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Missing Person: The Kenyan We Want

New roads. New railway stations. New ports. New connectivity. That’s the Kenya We Want, right? We know infrastructure is at the heart of development, right? We know that infrastructure investments will power the economy to Vision 2030 and Middle Income status, right?


Do you wonder why we build a new ‘super’ highway only to find it already crumbling from vandalism, and already a death-trap caused by senseless driving?

Do you wonder why there is widespread suspicion of every new port and rail project (even the good ones), with lots of Kenyans asking whether these are just new ‘white elephant’ projects that have merely lined the right pockets?

Do you wonder why a 21st-century economy with so much affluence in it still can’t provide everyday, affordable, reliable power?

Your wonderment is caused by a focus on the Kenya We Want, rather than the Kenyan We Want.

That apt description of the problem was not coined by me. I found it on Twitter, courtesy of one Stella Kiguta-Nganga. It captures perfectly what we are doing wrong as a nation.

We can put up all the new buildings and structures and highways we like, but for as long as we keep populating them with the Kenyans We Don’t Want, we won’t move a step forward.

The Kenyan We Don’t Want is a thief masquerading as a leader. This Kenyan has no compunction in helping himself liberally to the public purse. This Kenyan is the main reason we won’t develop as a nation, for this Kenyan will ensure that all the good projects turn into bad deals.

The Kenyan We Don’t Want is an ethnicist. This Kenyan will keep us poor by keeping us divided, for every new thing we try to do will be couched in terms of tribe and colour, and no national unity will be found for anything, from elections to jobs. This Kenyan will keep us balkanized in little ethnic ghettoes, pretending to be a nation from time to time.

The Kenyan We Don’t Want is self-centred and self-absorbed. This Kenyan only knows one word, and that word is Me. This Kenyan wants to race ahead at any cost, and doesn’t care what casualties are left behind. This Kenyan is on display every day on our roads and in our corporations. This Kenyan finds the rule of law an unnecessary obstruction.

These Kenyans We Don’t Want are the ones creating the Kenya We Don’t Want. Unless we work on producing more Kenyans We Do Want, we will still be talking about empty visions and vapid plans for years to come.

The Kenyan We Want must be one who respects the rule of law; who sees ethnicity as the minor identity and inane distraction that it is; who feels some sense of collective responsibility and national ambition.

Where will this Kenyan come from? Firstly, from you and from me. Are we examples of the Kenyan We Want, or are we also masquerading, play-acting, paying lip service to values we don’t believe in?

If you are indeed the Kenyan We Want, how are you going to create more like you? Are you busy transmitting better values to as many people as you can? Are you spending time with the young, to counter the nasty me-me-me message that is prevalent in the land? Are you raising your voice in protest against the daily iniquities suffered by so many? Are you at least raising your children to be the Kenyans We Want?

Or are you sitting back, content to let things happen as they will, a defeatist already defeated without a fight?

If we can deploy the tools of education, communication, transmission and deterrence, we can create the Kenyans We Want. And from that shining army, the Kenya We Want will naturally emerge.

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