Are You A Slave To Your Ambition?

We live in a society that lavishly praises high achievement. After the completion of formal education, many young people enter the job market with an enthusiasm and energy akin to a cannonball being fired off into the sky. The mission objective is clear from the beginning — achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible. Intern at multiple companies, land your dream job, and accumulate a ridiculous amount of gold star material for your resume. The millennial generation is a hungry and ambitious one.

We read books, which claim that our twenties are a vital period for gaining experience and that no time is to be wasted. We observe the LinkedIn profiles of our peers and compare ourselves to one another in terms of success. We strive to be smarter, more professional, and more accomplished. We’re constantly moving forward in attempts to climb the ladder with blinding seed. We want to build Rome in a day.

We’re young so we figure that since we have the energy, we might as well burn the candle at both ends for as long as possible. We are entry level employees with aspirations of being the CEO. We are bloggers who want to be best selling authors and digital media enterprisers overnight. We hear stories of young people starting with nothing and forming billion dollar companies. We’re not content with being mere mortals. We want to be Zuckerberg, Tesla, or Spiegel. We want to be the one to invent the next Snapchat or Facebook. We want it all, and we don’t want to wait.

I look at my own mentality and the mentality of many other young people and what I’ve observed causes me to beg the question: Are we becoming slaves to our own ambition?

I love writing and creating. I would like to be able to say that I’m a successful person not only in my eyes but also in the eyes of others. So I work. I read as many books as I can get my hands on to develop knowledge that will aid me in my mission. I write as much as a possibly can to practice my craft. When I’m not working, I feel guilty. It’s becoming increasingly hard to enjoy my down time because my mind is constantly focused on my goals and my dreams. My case may be extreme in comparison to some but I definitely feel that there are others who can relate to my sentiment. I have all of these ideas and plans that I’m working towards and the sheer weight of my dreams feels like an anvil being placed on top of my shoulders.

This piece is a reminder to myself as well as any of you out there who are driven and motivated to a level that has perhaps become perverse – slow down. Relax; chill out, calm down, it’s not that serious.

Human beings are naturally wired to work, achieve, and accomplish. It is important to dream big and put in the hours required to turn your dreams into reality. Outworking your competitors and grinding it out for insanely high periods of time can potentially help you arrive at your destination ahead of schedule.

But at what cost?

What are the potential downfalls of living an unbalanced life in which work dominates your existence? The stress from an unreasonable amount of pressure you place on your self is one. The loss of stability in your relationships is another. The more you ask yourself these types of questions, the more you realize that maybe your priorities have gone awry.

Best selling author Robert Greene once said, “The fools in life want things fast and easy-money, success, attention.”

The media presents to us a finished product. They show us the glitz and glamour but none of the trial and tribulation. Our perception of the time it takes to reach our desired milestones is distorted. So we race out of the gates like a thoroughbred horse, wanting the world and all of its spoils, thinking that if push ourselves hard enough we will get there faster.

This strategy does work some of the time. Some people do create billion dollar companies in ostensibly short periods of time. Some people may become successful seemingly overnight. But this is the exception, not the rule. The more likely scenario is that whatever you’d like to achieve is going to take some time. Perhaps it will take years, even decades of consistent effort to get what you want. So while it’s important to proceed with maximum effort, it’s also important to have a proper perspective and allow yourself to detach and unplug every once in a while.

Achievement is definitely a vital component to living a fulfilling life, but it’s just a portion of the equation. Your relationships with your friends and family are of upmost importance. You have to take time to enjoy yourself as well. Life can’t be all work and no play. What’s the point of acquiring all of the worldly measures of success if you’re left alone with no one to share them with?

One of our greatest challenges is making sure our lives don’t turn into a revolving door of desire in which we are continually searching for the next thing that will make us happy. How circumstances affect us depends on how we interpret them as they relate to our life. If we lack a “big picture” view, we can easily fall into serial success seeking.

Why? Because when we get what we want, our happiness soon diminishes because we quickly become used to what we acquire. We may not even stop or slow down to enjoy what we’ve got because we instantly seek a new challenge. If we’re not careful we wind up ricocheting back and forth from achieving and acquiring to acquiring and achieving without ever taking time to fully enjoy any of it.

This is a great way to remain miserable for the rest of your life.

Self-reflection is a great way to provide you with insight that can be used to live a healthy life. So ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing going to cause strain or strength in my relationships?” “Is the amount of work I’m doing a magnificent obsession, or a perilous detractor?” “What’s really important?” “What should I be focused on?”

Avoid the extremes. Life is a balancing act. We have to keep everything in our lives in proper perspective. Neglecting any area for too long can lead to disastrous results. Walk the tightrope carefully, and don’t fall off.

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Devolution could present forty-seven big re-elections

Every democracy faces challenges, opportunities, hardships, pains, troubles and sometimes misery. Ours is no different.

Most people link troubles to elections, for they sometimes come together. By such thinking, every election is a huge trial, which this is a mistake because not every election is messy.

The real trial comes when the incumbent stands for re-election. Africa’s democratic troubles are more related to re-elections than to elections, especially in those countries that have reached a critical mass in economic growth.

The African challenge is threefold: some presidents rig elections to stay in power, others increase the number of constitutional terms, also to stay in power, and the third, and most daring lot extend their term and also rig the elections.

According to Yohana Gadafi, a brilliant young law graduate, since the 1990s, most newly-promulgated African constitutions have introduced limits to the length of the presidency.

In fact, thirty African countries have adopted the two-term limit rule, while Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Gambia have left it out. Seychelles adopted a three-term limit rule.

President Museveni in Uganda, Sam Nujoma in Namibia, Idriss Deby in Chad, Lassana Conte in Guinea, Omar Bongo in Gabon, Gnassiogne Eyadema in Togo, and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza have modified or completely abolished presidential term limits to suit their re-election.

Rwanda will soon be added to the list. A constitutional amendment is almost ready to allow President Paul Kagame to contest for a third-term in the forthcoming elections in 2017.

Though few and far in between, there have also been some unsuccessful attempts to amend constitutions to abolish presidential term limits. This was the case in Nigeria under Olusegun Obasanjo, Zambia under Frederick Chiluba and Malawi under Bakili Muluzi’s rule.

In Burundi, President Nkurunziza successfully, although controversially and arguably even illegally, extended his rule beyond the constitutional stipulation of two terms.

