Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kenyan on ethics of aid - Speaking of Faith

This story airs today on Th 27 Aug:

Speaking of Faith
The Ethics of Aid: One Kenyan's Perspective:
We explore the complex ethics of global aid with a young writer from Kenya, Binyavanga Wainaina. He is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa.

The podcast & transcript are now available.

Mary Kay

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Commentary: Obama's Accra speech

Pambazuka News

Obama in Ghana: The speech he might have made
Firoze Manji
2009-07-16, Issue 442

Obama, Africa, and Truth-Telling

by Valerie Elverton Dixon 07-14-2009

Now that the Cold War that was anything but cold in Africa is over; now that the CIA, as far as we know, no longer pays for the overthrow and murder of democratically elected leaders as it did with Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1960; now that the United States no longer supports African kleptocrats that hold power through brutal thug rule as did Joseph Mobutu in the Congo later named Zaire; now that the U.S. through the CIA no longer sends millions of dollars in cash and weapons to support one side of a civil war in Angola, the side also supported by the apartheid government of South Africa; now that the U.S. no longer provides weapons to a particular side of a conflict in Somalia, leaving leftover weapons to fall into the hands of clans at war; and now that the U.S. no longer ignores genocide the way it did in Rwanda, the vote of Africans is sacred. Now, according to President Obama, “Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

In other important speeches to the world, President Obama has been courageous in telling the truth of the misdeeds of the United States. His critics call these simple statements of truth apologies. I have never heard an apology, even though an apology would be fitting. Still, stating the facts is important. It is important not only for the Other, but it is important for citizens of the United States to know what various administrations have done in our name. Truth-telling is an important element of just peacemaking. The truth is that our hands are not clean when it comes to much of the post-colonial confusion in Africa.

President Obama spoke about the colonial history of Africa from within the context of his own family’s story – his grandfather who was both a village elder and a cook for the British in Kenya and his father, a goat herder, who made his way to a university education in the United States. President Obama and his family visited the site from which Africans left to sail as cargo to the new world. It was a voyage of unspeakable horror that diminished the humanity of all of humanity. Remembrance is an important ethical act.

In an African cosmology, the community is composed of the living, the dead, and the not-yet-born, those who have yet to be conceived. Thus, when we think about moral choices within this cosmological framework, we ought to think of the past, present, and future of now. To think of the past honors the dead. They are among the great cloud of witnesses watching as we run our race. When we remember the truth of history, including our own bloody acts, we start from a righteous starting line. To forget, to leave the truth unstated, is unrighteous because it puts us at greater risk of repeating the unacknowledged wrong.

President Obama was right to speak of corruption, the importance of strong institutions, the efficacy of bottom-up change, self sufficiency, and the triumph of justice. He was right to remind young people of their responsibility to hold leaders accountable. This includes holding leaders accountable to face and to state the truth of history.

This is important not only to honor the past, but to plan wisely for the future — so that when we have joined the great cloud of witnesses, and the not-yet-born are the living members of the community, they will find inspiration from our courage to face the facts and to move forward.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Obama on Africa's future, in Ghana

Key excerpts: Obama's Ghana speech

> VIDEO: Watch/hear the speech here

> BBC coverage of Obama's trip

Barack Obama has delivered his first speech in sub-Saharan Africa as US President, stressing Africa's importance for the world, the vital role of governance and the challenges of conflict and corruption. Here are key excerpt from the address to parliament in the Ghanaian capital Accra on 11 July 2009.


I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world - as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children. ON COLONIALISM AND RESPONSIBILITY

It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.

In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many.


Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.


Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers... No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end. ... Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.


As Africans reach for this promise, America will be more responsible in extending our hand. By cutting costs that go to Western consultants and administration, we will put more resources in the hands of those who need it, while training people to do more for themselves. That is why our $3.5bn food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers - not simply sending American producers or goods to Africa. Aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it is no longer needed.


Yet because of incentives - often provided by donor nations - many African doctors and nurses understandably go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease. This creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention. Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.


Now let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at war. But for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.

These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck. We all have many identities - of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st Century. Africa's diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/07/11 14:04:13 GMT


(CBS) Last updated 12:22 p.m. ET.

Text of President Barack Obama's speech, provided by the White House, as delivered to the Ghanaian parliament today in Accra, Ghana:

THE PRESIDENT: (Trumpet plays.) I like this. Thank you. Thank you. I think Congress needs one of those horns. (Laughter.) That sounds pretty good. Sounds like Louis Armstrong back there. (Laughter.)

