Thursday, February 5, 2009



February 05, 2009
By Kipngeno Cheruiyot

THE historic “Kenya We Want” conference kicked off in Nairobi yesterday with leaders bluntly telling President Kibaki to decisively deal with challenges facing the nation, particularly corruption. Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka set the ball rolling when he uncharacteristically told the President to his face to off-load individuals tainted with corruption in order to give “Kenyans a clean government”.

Using retired President Daniel arap Moi’s analogy of a president being like a driver whose bus is full of people, among them thieves and pickpockets, Kalonzo asked President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to stop the “coalition government bus and off-load pickpockets.” “I am challenging the two principals to stop the bus and let pickpockets alight. We cannot continue carrying collective blame because of a few tainted elements in government,” said Kalonzo to the applause of the participants.

And taking the cue, participant after another, starting with former President Moi, invited diplomats and academicians, told the President to deal with corruption, ethnicity, entrenched impunity, inequitable distribution of wealth and failed institutions if the country has to move forward. But President Kibaki said Kenya was on track and its future was assured if the shared vision and a united sense of purpose contained in the Vision 2030 launched in June, 2008 act as the pillars for renewal.

“This Vision is Kenya’s development blueprint, intended to guide our development programmes and policies,” said Kibaki He added, “It aims at making Kenya a middle-income, rapidly-industrialising country, which will offer a high quality of life for all its citizens in a clean and safe environment.” In speeches during the conference dubbed the “Kenya We Want”, the leadership was castigated for doing little to deal with the underlying problems that have plagued the country for nearly five decades.

The call by participants at the workshop centred on the destiny of Kenya, which despite setting several targets in the past, little or negligible progress had been made to achieve the goals. Among those who addressed the forum were President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, retired President Daniel arap Moi, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and foreign diplomats including US envoy Michael Ranneberger.

Speakers at the three-day event include acclaimed academicians, professionals in various fields and diplomats. In his address, Raila, the main organiser of the event, told Kenyans to stop blaming history for their woes and “must instead become innovative and move forward.” “Nearly half a century has passed since the end of colonial rule in Kenya. We must no longer cling to history to justify deficiency and poverty, our bad politics, our injustice, and failure to live up to the expectations of our founding fathers,” said Raila.

The PM, whose speech dwelled on the aspirations of Kenya’s freedom fighters and founding fathers, challenged Kenyans to embrace hard work and constructive criticism towards the grand coalition government. The former President said for the goals under the Vision 2030 to be achieved, leaders have to be ready for criticism and be answerable for their conduct in Government. Moi told the conference that the realisation of the Vision will be difficult since Kenya has been unable to overcome tribalism, corruption and bad governance.

“If it is to be for any meaning (Vision 2030) leaders have to swallow some not so palatable pills,” said Moi. He added, “I hope this is not just an empty talk. We want to see a new dawn for Kenya after today,” said the retired President amid applause from the attendants. He said these hopes have been harboured by Kenyans since independence from the British in 1963. “Is this Republic still on the right track? What ails our country? Where did we go wrong that jiggers can still torment people in the 21st century?” posed the former President.

He said to achieve the Vision 2030 leaders must accept their mistakes and be prepared to tread paths less travelled by those before them. The US Ambassador on the other hand said although the Vision was an ambitious agenda, the reform agenda can be carried out if leaders demonstrate political good will. “Although this is a very ambitious agenda, many Kenyans have told me it can be carried out if leaders demonstrate the political will to do so, and if the Kenyan people insist on action,” said the US envoy.

The retired President said corruption and tribalism was more entrenched today than any other period in Kenya’s history noting that what ails the country ailed the African continent as well. “All these things we are talking about are man-made meaning they are reversible. It takes good leadership to overcome them,” said Moi adding that the vision for a shared destiny by Kenyans cannot be shattered for expedience sake.

President Kibaki said it was time to swing into action noting that over the years, there have been talk of transformation in the society yet this was yet to trickle down to the masses as promised. “If we were honest with ourselves, the many years and events of talking about a common future and destiny for all Kenyans have not borne the full range of fruits we may have hoped for,” said President Kibaki. Kenya, he said, had missed the opportunity to underscore the many political, economic, and social factors that are common to all citizens.