While the constitution of Burundi provided that one could only serve as president for a maximum of two terms, President Nkurunziza argued that his first term should not be counted as he was not elected, and that for purposes of the two-term limit rule, then only his second term would count.

The Supreme Court of Burundi curiously affirmed this position. Nkurunziza went ahead to win the highly disputed elections, which were marred by violence.

Pierre Nkurunziza was reading from the same script used by former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who unsuccessfully attempted to extend his rule by running for elections for a third term, challenging the constitution’s two-term rule.

Wade justified his bid by arguing that his first term had begun before the constitution had been changed. Sadly for him, the chickens came home to roost in the election where he was resoundingly beaten by his former ally and Prime Minister, Macky Sall, effectively putting to an end his hope for a third term.

In Burkina Faso, attempts by President Blaise Compaoré to extend his 27-year-old rule by amending the constitution to abolish term limits in 2014 came a cropper when an unprecedented wave of widespread public protests forced him to step down and flee into exile in Cote d’Ivoire.

Cote d’Ivoire presents a different, though related, scenario. Laurent Gbabgo in the 2010 elections sought to hang on to power even after losing elections to President Alassane Ouattara. The attempt sparked widespread violence. Lives were lost; property was destroyed as the chaos threatened to take the country back to civil war.

Gbagbo’s attempts to continue his rule were premised on his being declared victor in the elections by the Constitutional Council which took a contrary position to the Ivorian Commission Electorale Independante (CEI) which had declared Ouattara the winner. Gbagbo now faces charges of crime against humanity.

Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria suffered from the same sickness; their presidents overstayed and only the Arab Spring managed to get them out. This spring later became the Arab Winter, of frozen dreams, hardened hopes and merciless killings.

History teaches that we have had our troublesome share of such re-elections. It happened in 1997 and again more violently and painfully in 2008.

Now we have devolution in place. Devolution has the power to lower risk by distributing any strains or pressures into forty-seven counties, but without values, it could also multiply violence by forty-seven.

Benedict Nzioki, a fourth year law student, argues that presidents should stay for one term of seven years, so that they can focus on development, results and leaving a legacy.

Dr Brian Oenga, a professor at Wisconsin-Stout University, advocates for an outlet, for example by allowing former presidents to become life senators. In this way, they would secure jobs with tenure.

Whatever the case, we need to become more serious and decisive in the application of Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Kenya, on leadership and integrity. After all, leadership without integrity is not sustainable but an explosive mixture.

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. Lfranceschi@strathmore.edu, Twitter: @lgfranceschi

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HELP

Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on. We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life even as competent individuals. Even the most solitary writer needs a reader, the most Machiavellian mobster, a trusted lieutenant, the most independent candidate, a voter.

Not only does the need for help never leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives. At every stage we are dependent on our ability to ask for specific forms of help at very specific times and in very specific ways. Even at the end, the dignity of our going depends on others’ willingness to help us die well; the sincerity of their help often commensurate to the help we extended to them in our own life. Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity.

There are two kinds of generosity or help for which we must ask: visible help and strangely, invisible help. Visible help is practical or transactional help, asking for visible help we ask for help with what we can see is troubling us or we pay for a bed and a meal on our onward way or we pay someone to work for us. But it may be that it is the second less easily recognizable and invisible help which is most crucial for stepping into the unknown. Though we can think of invisible help in the old sense of an intervention from angelic or parallel worlds, we can also think of it in an every day practical way: invisible help is the help that we do not as yet know we need. Invisible help is the help we are not quite ready for and all we can do is shape our identity toward revelation, toward being surprised, toward paying attention to what is just about to appear over the horizon of our understanding.

This overwhelming need for visible and invisible help never really changes in a human life from the first day we are brought from the womb calling lustily for those commodities. We need extraordinary physical help to get through our first years, continued help through our childhood and extraordinary emotional help and good invisible luck to get through our adolescence. After that the need for continual help becomes more subtle, hidden as it is by the illusion that we are suddenly free agents able to survive on our own, the one corner of the universe able to supply its own answers.

It may be that the ability to know the necessity for help; to know how to look for that help and then most importantly, how to ask for it, is one of the primary transformative dynamics that allows us to emancipate ourselves into each new epoch of our lives. Without the understanding that we need a particular form of aide at every crucial threshold in our lives and without the robust vulnerability in asking for that help we cannot pass through the door that bars us from the next dispensation of our lives: we cannot birth ourselves.

To ask for visible and invisible help and to ask for the right kind of help and to ask in a way in which we feel that it is no less than our due, that, in effect, we deserve a visible and invisible helping hand, may be an engine of transformation itself. Our greatest vulnerability is the very door through which we must pass in order to open the next horizon of our lives. In the very end comes also another beginning, the ancient sense of a door opening to some final unknown, some invisible voice attempting to help us come to terms with our own disappearance, the hand extended to help us over a horizon equally as mysterious as the one we crossed at our birth.

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What Africa really expects from Barack Obama

To achieve Kenya’s vision 2030 and the vision of the AU of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena,’ the time is ripe for Obama to start inspiring the country and the continent’s political leadership .
United States (US) President Barack Obama’s attendance at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi this weekend made him the first sitting US president to visit Kenya since independence.

Many Kenyans see Obama as a son of the soil, as this is his father’s native land. To them, his visit was seen as a homecoming. Obama echoed that sentiment this weekend when he said: ‘I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya, and of course I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States.’

What awaits Obama in Kenya’s development arena is, however, more complex. Kenyans have high expectations that the visit will address many of the issues that affect the country, and the continent at large. These include matters such as democracy, poverty, disease, terrorism, the weakening role of civil society and insecurity in general.

The democratic space on the continent is rapidly shrinking. Of the 54 African Union (AU) member states, only 24 states parties have signed and ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which came into force on 15 February 2012. The charter enshrines African shared values on good governance, democracy and the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights, the need for free and transparent elections and condemning unconstitutional changes of government.

More than three years later, 23 states who have signed the charter are yet to ratify it. This includes Kenya. Six others have neither signed nor ratified the charter. This raises questions over African leaders’ commitment to democracy and good governance.

State fragility is also on the increase. South Sudan, Burundi and Lesotho, to mention a few, are on the verge of joining Somalia as failed states. The often-repeated rhetoric of ‘finding African solutions to Africa’s problems’ seems to be failing, as evidenced by the ongoing peace mediation in South Sudan.