Good afternoon, everybody. It is a great honor for me to be in Accra and to speak to the representatives of the people of Ghana. (Applause.) I am deeply grateful for the welcome that I've received, as are Michelle and Malia and Sasha Obama. Ghana's history is rich, the ties between our two countries are strong, and I am proud that this is my first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

I want to thank Madam Speaker and all the members of the House of Representatives for hosting us today. I want to thank President Mills for his outstanding leadership. To the former Presidents - Jerry Rawlings, former President Kufuor - Vice President, Chief Justice - thanks to all of you for your extraordinary hospitality and the wonderful institutions that you've built here in Ghana.

I'm speaking to you at the end of a long trip. I began in Russia for a summit between two great powers. I traveled to Italy for a meeting of the world's leading economies. And I've come here to Ghana for a simple reason: The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well. (Applause.)

This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America's prosperity. Your health and security can contribute to the world's health and security. And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.

So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world - (applause) - as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.

We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.

I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's - (applause) - my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.

Some you know my grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him "boy" for much of his life. He was on the periphery of Kenya's liberation struggles, but he was still imprisoned briefly during repressive times. In his life, colonialism wasn't simply the creation of unnatural borders or unfair terms of trade - it was something experienced personally, day after day, year after year.

My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education. He came of age at a moment of extraordinary promise for Africa. The struggles of his own father's generation were giving birth to new nations, beginning right here in Ghana. (Applause.) Africans were educating and asserting themselves in new ways, and history was on the move.

But despite the progress that has been made - and there has been considerable progress in many parts of Africa - we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled. Countries like Kenya had a per capita economy larger than South Korea's when I was born. They have badly been outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent.

In many places, the hope of my father's generation gave way to cynicism, even despair. Now, it's easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.

Now, we know that's also not the whole story. Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or a need for charity. The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with repeated peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. (Applause.) And by the way, can I say that for that the minority deserves as much credit as the majority. (Applause.) And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana's economy has shown impressive rates of growth. (Applause.)

This progress may lack the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, but make no mistake: It will ultimately be more significant. For just as it is important to emerge from the control of other nations, it is even more important to build one's own nation.

So I believe that this moment is just as promising for Ghana and for Africa as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of great promise. Only this time, we've learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa's future. Instead, it will be you - the men and women in Ghana's parliament - (applause) - the people you represent. It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.

Now, to realize that promise, we must first recognize the fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends on good governance. (Applause.) That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That's the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I've pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa's interests and America's interests. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by - it's whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change. (Applause.)

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I'll focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. (Applause.)

As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.

This is about more than just holding elections. It's also about what happens between elections. (Applause.) Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves - (applause) - or if police - if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. (Applause.) No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top - (applause) - or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. (Applause.) That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end. (Applause.)

In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success - strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges - (applause); an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. (Applause.) Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people's everyday lives.

Now, time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through. (Applause.) We see that in leaders who accept defeat graciously - the fact that President Mills' opponents were standing beside him last night to greet me when I came off the plane spoke volumes about Ghana - (applause); victors who resist calls to wield power against the opposition in unfair ways. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth. We see it in police like Patience Quaye, who helped prosecute the first human trafficker in Ghana. (Applause.) We see it in the young people who are speaking up against patronage, and participating in the political process.

Across Africa, we've seen countless examples of people taking control of their destiny, and making change from the bottom up. We saw it in Kenya, where civil society and business came together to help stop post-election violence. We saw it in South Africa, where over three-quarters of the country voted in the recent election - the fourth since the end of Apartheid. We saw it in Zimbabwe, where the Election Support Network braved brutal repression to stand up for the principle that a person's vote is their sacred right.

Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. (Applause.) Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. (Applause.)

Now, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. But what America will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and responsible institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance - on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard - (applause); on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services - (applause) - strengthening hotlines, protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability.

And we provide this support. I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights reports. People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. (Applause.) We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don't, and that is exactly what America will do.

Now, this leads directly to our second area of partnership: supporting development that provides opportunity for more people.

With better governance, I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity. Witness the extraordinary success of Africans in my country, America. They're doing very well. So they've got the talent, they've got the entrepreneurial spirit. The question is, how do we make sure that they're succeeding here in their home countries? The continent is rich in natural resources. And from cell phone entrepreneurs to small farmers, Africans have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities. But old habits must also be broken. Dependence on commodities - or a single export - has a tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, and leaves people too vulnerable to downturns.

So in Ghana, for instance, oil brings great opportunities, and you have been very responsible in preparing for new revenue. But as so many Ghanaians know, oil cannot simply become the new cocoa. From South Korea to Singapore, history shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and in their infrastructure - (applause); when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled workforce, and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs.

As Africans reach for this promise, America will be more responsible in extending our hand. By cutting costs that go to Western consultants and administration, we want to put more resources in the hands of those who need it, while training people to do more for themselves. (Applause.) That's why our $3.5 billion food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers - not simply sending American producers or goods to Africa. Aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it's no longer needed. I want to see Ghanaians not only self-sufficient in food, I want to see you exporting food to other countries and earning money. You can do that. (Applause.)

