Destiny, as President Barack Obama has said, is not written for us, but by us. As Kenya celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence, Kenyans are writing their own destiny and have much to be proud of.
Kenya’s progress over the decades has been impressive: a model constitution, a growing economy, and clear goals in Vision 2030.
Behind each success, there have been countless hard-working, creative and dynamic Kenyans. On this jubilee, we celebrate Kenya’s independence and the extraordinary accomplishments of its citizens.
The United States has been Kenya’s partner over the past 50 years. In fact, our relationship began before Kenya’s independence.
The Kennedy airlifts took off in 1960 and took hundreds of Kenyans to the US to study. As President Kennedy said at the time, “Education is, in truth, the only key to genuine African independence and progress.” We saw then the extraordinary promise of the Kenyan people, and we stepped forward to offer the hand of friendship to Kenya’s first generation of leaders.
In the year of Kenya’s independence, the United States brought the Fulbright programme here and, in the past five decades, thousands of Kenyan students have participated in American exchange programmes.
There are many notable alumni, including two former Kenyan presidents and a vice-president. One of our country’s signature programmes, the Peace Corps, began in 1964. Since then, more than 5,000 Peace Corps volunteers have worked in communities across Kenya, helping forge our bonds of friendship.
US Agency for International Development programmes also date to the 1960s. Over the years, USAid has collaborated with Kenyans across the country to strengthen agriculture, wildlife protection, healthcare, education and democracy.
Our Centres for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Kenya in 1979 and established an enduring partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
Today, CDC and Kenyan researchers are working together to control the world’s most dangerous diseases, including malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis. The US has also stood with Kenya in the fight against terrorism.
In all of the work we do, our goal is simple: Help Kenyans make a better life. As we move forward together, we have new initiatives to advance this shared objective.
One is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which, harking back to the Kennedy airlifts, seeks to empower the next generation of African leaders. In keeping with the jubilee, we aim to send at least 50 young, promising Kenyans to the YALI Washington Leadership Programme next July.
Another initiative is Power Africa, whose goal is to connect 20 million African households and businesses to electricity over the next decade. The Power Africa team at the US Embassy in Nairobi is working to mobilise capital to build power plants in Kenya.
The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme – or AWEP – is another initiative launched in the last few months. It focuses on women-owned companies and promotes increased trade with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
While our two governments have deep ties, the official relationship is only a small part of the network of relations between our two countries. Today, more than 300,000 Kenyans live in the US and 20,000 Americans call Kenya home. Our ties are a complex web of political, economic and cultural connections that grow stronger by the day.
Dozens of American universities have programmes in Kenya and 5,000 Kenyans are studying in the US. From US International University and its campus in Nairobi to Indiana University with its links to Moi Teaching Hospital in Eldoret, our academics and students are studying and learning together.
American business is here too. Coca-Cola began bottling in Kenya in 1948 and many more American companies have arrived since. Just a few weeks ago, IBM inaugurated its first research centre in Africa, based in Karen.
Over time, there have been new challenges to overcome, most recently the fire at the airport and the terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. Through all of them, the US has been here as Kenya’s partner and friend.
While the challenges of today are often different from those of 50 years ago, this has not changed: America’s unwavering commitment to Kenya. Our friendship rests on the strongest foundation, our shared belief in freedom and democracy.
Together, I know the next 50 years will be brighter for our partnership. From all Americans to all Kenyans: Congratulations on your first, successful 50 years!
Mr Godec is the US Ambassador to Kenya