The US is credited with having played a huge role in mediating decolonisation and subsequent independence in Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. On 12 February 1941, US president Franklin D Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to discuss the post-war world. This led to the Atlantic Charter. One of the provisions, introduced by Roosevelt, was the autonomy of imperial colonies. These were the result of the so-called Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century by Western European powers, and led to a majority of African states losing sovereignty and control of natural resources such as gold and rubber.

This scramble has not stopped. It has only increased and brought in more players from the east, north and west. Africa’s raw materials are still being sapped, and the continent continues to slowly bleed away its wealth through well-choreographed networks. Natural resources such as minerals, oil and gas are all diverted along these global networks, steadily jeopardising the likelihood of the continent being able to realise its development vision towards 2063.

Just as the US played a role in freeing Africa from its colonial past, it can likewise help to facilitate a more prosperous future for the continent by safeguarding its resources for sustainable development. It is estimated that Africa loses a total of US$38.4 billion a year through trade mispricing and US$25 billion through other illicit flows. This is more than what Africa receives through foreign aid and foreign direct investment. A joint report by the African Development Bank and Global Financial Integrity found that a staggering 60-65% of this lost revenue disappears in commercial transactions by multinational companies, including those from the US.

Corruption in Africa is on the rise, aiding the spread of poverty and destitution. To a great extent, corruption has led to the breakdown of institutions and the weakening of social, political and economic governance. Kenya, for instance, continues to be plagued by corruption at all levels of government due to limited accountability.

During his visit, Obama spoke about this issue. ‘Kenya is at crossroads, a moment filled with peril but enormous promise,’ he said. He then cited corruption as the biggest impediment to Kenya growing even faster as he warned that the ‘cancer’ of corruption was costing the country 250 000 jobs annually. He added that fighting corruption requires support of the Kenyan people and ‘visible prosecution.’

Kenya’s oversight institutions that were meant to fight corruption – including the National Assembly and County Assemblies – have instead accelerated it, with many pursuing selfish gains at the expense of citizens. Institutions such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of Director of Prosecutions are struggling for survival amid frustration from political leaders. The president seems to be focused on ending the menace, but some corrupt members of his team seem to frustrate these efforts.

The role of civil society in galvanising democracy and good governance should never be underestimated. Civil society played a pivotal role in the 1980s and 1990s in Kenya’s quest for democracy and multiparty governance. However, today those voices seem to be lowering as Kenya’s civil society increasingly comes under threat.

The Kenyan government is in the process of amending the Public Benefits Organisations (PBO) Act, which was enacted in 2013 following extensive consultation between government and civil society to introduce restrictive clauses. Yet the original act has not yet been implemented. In this regard, the Kenyan government should immediately embark on implementing the current PBO Act as is, and seek consensus with key stakeholders before making amendments to it. At the same time, the government should end official and non-official threats, harassment and intimidation aimed at silencing civil society.

Being proactive, within the rule-of-law, will go a long way in curbing current security threats

Terrorism and insecurity have also undermined development in Kenya and on the continent. This has resulted in mostly hard-line responses by government security agencies, which do little to improve sustainable security and in many cases trigger further insecurity. Being proactive, within the rule-of-law framework, will go a long way in curbing current security threats. US government support and partnership in this regard is now more critical than ever before.

Organised crime is also on the rise, and efforts to provide safe and secure environments for citizens have been jeopardised by corruption and serious human rights’ abuses. Despite increased budgets and legislation in the sector, Kenyans are yet to see real improvement in the security system – from the recruitment of officers, to management, promotion and service delivery. There is need for a more democratic public security system in which multiple and disparate actors contribute directly to inclusive security for development.

To achieve Kenya’s vision 2030 and the vision of the AU of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena,’ the time is ripe for Obama to start inspiring the country and the continent’s political leadership. ‘Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now,’ Obama said to applause from a huge audience in Nairobi this weekend.

To realise Africa’s full potential, guided by the spirit of Africans providing solutions to Africa problems, Obama should also intervene in ensuring that civil society’s space is protected; corruption is curbed; fair trade and technology transfers for development are promoted and the looting of Africa natural resources is brought to an end. Together with leaders, a global strategy must be designed to optimise the use of African resources to benefit all Africans. Finally, Obama should initiate a global movement that calls for unity in developing the continent to achieve its development Agenda 2063.

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Obama’s Speech on Climate Change at the UN

The following is the text of President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the United Nations Climate Change Summit.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders: For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced — both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.

No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history. A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded — with global carbon emissions still on the rise.

So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means — the technological innovation and the scientific imagination — to begin the work of repairing it right now.

As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.

The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.

So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more. Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.

Last week alone, we announced an array of new actions in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.

I also convened a group of private sector leaders who’ve agreed to do their part to slash consumption of dangerous greenhouse gases known as HFCs — slash them 80 percent by 2050.

And already, more than 100 nations have agreed to launch talks to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol — the same agreement the world used successfully to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.

This is something that President Xi of China and I have worked on together. Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)

And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid. All told, American climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations around the world. We’re helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously.

We’re partnering with African entrepreneurs to launch clean energy projects. We’re helping farmers practice climate-smart agriculture and plant more durable crops. We’re building international coalitions to drive action, from reducing methane emissions from pipelines to launching a free trade agreement for environmental goods. And we have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with many of you to make the Green Climate Fund a reality.

But let me be honest. None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don’t that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about.

Now, the truth is, is that no matter what we do, some populations will still be at risk. The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most. And that’s why, since I took office, the United States has expanded our direct adaptation assistance eightfold, and we’re going to do more.

Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.

Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.

The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution. It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.

This time, we need an agreement that reflects economic realities in the next decade and beyond. It must be ambitious –- because that’s what the scale of this challenge demands. It must be inclusive –- because every country must play its part. And, yes, it must be flexible –- because different nations have different circumstances.

Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.

So today, I call on all major economies to do the same. For I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.

This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.

While you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor, we can act to see that the century ahead is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; not by human suffering, but by human progress; and that the world we leave to our children, and our children’s children, will be cleaner and healthier, and more prosperous and secure.

Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

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An Honest Government, A Hopeful Future – President Barack Hussein Obama (Then Senetor of Illinois) at the University of Nairobi Taiga Hall -2006

The first time I came to Kenya was in 1987. I had just finished three years of work as a community organizer in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago, and was about to enroll in law school. My sister, Auma, was teaching that year at this university, and so I came to stay with her for a month.

My experience then was very different than it has been on this trip. Instead of a motorcade, we traveled in my sister’s old VW Beetle, which even then was already ten years old. When it broke down in front of Uhuru Park, we had to push until some joakalis came to fix it by the side of the road. I slept on the couch of my sister’s apartment, not a fancy hotel, and often took my meals at a small tea-house in downtown Nairobi. When we went upcountry, we traveled by train and matatu, with chickens and collard greens and sometimes babies placed in my lap.

But it was a magical trip. To begin with, I discovered the warmth and sense of community that the people of Kenya possess – their sense of hopefulness even in the face of great difficulty. I discovered the beauty of the land, a beauty that haunts you long after you’ve left.

And most importantly for me, I discovered the story of my father’s life, and the story of his father before him.

I learned that my grandfather had been a cook for the British and, although he was a respected elder in his village, he was called “boy” by his employers for most of his life. I learned about the brutal repression of Operation Anvil, the days of rape and torture in the “Pipeline” camps, the lives that so many gave, and how my grandfather had been arrested briefly during this period, despite being at the periphery of Kenya’s liberation struggles.

I learned how my father had grown up in a tiny village called Alego, near Siaya, during this period of tumult. I began to understand and appreciate the distance he had traveled – from being a boy herding goats to a student at the University of Hawaii and Harvard University to the respected economist that he was upon his return to Kenya. In many ways, he embodied the new Africa of the early Sixties, a man who had obtained the knowledge of the Western world, and sought to bring it back home, where he hoped he could help create a new nation.

And yet, I discovered that for all his education, my father’s life ended up being filled with disappointments. His ideas about how Kenya should progress often put him at odds with the politics of tribe and patronage, and because he spoke his mind, sometimes to a fault, he ended up being fired from his job and prevented from finding work in the country for many, many years. And on a more personal level, because he never fully reconciled the traditions of his village with more modern conceptions of family – because he related to women as his father had, expecting them to obey him no matter what he did – his family life was unstable, and his children never knew him well.

In many ways, then, my family’s life reflects some of the contradictions of Kenya, and indeed, the African continent as a whole. The history of Africa is a history of ancient kingdoms and great traditions; the story of people fighting to be free from colonial rule; the heroism of not only of great men like Nkrumah and Kenyatta and Mandela, but also ordinary people who endured great hardship, from Ghana to South Africa, to secure self-determination in the face of great odds.

But for all the progress that has been made, we must surely acknowledge that neither Kenya nor the African continent have yet fulfilled their potential – that the hopefulness of the post-colonial era has been replaced by cynicism and sometimes despair, and that true freedom has not yet been won for those struggling to live on less than a few shillings a day, for those who have fallen prey to HIV/AIDS or malaria, to those ordinary citizens who continue to find themselves trapped in the crossfire of war or ethnic conflict.

One statistic powerfully describes this unfulfilled promise. In early 1960′s, as Kenya was gaining its independence, its gross national product was not very different from that of South Korea. Today, South Korea’s economy is forty times larger than Kenya’s.

How can we explain this fact? Certainly it is not due to lack of effort on the part of ordinary Kenyans – we know how hard Kenyans are willing to work, the tremendous sacrifices that Kenyan mothers make for their children, the Herculean efforts that Kenyan fathers make for their families. We know as well the talent, the intelligence, and the creativity that exists in this country. And we know how much this land is blessed – just as the entire African continent is blessed – with great gifts and riches.

So what explains this? I believe there a number of factors at work.

Kenya, like many African nations did not come of age under the best historical circumstances. It suffers from the legacy of colonialism, of national boundaries that were drawn without regard to the political and tribal alignments of indigenous peoples, and that therefore fed conflict and tribal strife.

Kenya was also forced to rapidly move from a highly agrarian to a more urban, industrialized nation. This means that the education and health care systems – issues that my own nation more than 200 years old still struggles with – lag behind, impacting its development.

Third, Kenya is hurt from factors unique to Africa’s geography and place in the world — disease, distance from viable markets and especially terms of trade. When African nations were just gaining independence, industrialized nations had decades of experience building their domestic economies and navigating the international financial system. And, as Frederick Douglass once stated: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” As a result, many African nations have been asked to liberalize their markets without reciprocal concessions from mature economies. This lack of access for Africa’s agriculture and commodities has restricted an important engine of economic growth. Other issues, such as resource extraction and the drain of human capital have also been major factors.

As a Senator from the United States, I believe that my country, and other nations, have an obligation and self-interest in being full partners with Kenya and with Africa. And, I will do my part to shape an intelligent foreign policy that promotes peace and prosperity. A foreign policy that gives hope and opportunity to the people of this great continent.

But, Kenya must do its part. It cannot wait for other nations to act first. The hard truth is that nations, by and large, will act in their self-interest and if Kenya does not act, it will fall behind.

It’s more than just history and outside influences that explain why Kenya lags behind. Like many nations across this continent, where Kenya is failing is in its ability to create a government that is transparent and accountable. One that serves its people and is free from corruption.

There is no doubt that what Kenyans have accomplished with this independence is both impressive and inspiring. Among African nations, Kenya remains a model for representative democracy – a place where many different ethnic factions have found a way to live and work together in peace and stability. You enjoy a robust civil society; a press that’s free, fair, and honest; and a strong partnership with my own country that has resulted in critical cooperation on terrorist issues, real strides in fighting disease and poverty, and an important alliance on fostering regional stability.

And yet, the reason I speak of the freedom that you fought so hard to win is because today that freedom is in jeopardy. It is being threatened by corruption.

Corruption is not a new problem. It’s not just a Kenyan problem, or an African problem. It’s a human problem, and it has existed in some form in almost every society. My own city of Chicago has been the home of some of the most corrupt local politics in American history, from patronage machines to questionable elections. In just the last year, our own U.S. Congress has seen a representative resign after taking bribes, and several others fall under investigation for using their public office for private gain.

But while corruption is a problem we all share, here in Kenya it is a crisis – a crisis that’s robbing an honest people of the opportunities they have fought for – the opportunity they deserve.

I know that while recent reports have pointed to strong economic growth in this country, 56% of Kenyans still live in poverty. And I know that the vast majority of people in this country desperately want to change this.