Now, America can also do more to promote trade and investment. Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way. That will be a commitment of my administration. And where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity; capacity-building that trains people to grow a business; financial services that reach not just the cities but also the poor and rural areas. This is also in our own interests - for if people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa, guess what? New markets will open up for our own goods. So it's good for both.

One area that holds out both undeniable peril and extraordinary promise is energy. Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources, and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and more conflict. All of us - particularly the developed world - have a responsibility to slow these trends - through mitigation, and by changing the way that we use energy. But we can also work with Africans to turn this crisis into opportunity.

Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity, and help countries increase access to power while skipping - leapfrogging the dirtier phase of development. Think about it: Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; geothermal energy and biofuels. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western coasts to South Africa's crops - Africa's boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad.

These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They're about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to market; an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business. It's about the dignity of work; it's about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.

Just as governance is vital to opportunity, it's also critical to the third area I want to talk about: strengthening public health.

In recent years, enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs they need. I just saw a wonderful clinic and hospital that is focused particularly on maternal health. But too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them. When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite, and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made.

Yet because of incentives - often provided by donor nations - many African doctors and nurses go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease. And this creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention. Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.

So across Africa, we see examples of people tackling these problems. In Nigeria, an Interfaith effort of Christians and Muslims has set an example of cooperation to confront malaria. Here in Ghana and across Africa, we see innovative ideas for filling gaps in care - for instance, through E-Health initiatives that allow doctors in big cities to support those in small towns.

America will support these efforts through a comprehensive, global health strategy, because in the 21st century, we are called to act by our conscience but also by our common interest, because when a child dies of a preventable disease in Accra, that diminishes us everywhere. And when disease goes unchecked in any corner of the world, we know that it can spread across oceans and continents.

And that's why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges - $63 billion. (Applause.) Building on the strong efforts of President Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio. (Applause.) We will fight - we will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won't confront illnesses in isolation - we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness and focus on the health of mothers and children. (Applause.)

Now, as we partner on behalf of a healthier future, we must also stop the destruction that comes not from illness, but from human beings - and so the final area that I will address is conflict.

Let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war. But if we are honest, for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.

These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck. Now, we all have many identities - of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century. (Applause.) Africa's diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division. We are all God's children. We all share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to access education and opportunity; to love our families and our communities and our faith. That is our common humanity.

That is why we must stand up to inhumanity in our midst. It is never justified - never justifiable to target innocents in the name of ideology. (Applause.) It is the death sentence of a society to force children to kill in wars. It is the ultimate mark of criminality and cowardice to condemn women to relentless and systemic rape. We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity of every woman in the Congo. No faith or culture should condone the outrages against them. And all of us must strive for the peace and security necessary for progress.

Africans are standing up for this future. Here, too, in Ghana we are seeing you help point the way forward. Ghanaians should take pride in your contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon - (applause) - and your efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade. (Applause.) We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, to keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational forces to bear when needed.

America has a responsibility to work with you as a partner to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there's a genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems - they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response.

And that's why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy and technical assistance and logistical support, and we will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: Our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa, and the world. (Applause.)

In Moscow, I spoke of the need for an international system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed. And that must include a commitment to support those who resolve conflicts peacefully, to sanction and stop those who don't, and to help those who have suffered. But ultimately, it will be vibrant democracies like Botswana and Ghana which roll back the causes of conflict and advance the frontiers of peace and prosperity.

As I said earlier, Africa's future is up to Africans.
The people of Africa are ready to claim that future. And in my country, African Americans - including so many recent immigrants - have thrived in every sector of society. We've done so despite a difficult past, and we've drawn strength from our African heritage. With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams in Nairobi and Lagos, Kigali, Kinshasa, Harare, and right here in Accra. (Applause.)

You know, 52 years ago, the eyes of the world were on Ghana. And a young preacher named Martin Luther King traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: "It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice."

Now that triumph must be won once more, and it must be won by you. (Applause.) And I am particularly speaking to the young people all across Africa and right here in Ghana. In places like Ghana, young people make up over half of the population.

And here is what you must know: The world will be what you make of it. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, and end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can - (applause) - because in this moment, history is on the move.

But these things can only be done if all of you take responsibility for your future. And it won't be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way - as a partner, as a friend. (Applause.) Opportunity won't come from any other place, though. It must come from the decisions that all of you make, the things that you do, the hope that you hold in your heart.

Ghana, freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom's foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say this was the time when the promise was realized; this was the moment when prosperity was forged, when pain was overcome, and a new era of progress began. This can be the time when we witness the triumph of justice once more. Yes we can. Thank you very much. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy Madaraka Day 2009!

