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What I wish for Kenya in 2013

This is my last column of 2012, and what better way to bring the year to a close than to make some wishes for the year to come. I gaze at 2013 with a mixture of hope and fear, as it is that most potentially catastrophic Kenyan annum, an election year.

So first and foremost, I wish for a peaceful election. I wish for Kenyans to go to the polls and return home without a drop of blood being spilled. I wish to see that we have now gained the maturity to toss out failed leaders and ring in new ones, without needing to kill or destroy.

The portents are not that good on this one. We have already encountered much carnage in the build-up to the polls, what with warring tribes fighting over cattle; policemen being led to slaughter; and grenades being tossed amongst innocent citizens on a worryingly regular basis.

Nevertheless, hope must beat on in our hearts. We must, all of us, not respond to the whispers of demagogues, nor the desperate entreaties of political losers. We must remember this simple fact: politicians do not coax you into violence for your own good; it is merely to further their own schemes. So do not become a dumb pawn sacrificed for the glory of someone who will share nothing with you. Violent outcomes are not good outcomes. Our economy has yet to regain the trajectory it had prior to the violent outcome of the last election.

I also wish for an emphatic renunciation of failed leaders by our electorate. Listening to our politicos, you might easily believe Kenya is an emerging paradise where no child fails to get primary education; where a visionary constitution protects everyone; where world-class bureaucrats enable a vibrant private sector to build world-beating corporations.

Once you’ve stopped gazing at the pigs flying past your window, you might want to ask certain Kenyans about the achievements of recent years. The internally and eternally displaced persons, for example. If you have electricity in your home today, you might use the opportunity to read some facts about Kenya’s recent economic performance. Or you might want to console the families of thousands who died in 2012 due to utterly needless, avoidable road carnage. You might also wish to ask the question that’s never asked: how is it our top politicians and civil servants are also our richest people? How does that happen?

So I wish that Kenyans develop the sense and discernment to distinguish success from failure; development from retardation; progress from stagnation. And I wish that we use that understanding to reject the serial failures who keep returning to haunt us.

I wish also for a return to basic human values. I wish for many more Kenyans to rediscover the essentials of co-existence: that theft is wrong, even when committed from public coffers; that there is more to life, much more, than maximizing personal gain; and that please, thank you, after you and sorry are essential words in any language.

In wishing for all this, I am not making entreaties to a distant deity or smoking an hallucinatory weed. Nor do I expect our much-loved nation to transform itself in a single calendar year.

No, I am asking us all to start moving in the right direction. Stop blaming politicians; they are what the people allow them to be, and we have permitted too much. Make better choices. Stop passing the responsibility. It’s our country, and we have to make it a better one in our lifetimes. Beginning with 2013.

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