It is painfully obvious that corruption stifles development – it siphons off scarce resources that could improve infrastructure, bolster education systems, and strengthen public health. It stacks the deck so high against entrepreneurs that they cannot get their job-creating ideas off the ground. In fact, one recent survey showed that corruption in Kenya costs local firms 6% of their revenues, the difference between good-paying jobs in Kenya or somewhere else. And corruption also erodes the state from the inside out, sickening the justice system until there is no justice to be found, poisoning the police forces until their presence becomes a source of insecurity rather than comfort.

Corruption has a way of magnifying the very worst twists of fate. It makes it impossible to respond effectively to crises — whether it’s the HIV/AIDS pandemic or malaria or crippling drought.

What’s worse – corruption can also provide opportunities for those who would harness the fear and hatred of others to their agenda and ambitions.

It can shield a war criminal – even one like Felicien Kabuga, suspected of helping to finance and orchestrate the Rwandan genocide – by allowing him to purchase safe haven for a time and robbing all humanity of the opportunity to bring the criminal to justice.

Terrorist attacks – like those that have shed Kenyan blood and struck at the heart of the Kenyan economy – are facilitated by customs and border officers who can be paid off, by police forces so crippled by corruption that they do not protect the personal safety of Kenyans walking the streets of Nairobi, and by forged documents that are easy to find in a climate where graft and fraud thrive.

Some of the worst actors on the international stage can also take advantage of the collective exhaustion and outrage that people feel with official corruption, as we’ve seen with Islamic extremists who promise purification, but deliver totalitarianism. Endemic corruption opens the door to this kind of movement, and in its wake comes a new set of distortions and betrayals of public trust.

In the end, if the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost. And this is why the struggle against corruption is one of the great struggles of our time.

The good news is that there are already signs of progress here. Willingness to report corruption is increasingly significantly in Kenya. The Kenyan media has been courageous in uncovering and reporting on some of the most blatant abuses of the system, and there has been a growing recognition among people and politicians that this is a critical issue.

Among other things, this recognition resulted in the coalition that came to power in the December elections of 2002. This coalition succeeded by promising change, and their early gestures – the dismissal of the shaky judges, the renewed vigor of the investigation into the Goldenberg scandal, the calls for real disclosure of elected officials’ personal wealth – were all promising.

But elections are not enough. In a true democracy, it is what happens between elections that is the true measure of how a government treats its people.

Today, we’re starting to see that the Kenyan people want more than a simple changing of the guard, more than piecemeal reforms to a crisis that’s crippling their country. The Kenyan people are crying out for real change, and whether one voted orange or banana in last year’s referendum, the message that many Kenyans seemed to be sending was one of dissatisfaction with the pace of reform, and real frustration with continued tolerance of corruption at high levels.

And so we know that there is more work to be done – more reforms to be made. I don’t have all the solutions or think that they’ll be easy, but there are a few places that a country truly committed to reform could start.

We know that the temptation to take a bribe is greater when you’re not making enough on the job. And we also know that the more people there are on the government payroll, the more likely it is that someone will be encouraged to take a bribe. So if the government found ways to downsize the bureaucracy – to cut out the positions that aren’t necessary or useful – it could use the extra money to increase the salary of other government officials.

Of course, the best way to reduce bureaucracy and increase pay is to create more private sector jobs. And the way to create good jobs is when the rules of a society are transparent – when there’s a clear and advertised set of laws and regulations regarding how to start a business, what it takes to own property, how to go about getting a loan – there is less of a chance that some corrupt bureaucrat will make up his own rules that suit only his interests. Clarifying these rules and focusing resources on building a judicial system that can enforce them and resolve disputes should be a primary goal of any government suffering from corruption.

In addition, we know that the more information the public is provided, the easier it will be for your Kenyan brothers and sisters out in the villages to evaluate whether they are being treated fairly by their public servants or not. Wealth declarations do little good if no one can access them, and accountability in government spending is not possible if no one knows how much was available and allocated to a given project in the first place.

Finally, ethnic-based tribal politics has to stop. It is rooted in the bankrupt idea that the goal of politics or business is to funnel as much of the pie as possible to one’s family, tribe, or circle with little regard for the public good. It stifles innovation and fractures the fabric of the society. Instead of opening businesses and engaging in commerce, people come to rely on patronage and payback as a means of advancing. Instead of unifying the country to move forward on solving problems, it divides neighbor from neighbor.

An accountable, transparent government can break this cycle. When people are judged by merit, not connections, then the best and brightest can lead the country, people will work hard, and the entire economy will grow – everyone will benefit and more resources will be available for all, not just select groups.

Of course, in the end, one of the strongest weapons your country has against corruption is the ability of you, the people, to stand up and speak out about the injustices you see. The Kenyan people are the ultimate guardians against abuses.

The world knows the names of Wangari Maathai and John Githongo, who are fighting against the insidious corruption that has weakened Kenya. But there are so many others, some of whom I’m meeting during my visit here – Betty Murungi, Ken Njau, Jane Onyango, Maina Kiai, Milly Odhiombo, and Hussein Khalid. As well as numerous Kenyan men and women who have refused to pay bribes to get civil servants to perform their duties; the auditors and inspectors general who have done the job before them accurately and fairly, regardless of where the facts have led; the journalists who asked questions and pushed for answers when it may have been more lucrative to look the other way, or whip up a convenient fiction. And then there are anonymous Kenyan whistleblowers who show us what is, so that we can all work together to demand what should be.

By rejecting the insulting idea that corruption is somehow a part of Kenyan culture, these heroes reveal the very opposite – they reveal a strength and integrity of character that can build a great country, a great future. By focusing on building strong, independent institutions – like an anti-corruption commission with real authority – rather than cults of personality, they make a contribution to their country that will last longer than their own lives. They fight the fight of our time.

Looking out at this crowd of young people, I have faith that you will fight this fight too.

You will decide if your leaders will be held accountable, or if you will look the other way.

You will decide if the standards and the rules will be the same for everyone – regardless of ethnicity or of wealth.

And you will determine the direction of this country in the 21st century – whether the hard work of the many is lost to the selfish desires of a few, or whether you build an open, honest, stronger Kenya where everyone rises together.

This is the Kenya that so many who came before you envisioned – all those men and women who struggled and sacrificed and fought for the freedom you enjoy today.

