour of my life and an extraordinary opportunity to serve my country for the benefit of the American and Kenyan people.

I am sad to announce this privilege ends on January 20 when I will resign my post. Nevertheless, Kenya will continue to play a large role in my life.

As I reflect on my time as Ambassador, I believe Kenya should no longer be just a beneficiary of foreign aid, but a benefactor to the rest of East Africa. The US-Kenya partnership, that which we call “USA Marafiki” is deeper and broader than ever.

The United States is committed to walking with Kenya down this pathway to self-reliance by going from aid to trade. This experience will uplift all Kenyans through education and skills training into a prosperous economy with good jobs, strong businesses, and health, benefiting all wananchi, not just the elites.

The outcome of our ongoing free trade agreement negotiations will make Kenya more competitive and stronger economically.

Imagine the benefits of giving Kenyan businesses increased access to American markets and expanded choice, lower prices, and higher quality goods for consumers.

We will negotiate as equals and our success will raise the US-Kenya trade relationship, raise the ethical standard of doing business and shame those who rob the wananchi of their deserved prosperity.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the hardships it has brought to so many individuals and nations has defined the past year. I am proud of what the United States has accomplished with Kenya to combat Covid-19.

Although the United States was the hardest hit in the world we remained the most generous providing over Sh100 billion of assistance to other nations, with over Sh7.6 billion worth of PPE, test kits, equipment, training, and research including 200 American-made ventilators to Kenya.

In fact, over half of all testing in Kenya has been accomplished through direct US support. This adds to the Sh60 billion we provide annually for Kenya’s health needs, making the United States the largest international donor by far. This is what friends do for one another in crisis.

In addition to health and economic prosperity, successful countries also require strong democratic institutions and government.

We must listen to farmers, teachers, health care providers, and business people in every county.

I am proud to have visited and met with Kenyans from all 47 counties in an effort to expand commercial ties, highlight US programmes that build Kenya’s self-reliance, and promote youth empowerment and anti-corruption.

The face to face conversations with Kenyans were the highlight of my tenure as Ambassador.

Meeting the hard working mothers and fathers and the passionate innovative youth has made me more proud of Kenyans than ever. Another reason I traveled to the counties was to champion devolution.

Devolution is here to stay. A smaller local government is more responsive and sensitive to the needs of its citizens.

The United States trained, mentored and provided expert support including on-job training to over 38,000 county officials and 7,500 national officials.

As a result, 22 counties have made significant progress in setting up administrative, fiscal and legislative systems and processes to ensure functional devolved governance.

Democracy also requires a strong, independent media.

The United States supported training in media ethics, professionalism, and investigative journalism for over 400 print, broadcast, and digital journalists across Kenya.

As we have seen in the US recently and through our 244 years as an independent country – democracy is not easy.

Nevertheless, it has proven itself repeatedly to be the best system of government. Democracy is also fragile. People make up our institutions. People make up our governments. People are fallible and make mistakes.

Democracy gives us the chance to recognise our mistakes, learn from them, and make changes to ensure our institutions and leaders do not repeat those mistakes.

I am inspired by the dedication, energy, and vision of Kenya’s youth who will build Kenya’s democracy of the future.

As President Abraham Lincoln, from my home state of Illinois, said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

Our feet and our hearts are in the right place in our friendship and partnership with the great country of Kenya.

Sisemi “kwaheri” lakini “tutaonana.”

–The writer is the US Ambassador to Kenya

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