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The Sunshine Awards 2008

This is the time of year that we look back on the days and months that have passed, and reflect on what happened. Another year is recorded in the history books, and it is appropriate to reconsider, to reassess and to revisit.

In this spirit, ‘A Sunny Day’ has decided to inaugurate the annual Sunshine Awards, to honour those individuals and organisations that excelled, and to lambast those who brought dismay to the world and disgrace to themselves. We use the word ‘sunshine’ not just in the sense of warmth and good cheer, but also to mean shedding light and opening up scrutiny. These awards are made from a Kenyan perspective. They are quirky and idiosyncratic. They are not decided by a panel of experts, and are not subject to any known auditing process. With that in mind, read on (or not)!

2008’s historic High Point Award goes to the election of Barack Obama in the United States of America. That a black man is now the president-elect of America is still a mind-boggling fact, one that few of us thought could be achieved in our lifetime. A high point in the history of the world was indeed clocked in 2008, and we will all remember the year for that alone.

The Country of the Year, therefore, was the United States of America. We all have something sour to say about the USA. Many resent its power and braggadocio, its wealth and self-righteousness. But in 2008, the good ol’ USA proved why it still leads the world. It set a new standard in democracy and in tolerance, in acceptance of outsiders and in ethnic relations. There may not be another country in the world that could have elected such a rank outsider to lead it in the way that the USA did with such ease and lack of controversy.

The Person of the Year is naturally the man himself, Barack Obama. A person of learning and application, calm, collected ‘No-Drama Obama’ is a worthy recipient. He dared to dream the audacious dream, and made it come true. His victory was not bequeathed from heaven; it was engineered right here on earth, using a fierce combination of intelligence and determination, as well a refusal to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. If you need a story to tell your children to illustrate the power of good values, the Obama one is all you need.

Now we return closer to home. The Low Point Award goes to Kenya’s post-election flare-up, and this is one we must all share as a country. It is not about individuals or principals; it is about our collective descent into anarchy, savagery and hatred. This is a certificate of shame that should be hung in every home in the land. We all fell, and we fell badly. We killed, raped, burned, looted and fanned the fumes of loathing. Let us hope never to be awarded this prize again.

The Shock of the Year was the revelation that the world’s leading corporations, financiers and regulators have no damned clue what they’re doing. The global economic meltdown has taken many reputations with it, not least those of chief executives, boards of directors, banking experts and financial regulators. The fact that so many hard-nosed, seasoned business leaders built their empires on quicksand made from unsustainable credit still blows the mind. 2009 should be the year of utter humility for anyone involved in business (this columnist included).

The Worst Organisation of the Year was the Electoral Commission of Kenya. It presided over an election in which it was unable to add up, despite having spent billions of shillings. It then admitted to not knowing the result of the said election, even though it had declared a winner. Despite the shame and ignominy heaped upon them, the organisation’s leaders refused to step down and are still fighting tooth and nail to prevent their disbandment. Or rather, to be given a golden parachute, even though history will record them as the epitome of incompetence.

And finally, the Television Moment of the year was the press conference in Iraq where president George W Bush was so nearly felled by a pair of shoes. This will be the most oft-repeated footage of 2008, and expressed what many felt about Bush’s idea of America. But one thing we all seemed to forget was the president’s remarkably calm demeanour under attack. His expression did not seem to change even slightly as he ducked, and he showed remarkable physical coordination in dodging the footwear hurled at him. He also forgave his assailant immediately, terming it a minor incident.

Hmm. Had that been a Kenyan politician, he would have had neither the physical fitness nor the presence of mind to dodge the missiles. And his bodyguards would have made sure they jumped on the protestor’s private parts and hospitalised him!

I wish you all an entertaining, humble, rewarding and agile 2009.

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