I know that honoring their memory and making that freedom real may seem like an impossible task – an effort bigger than you can imagine – but sometimes all it takes to move us there is doing what little you can to right the wrongs you see.

As I said at the outset, I did not know my father well – he returned to Kenya from America when I was still young. Since that time I have known him through stories – those my mother would tell and those I heard from my relatives here in Kenya on my last trip to this country.

I know from these stories that my father was not a perfect man – that he made his share of mistakes and disappointed his share of people in his lifetime.

As our parents’ children, we have the opportunity to learn from these mistakes and disappointments. We have the opportunity to muster the courage to fulfill the promise of our forefathers and lead our great nations towards a better future.

In today’s Kenya – a Kenya already more open and less repressive than in my father’s day – it is that courage that will bring the reform so many of you so desperately want and deserve. I wish all of you luck in finding this courage in the days and months to come, and I want you to know that as your ally, your friend, and your brother, I will be there to help in any way I can. Thank you.The first time I came to Kenya was in 1987. I had just finished three years of work as a community organizer in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago, and was about to enroll in law school. My sister, Auma, was teaching that year at this university, and so I came to stay with her for a month.

My experience then was very different than it has been on this trip. Instead of a motorcade, we traveled in my sister’s old VW Beetle, which even then was already ten years old. When it broke down in front of Uhuru Park, we had to push until some joakalis came to fix it by the side of the road. I slept on the couch of my sister’s apartment, not a fancy hotel, and often took my meals at a small tea-house in downtown Nairobi. When we went upcountry, we traveled by train and matatu, with chickens and collard greens and sometimes babies placed in my lap.

But it was a magical trip. To begin with, I discovered the warmth and sense of community that the people of Kenya possess – their sense of hopefulness even in the face of great difficulty. I discovered the beauty of the land, a beauty that haunts you long after you’ve left.

And most importantly for me, I discovered the story of my father’s life, and the story of his father before him.

I learned that my grandfather had been a cook for the British and, although he was a respected elder in his village, he was called “boy” by his employers for most of his life. I learned about the brutal repression of Operation Anvil, the days of rape and torture in the “Pipeline” camps, the lives that so many gave, and how my grandfather had been arrested briefly during this period, despite being at the periphery of Kenya’s liberation struggles.

I learned how my father had grown up in a tiny village called Alego, near Siaya, during this period of tumult. I began to understand and appreciate the distance he had traveled – from being a boy herding goats to a student at the University of Hawaii and Harvard University to the respected economist that he was upon his return to Kenya. In many ways, he embodied the new Africa of the early Sixties, a man who had obtained the knowledge of the Western world, and sought to bring it back home, where he hoped he could help create a new nation.

And yet, I discovered that for all his education, my father’s life ended up being filled with disappointments. His ideas about how Kenya should progress often put him at odds with the politics of tribe and patronage, and because he spoke his mind, sometimes to a fault, he ended up being fired from his job and prevented from finding work in the country for many, many years. And on a more personal level, because he never fully reconciled the traditions of his village with more modern conceptions of family – because he related to women as his father had, expecting them to obey him no matter what he did – his family life was unstable, and his children never knew him well.

In many ways, then, my family’s life reflects some of the contradictions of Kenya, and indeed, the African continent as a whole. The history of Africa is a history of ancient kingdoms and great traditions; the story of people fighting to be free from colonial rule; the heroism of not only of great men like Nkrumah and Kenyatta and Mandela, but also ordinary people who endured great hardship, from Ghana to South Africa, to secure self-determination in the face of great odds.

But for all the progress that has been made, we must surely acknowledge that neither Kenya nor the African continent have yet fulfilled their potential – that the hopefulness of the post-colonial era has been replaced by cynicism and sometimes despair, and that true freedom has not yet been won for those struggling to live on less than a few shillings a day, for those who have fallen prey to HIV/AIDS or malaria, to those ordinary citizens who continue to find themselves trapped in the crossfire of war or ethnic conflict.

One statistic powerfully describes this unfulfilled promise. In early 1960′s, as Kenya was gaining its independence, its gross national product was not very different from that of South Korea. Today, South Korea’s economy is forty times larger than Kenya’s.

How can we explain this fact? Certainly it is not due to lack of effort on the part of ordinary Kenyans – we know how hard Kenyans are willing to work, the tremendous sacrifices that Kenyan mothers make for their children, the Herculean efforts that Kenyan fathers make for their families. We know as well the talent, the intelligence, and the creativity that exists in this country. And we know how much this land is blessed – just as the entire African continent is blessed – with great gifts and riches.

So what explains this? I believe there a number of factors at work.

Kenya, like many African nations did not come of age under the best historical circumstances. It suffers from the legacy of colonialism, of national boundaries that were drawn without regard to the political and tribal alignments of indigenous peoples, and that therefore fed conflict and tribal strife.

Kenya was also forced to rapidly move from a highly agrarian to a more urban, industrialized nation. This means that the education and health care systems – issues that my own nation more than 200 years old still struggles with – lag behind, impacting its development.

Third, Kenya is hurt from factors unique to Africa’s geography and place in the world — disease, distance from viable markets and especially terms of trade. When African nations were just gaining independence, industrialized nations had decades of experience building their domestic economies and navigating the international financial system. And, as Frederick Douglass once stated: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” As a result, many African nations have been asked to liberalize their markets without reciprocal concessions from mature economies. This lack of access for Africa’s agriculture and commodities has restricted an important engine of economic growth. Other issues, such as resource extraction and the drain of human capital have also been major factors.

As a Senator from the United States, I believe that my country, and other nations, have an obligation and self-interest in being full partners with Kenya and with Africa. And, I will do my part to shape an intelligent foreign policy that promotes peace and prosperity. A foreign policy that gives hope and opportunity to the people of this great continent.

But, Kenya must do its part. It cannot wait for other nations to act first. The hard truth is that nations, by and large, will act in their self-interest and if Kenya does not act, it will fall behind.

It’s more than just history and outside influences that explain why Kenya lags behind. Like many nations across this continent, where Kenya is failing is in its ability to create a government that is transparent and accountable. One that serves its people and is free from corruption.

There is no doubt that what Kenyans have accomplished with this independence is both impressive and inspiring. Among African nations, Kenya remains a model for representative democracy – a place where many different ethnic factions have found a way to live and work together in peace and stability. You enjoy a robust civil society; a press that’s free, fair, and honest; and a strong partnership with my own country that has resulted in critical cooperation on terrorist issues, real strides in fighting disease and poverty, and an important alliance on fostering regional stability.

And yet, the reason I speak of the freedom that you fought so hard to win is because today that freedom is in jeopardy. It is being threatened by corruption.

Corruption is not a new problem. It’s not just a Kenyan problem, or an African problem. It’s a human problem, and it has existed in some form in almost every society. My own city of Chicago has been the home of some of the most corrupt local politics in American history, from patronage machines to questionable elections. In just the last year, our own U.S. Congress has seen a representative resign after taking bribes, and several others fall under investigation for using their public office for private gain.

But while corruption is a problem we all share, here in Kenya it is a crisis – a crisis that’s robbing an honest people of the opportunities they have fought for – the opportunity they deserve.

I know that while recent reports have pointed to strong economic growth in this country, 56% of Kenyans still live in poverty. And I know that the vast majority of people in this country desperately want to change this.

It is painfully obvious that corruption stifles development – it siphons off scarce resources that could improve infrastructure, bolster education systems, and strengthen public health. It stacks the deck so high against entrepreneurs that they cannot get their job-creating ideas off the ground. In fact, one recent survey showed that corruption in Kenya costs local firms 6% of their revenues, the difference between good-paying jobs in Kenya or somewhere else. And corruption also erodes the state from the inside out, sickening the justice system until there is no justice to be found, poisoning the police forces until their presence becomes a source of insecurity rather than comfort.

Corruption has a way of magnifying the very worst twists of fate. It makes it impossible to respond effectively to crises — whether it’s the HIV/AIDS pandemic or malaria or crippling drought.

What’s worse – corruption can also provide opportunities for those who would harness the fear and hatred of others to their agenda and ambitions.

It can shield a war criminal – even one like Felicien Kabuga, suspected of helping to finance and orchestrate the Rwandan genocide – by allowing him to purchase safe haven for a time and robbing all humanity of the opportunity to bring the criminal to justice.

Terrorist attacks – like those that have shed Kenyan blood and struck at the heart of the Kenyan economy – are facilitated by customs and border officers who can be paid off, by police forces so crippled by corruption that they do not protect the personal safety of Kenyans walking the streets of Nairobi, and by forged documents that are easy to find in a climate where graft and fraud thrive.

Some of the worst actors on the international stage can also take advantage of the collective exhaustion and outrage that people feel with official corruption, as we’ve seen with Islamic extremists who promise purification, but deliver totalitarianism. Endemic corruption opens the door to this kind of movement, and in its wake comes a new set of distortions and betrayals of public trust.

In the end, if the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost. And this is why the struggle against corruption is one of the great struggles of our time.

The good news is that there are already signs of progress here. Willingness to report corruption is increasingly significantly in Kenya. The Kenyan media has been courageous in uncovering and reporting on some of the most blatant abuses of the system, and there has been a growing recognition among people and politicians that this is a critical issue.

Among other things, this recognition resulted in the coalition that came to power in the December elections of 2002. This coalition succeeded by promising change, and their early gestures – the dismissal of the shaky judges, the renewed vigor of the investigation into the Goldenberg scandal, the calls for real disclosure of elected officials’ personal wealth – were all promising.

But elections are not enough. In a true democracy, it is what happens between elections that is the true measure of how a government treats its people.

Today, we’re starting to see that the Kenyan people want more than a simple changing of the guard, more than piecemeal reforms to a crisis that’s crippling their country. The Kenyan people are crying out for real change, and whether one voted orange or banana in last year’s referendum, the message that many Kenyans seemed to be sending was one of dissatisfaction with the pace of reform, and real frustration with continued tolerance of corruption at high levels.

And so we know that there is more work to be done – more reforms to be made. I don’t have all the solutions or think that they’ll be easy, but there are a few places that a country truly committed to reform could start.

We know that the temptation to take a bribe is greater when you’re not making enough on the job. And we also know that the more people there are on the government payroll, the more likely it is that someone will be encouraged to take a bribe. So if the government found ways to downsize the bureaucracy – to cut out the positions that aren’t necessary or useful – it could use the extra money to increase the salary of other government officials.

Of course, the best way to reduce bureaucracy and increase pay is to create more private sector jobs. And the way to create good jobs is when the rules of a society are transparent – when there’s a clear and advertised set of laws and regulations regarding how to start a business, what it takes to own property, how to go about getting a loan – there is less of a chance that some corrupt bureaucrat will make up his own rules that suit only his interests. Clarifying these rules and focusing resources on building a judicial system that can enforce them and resolve disputes should be a primary goal of any government suffering from corruption.

In addition, we know that the more information the public is provided, the easier it will be for your Kenyan brothers and sisters out in the villages to evaluate whether they are being treated fairly by their public servants or not. Wealth declarations do little good if no one can access them, and accountability in government spending is not possible if no one knows how much was available and allocated to a given project in the first place.

Finally, ethnic-based tribal politics has to stop. It is rooted in the bankrupt idea that the goal of politics or business is to funnel as much of the pie as possible to one’s family, tribe, or circle with little regard for the public good. It stifles innovation and fractures the fabric of the society. Instead of opening businesses and engaging in commerce, people come to rely on patronage and payback as a means of advancing. Instead of unifying the country to move forward on solving problems, it divides neighbor from neighbor.

An accountable, transparent government can break this cycle. When people are judged by merit, not connections, then the best and brightest can lead the country, people will work hard, and the entire economy will grow – everyone will benefit and more resources will be available for all, not just select groups.

Of course, in the end, one of the strongest weapons your country has against corruption is the ability of you, the people, to stand up and speak out about the injustices you see. The Kenyan people are the ultimate guardians against abuses.

The world knows the names of Wangari Maathai and John Githongo, who are fighting against the insidious corruption that has weakened Kenya. But there are so many others, some of whom I’m meeting during my visit here – Betty Murungi, Ken Njau, Jane Onyango, Maina Kiai, Milly Odhiombo, and Hussein Khalid. As well as numerous Kenyan men and women who have refused to pay bribes to get civil servants to perform their duties; the auditors and inspectors general who have done the job before them accurately and fairly, regardless of where the facts have led; the journalists who asked questions and pushed for answers when it may have been more lucrative to look the other way, or whip up a convenient fiction. And then there are anonymous Kenyan whistleblowers who show us what is, so that we can all work together to demand what should be.

