Mugambi Kiai: We'll rise from the ashes of betrayal - The Star

I was woken up this morning by rays of sunlight, which had m bathed my room in such brilliance that it felt completely new. I began to notice things around me in great details. It was as if the room had been given a facelift. I looked out of the window and, behold, a cloudless sky. The trees danced lazily enjoying the early morning breeze. I looked far into the horizon and the beauty of what I saw around me stirred my soul. It was as if I was standing atop Mt Kenya surveying the landscape. I said to myself, "Oh, what a beautiful country!"

These were some of the heady sentiments uttered by Mwai Kibaki on December 30, 2002 at his inauguration as the third President of the Republic of Kenya.

At the end of one of the more difficult weeks in our political affairs, it is hard to share in the euphoria and optimism of his words.

And as we commemorate the second year of the signing of the Kenya Dialogue and Mediation Agreement of February 28, 2008 by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kibaki's inauguration speech should offer a stark perspective of just how dashed, bashed and crushed the Kenyan dream is and can continue to be.

Hence, we need to continuously ask ourselves, why it is that we should expect that the promises signed off on February 28, 2008 should meet any greater success in achievement than those made on December 30, 2002.

Just listen to how hollow this sounds now, especially to the 47 per cent living under the poverty line, including IDPs. Indeed, we are so blessed, so endowed. Poverty, scepticism and despondency are not supposed to be our lot. Ours is a land of unparalleled beauty and promise. It is a land of laughter and hope.

On that day in December 2002, when unbounded, unbwogable and eternal hope coursed through our pumping veins, we were told: Corruption will now cease to be a way of life in Kenya and I call upon all those members of my government and public officers accustomed to corrupt practice to know and clearly understand that there will be no sacred cows under my government.

Hear him: We want to bring back the culture of due process, accountability and transparency in public office. The era of "anything goes" is gone forever. Government will no longer be run on the whims of individuals. The era of roadside policy declarations is gone. My government's decisions will be guided by team work and consultations.

There was also the promise to offer a new kind of leadership at the personal level: Yow have asked me to lead this nation out of the present wilderness and malaise onto the promised land. And I shall. I shall offer a responsive, transparent and innovative leadership. I am willing to put everything I have got into this job because I regard it as a sacred duty... I promise not to let you down. "You have asked me to be your chief servant and I accept it with humility and gratitude.

At the level of collective identity and political in-elusion, the newly sworn President offered: The National Rainbow Coalition represents the future of Kenya politics. Narc is the hope of this country. Our phenomenal success in so short a time is proof that working together in unity, we can move Kenya forward.

Some prophets of doom have predicted a vicious in-fighting in following this victory. I want to assure you that they will be disappointed. When a group of people come together over
an idea or because of a shared vision, such a group can never fail or disintegrate.

Narc will never die as long as the original vision endures. It will grow stronger and coalesce into a single party that will become a beacon of hope not only to Kenyans but to the rest of Africa.

December 30, 2002. On February 28, 2008, we got more promises — in fact, four agenda items of them. The events of this week once more gravely under-mined the already-shaky performance of the coalition government on them.

But I would dare suggest that, despite it all, Kenyans must continue to hope. But this hope cannot be built upon the consuming quick-sand of our venal, ravenous and forked-tongued political class. Rather, it should be founded upon the dream deferred: that in-deed, where we ought to be is infinitely superlative to where we currently are and that we truly can get there despite our politicians.

True despair will only set in if we anchor our dreams on the artificially-sweetened, sugar-coated and honey-laced words of our politicians. For as Nikita Khrushchev, himself an astute politician, warned: "Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river."

Mugambi Kiai is the Kenya country manager at the Open Society Initiative for East Africa. The views expressed in this article are entirely his own.

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