In Summary
  • Kenya is still recognised as a trailblazer almost unmatched in its commitment to democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
  • Calls for national dialogue must now extend beyond Mr Odinga’s quest for a seat on the political gravy train.

It really helps, sometimes, to be away from the constant din of Kenyan politics.

Even with the wonders of modern communications where news from home will still be at our fingertips, distance affords one the luxury of removing oneself from the daily news barrage.

That in itself is refreshing, rejuvenating and undoubtedly good for body and mind.

DEMOCRACY
The other advantage is that from afar, we can look on with detached interest, unbound from the ethnic blinkers and other irrational entanglements that make too many of us part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Being away over the past week has allowed me to take a fresh look at the problems that every so often threaten to send our country hurtling down the precipice.

It has helped me to appreciate anew that Kenya is still a great country and not the basket case it is sometimes made out to be.

On the African continent, Kenya is still recognised as a trailblazer almost unmatched in its commitment to democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law.

PUBLIC DEBATE
We have our problems, to be sure, but we are still a beacon of light in regard to those inalienable freedoms of speech, assembly, association, expression and media.

Independence of the Judiciary and other independent institutions, as well as clear limits to executive power, are principles that are well-established in Kenya and worth celebrating.

On the streets, markets, in pubs, government offices, nightclubs and conference halls of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, over the past week, I have invariably been accosted with questions about my country.

It seems like everyone from a street hawker on to lady of the night, journalist, corporate executive and highest-ranking government official knows that we have a problem.

CRITICISM

At the simplest level, they know that one Uhuru Kenyatta and one Raila Odinga are in a vicious competition for power and threatening to drag us all down the path of ethnic conflagration.

I have found myself pointing out that it is not as bad as it seems; that we are not about to go down the way of the 1994 Rwanda genocide or the Somalia anarchy.

I do not play the good ambassador out of a blind patriotism or misguided optimism.

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