By rejecting the insulting idea that corruption is somehow a part of Kenyan culture, these heroes reveal the very opposite – they reveal a strength and integrity of character that can build a great country, a great future. By focusing on building strong, independent institutions – like an anti-corruption commission with real authority – rather than cults of personality, they make a contribution to their country that will last longer than their own lives. They fight the fight of our time.

Looking out at this crowd of young people, I have faith that you will fight this fight too.

You will decide if your leaders will be held accountable, or if you will look the other way.

You will decide if the standards and the rules will be the same for everyone – regardless of ethnicity or of wealth.

And you will determine the direction of this country in the 21st century – whether the hard work of the many is lost to the selfish desires of a few, or whether you build an open, honest, stronger Kenya where everyone rises together.

This is the Kenya that so many who came before you envisioned – all those men and women who struggled and sacrificed and fought for the freedom you enjoy today.

I know that honoring their memory and making that freedom real may seem like an impossible task – an effort bigger than you can imagine – but sometimes all it takes to move us there is doing what little you can to right the wrongs you see.

As I said at the outset, I did not know my father well – he returned to Kenya from America when I was still young. Since that time I have known him through stories – those my mother would tell and those I heard from my relatives here in Kenya on my last trip to this country.

I know from these stories that my father was not a perfect man – that he made his share of mistakes and disappointed his share of people in his lifetime.

As our parents’ children, we have the opportunity to learn from these mistakes and disappointments. We have the opportunity to muster the courage to fulfill the promise of our forefathers and lead our great nations towards a better future.

In today’s Kenya – a Kenya already more open and less repressive than in my father’s day – it is that courage that will bring the reform so many of you so desperately want and deserve. I wish all of you luck in finding this courage in the days and months to come, and I want you to know that as your ally, your friend, and your brother, I will be there to help in any way I can.

Thank you.

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Random, ethnic politics is really quite rational

As Obama makes his entry into Kenya, many will remember the advice by Johnnie Carson which drew much controversy some years ago: ‘choices have consequences’.

It was understood then that the choice referred to was the election of the president – a political choice. Johnnie Carson was then the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Political choices always have consequences. Politics may be a clean or dirty game, but the results are inescapable.

Obama’s advent to Kenya is certainly historic, and highly political. Many consider that his coming and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit generally herald a brighter future for Kenya. Hopefully the tourism sector will get some sort of relief.

Nairobi’s CBD has got some sort of facelift. Many of us had never seen such hurried repairs since the days of the 1998 and 2000 COMESA meetings in Nairobi.

Trees have grown overnight, beautiful landscapes have surfaced from the isles of long-forgotten Uhuru Highway, and grass has been planted faster than Simon Makonde’s life matured, as PLO wisely said during a TV interview.

Yes, we can… when we want. The pity is that we seldom want.

Most people tend to think that politics is a random game, that is irrational or purely emotional. Politics in Africa, many say, is just erratic and fickle, and the more studious will bet and swear in favour of the ‘tyranny of numbers’ theory.

Luckily, this is not a scientific conclusion, and there is a lot more to politics than ethnicity, random alliances or just demagogy. There is a way of measuring, and even predicting, the result of political decisions and this applies to any political system.

This week I met two outstanding Kenyans who have thought these matters deeply. One, Dr Joseph Keiyah, is a seasoned veteran in policymaking, economics and law and the other is a young graduate in love with Kenyan history, Sahil Shah.

Both of them keep fond memories of a great Kenyan political thinker, Prof Mwangi Kimenyi, who sadly passed away on June 6 this year, just two months after we had a short but exciting conversation in Washington.

The late Prof Mwangi Kimenyi, a son of the Kenyan soil, was a firm proponent of the use of economic analysis to explain political decisions. For instance, he used the economic concepts of efficiency and stability to demonstrate how ‘rational’ dictators are within their special circumstances and constraints, just as democratic leaders are.

The economic analysis of political actions, choices and decisions is of particular importance to the positive political theory, or the study of politics through an economic lens, or more specifically, of appropriating the microeconomic concept of rational choice to political analysis.

Numerous subsets of positive political theory (game theory, public choice theory, selectorate theory, etc.) acknowledge the rational nature of the individual in whatever position, whether in private or public service.

Such an individual is confronted by choices that have varying consequences and is required to adopt a rational choice, one that is sound in economics.

Now, it might sound inimical to the ‘public conscience’ to suggest that political actions are rational and based on factors such as stability and efficiency, and this is even worse if we consider the negative position that one of the foremost political actors – the Legislature – has so ruthlessly endeavoured to maintain.

The rationality could be justified on similar grounds to those that spark much public criticism. The Kenyan political arena has grown ever more volatile with each passing general election, and there is no longer, at least in theory, the assurance of a career in politics.

The elected representatives are no longer guaranteed continued rule over their particular regions of representation. Competition for the limited elected posts is very vigorous, and quite costly in some cases. The threat of being sent home by the electorate looms constantly.

In theory, such circumstances are not any different to those of a dictator who rises to power through a bloody revolution and rules in constant fear of a counter-revolution.

Both the Kenyan politician and the malevolent dictator tend to adopt similar strategies as Professor Kimenyi enumerates so indisputably, namely the employment of close associates within one’s coalition who may not have any qualification to hold posts in the public service.

The dictator who surrounds himself with cronies is basically trying to build multiple walls around a fortress so as to frustrate his attackers. While the invader is engrossed in bringing down the outside walls, the dictator tries to buy time to marshal forces to counter the attacks.

This is true of our politics, where any politician who feels threatened resorts to building walls around his fortress through rewards to cronies who have little or no experience, leading to even more inefficiencies in the system.

The often-unqualified cronies resort to pilfering public goods or in general, abusing their offices for private gain. This inefficient drama may not just be replicated 47 times, but also really devolved, considering the number of elected representatives in the National Assembly, the Senate, the County Assemblies and the County.

In this context, we may realise without surprise that the Kenyan democratic political structure is not yet really different from a dictatorial regime in terms of what regards efficient output. Politics really is not as random, fickle or ethnic as we thought.

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. Lfranceschi@strathmore.edu, Twitter: @lgfranceschi

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