Today is the 46th Madaraka Day for Kenya, the anniversary of Kenya's independence from Kenya.

One blog aptly put it: Today Kenyans celebrate the recovery or restoration of Kenya's independence (which preceded the period of colonial domination).

Today I lift up:

+ the remarkable resilience and resourcefulness of the Kenyan people.

+ the need for Kenyan women and children to be treated with dignity, respect, and nonviolence in their homes and in the community.

+ the treasure of Kenya's natural resources and the urgency to protect them--forests, mountains, wildlife, ocean, savannah, lakes.

+ our global, collective responsibility to each widow and orphan in every Kenyan family, shamba, village and city.

+ a vision for Kenya where the nation's great capacity is realized, and the needs of all are placed before the desires of the wealthy and powerful few.

+ the need for healing and unity among all people groups in Kenya, so that each one may contribute to the common good and live in peace, without fear!

May all of Kenya
flourish, thrive, and enjoy

the prosperity she deserves!

Learn about Kenyan history & the observances happening today:
Madaraka Day
Madaraka Day, 1 June, commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963, preceding full independence from the United Kingdom on 12 December 1963.

How 'The Standard' reported first Madaraka Day‎ - 18 hours ago
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Sadly, it seems, those holding power today in Kenya's government have their heads in the sand about the reality for millions of Kenyans in the provinces:

Kenya's Kibaki says coalition not in crisis

President Kibaki addresses the nation during the 46th anniversary of Madaraka Day at the Nyayo stadium on Monday. He said the government was not in crisis.




Posted Monday, June 1 2009 at 14:32

In Summary

Coalition has been accused of internal bickering, failing to tackle corruption, slow progress on political reform, and inability to stem economic decline.

Officials from both factions frequently squabble in public, on subjects ranging from protocol to policy.

Dysfunctional nature of the coalition has slowed government business and paralysed parliament.

Kenya's President Kibaki said on Monday the coalition government was not in crisis, even as his Madaraka Day speech drew brief heckling from the crowd.

Related Downloads
President Kibaki Madaraka Day speech

The coalition has been accused of internal bickering, failing to tackle corruption, slow progress on political reform, and inability to stem economic decline.

May they wake up soon, rather than waiting to be wakened by the anger of the masses!

The National Anthemanthem.mid (5k)
Ee Mungu nguvu yetuIlete baraka kwetuHaki iwe ngao na mlinziNatukae na unduguAmani na uhuruRaha tupate na ustawi.
O God of all creationBless this our land and nationJustice be our shield and defenderMay we dwell in unityPeace and libertyPlenty be found within our borders.

Amkeni ndugu zetuTufanye sote bidiiNasi tujitoe kwa nguvuNchi yetu ya KenyaTunayoipendaTuwe tayari kuilinda
Let one and all ariseWith hearts both strong and trueService be our earnest endeavourAnd our homeland of KenyaHeritage of splendourFirm may we stand to defend.

Natujenge taifa letuEe, ndio wajibu wetuKenya istahili heshimaTuungane mikonoPamoja kaziniKila siku tuwe na shukrani

Let all with one accordIn common bond unitedBuild this our nation togetherAnd the glory of KenyaThe fruit of our labourFill every heart with thanksgiving.
[ Kenya page ]

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wangari Maathai on Speaking of Faith - Thurs 4/30/2009

Speaking of Faith
Planting the Future: A Conversation with Wangari Maathai

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement—a grassroots organization that empowers African women to improve their lives and conserve the environment through planting trees. She knows what many in the West have forgotten—that ecological crises are often the hidden root causes of war. Maathai speaks about the global balance of human and natural resources, and she shares her thoughts on where God resides.

SoundSeen: Audio Slideshow
Custodians of Nature's Coded Wisdom This audio gallery features images of Kenyan women striving for a more verdant future. Photos are accompanied by Wangari Maathai singing a native tune in Kiswahili that's often sung while planting trees. (Flash required)

Unheard Cuts
» Complete, Unedited Interview (mp3, 1:25.04) For the first time, we're releasing Krista's entire conversation with Wangari Maathai. Listen for some of the great clips we had to cut and let us know what you think. And, we've also isolated a couple of clips in which Maathai speaks specifically to points we found particularly insightful:

» An Unexpected Position in Nairobi (mp3, 3:20) A trained biologist, Maathai's career path has led her to many endeavors — including teaching at a veterinary school of medicine.

» Dealing with Political Corruption in Government (mp3, 5:39) Maathai talks about the climate of corruption in the government in which she served, and about the need for "democratic space" in which her work with the environment can thrive.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Barack Obama inaugurated - Tues 1/20/2009

It's official!

Bwana asifiwe!

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009
Obama Promises New Destiny, Work Begins Today
"I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear ..." