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Demand and deliver the Kenya we want

Kenyans have started to dream again. Up to last year, dreaming was a dangerous pastime in this country. How many of us would try to imagine a better country, and be left holding the shattered pieces of that vision in our hands? How many of us would hope for a safer city, only to find thugs waiting at the gate? How many of left universities dreaming of fulfilling careers, only to have our resolve broken on the sweltering footpaths of unemployment? How many of us had even stopped thinking about a future?

Now, dreaming is back, and worth doing again! And naturally, the young are leading the way. Way back in 2002, 42 youngsters (average age: 27) got together and started to discuss what sort of country they wanted to live in. They were all busy people, but made the time to get together in working groups to discuss and debate the various faces of a desirable Kenya. They did this, remember, at a time when such activity seemed futile to most of us, when no ‘regime change’ appeared likely. I, for one, was busy minding my own business and focusing on the ‘here-and-now’ in those days.

But this group persisted. They pondered and wondered, and things started to come together. At the end of the year, when the regime indeed changed, the youngsters were ready with their vision for the country. They have spent much of the past three months sharing the vision with other groups of young people far and wide, to confirm that it indeed reflects the aspirations of a broad spectrum of Kenyan youth. They have sought wisdom and guidance from their elders. They have produced books and pamphlets, and an attractive website (www.kenyavision.org). They conducted an elaborate launch last month, which was an instant success, showcasing young Kenyan talent: poetry, drama and music regaled the large crowd.

The country’s media were there, but chose to give the event only the most trivial coverage. There are so many more interesting, more immediate, more salacious things to worry about, you see: who’s in court lately, what the latest political conspiracy theories say, who’s attacking whom. Good news must always take a back seat. Visions do not make headlines.

So what exactly is the fuss about, you might ask? What is this vision? The youngsters call it Vision 2027: the Promise of our Generation. They visualise the Kenya of 2027, when the generation born today will come of age. Today’s 27-year-olds are, in effect, painting a picture of the Kenya they undertake to build for the generation that will come after them.

This is a noble endeavour, and one worthy of all our support. Let me declare an interest: I am trustee of this project, and proudly so. How refreshing that a group of Kenyans finds it appealing to spend its own time and energy to worry about a generation as yet unborn! This is just the sort of altruism and community spirit that seemed forever lost to us not so long ago.

The vision itself has many facets. It covers nationhood, the economy, democracy, leadership, security, education, health, justice, the environment and our role in the world at large. It is too large an endeavour for me to share with you in one article. But I will pick out some of the more interesting scenes from this collective dream to share with you here.

Our dignity and self-confidence as a nation has taken some severe knocks, and must be resurrected. In 2027, the youngsters tell us, we shall be a dignified and confident people again. We shall have faith in ourselves and confidence in the possibility of our greatness as a nation. We will take pride in our nationality, and wear it with aplomb. We will recognise, however, that our nationality is composed of diversity: our different ethnic and tribal groups will co-exist in mutual respect, bound together by the privilege of being Kenyan.

We will have recaptured the virtue of hard work and discipline. We will roll up our sleeves and apply our energies with vigour, not keep a sly eye on the main chance or the quick buck. We will believe in enterprise and initiative, not look for handouts and quick fixes. We will be self-dependent and self-sustaining, not the beggars that we have allowed ourselves to become today.

We will emphasise the accountability of both the state and the citizen. Kenyans will be an informed people, able to understand the implications of the choices before them. The youth will be our source of energy and renewal; the elderly the repository of wisdom gathered over generations.

We will be at peace with ourselves and with the world around us. We will neither seek nor encourage conflict, but will strive to resolve it wherever it occurs. We will be a proud and leading member of the global community, respected for our opinions and our wisdom.

In 2027, our economy will be robust and vibrant. We will have embraced technology and innovation. Our private sector will produce products and services that will stand comparison with any in the world, not the high-priced, defective and unreliable merchandise we excel in today. Our public sector will be coherent and consistent in providing the climate for business. Enterprise in Kenya will hold dear the highest standards of governance and professional integrity.

The promise of this generation, then, is about unity of purpose and confidence of outlook. It is using the power of education and harnessing the discipline of hard work. It is about having a strong ethical core to all our endeavours. It is about thinking for ourselves and managing our own destiny as a nation. That, in the smallest of nutshells, is the vision for 2027.

But this is 2003, and Kenyans today are still a cynical bunch. I can already hear your reactions: “utopian”; “unrealistic”; “castles in the air”; “we can all dream, but who will deliver?”

Fortunately, the youngsters developing this vision are not easily put off by cynicism, nor are they engaging in pipe dreams. They are hard-nosed and worldly wise, and have a clear answer to your scepticism. Developing the dream is Phase 1. We must have something to aim at, and we must make it worth aiming at. The vision is the ‘what’; next comes the ‘how’.

The ‘how’, it must be understood, is not a matter for 42 youngsters alone. It is the responsibility of 30 million Kenyans. If this vision inspires you, you must get on board. If you want a Kenya like the one described here, you must do something about it. It is not a matter to be left to others. The strategies to deliver the vision will draw on the resources and energies of all the people of Kenya, our government and all our institutions. They will take shape over the months to come.

The promise of our generation is simple: we must demand and deliver the Kenya we want. Our youth have taken the trouble to define what we might be. It is now our collective responsibility to ensure that it is what we become.

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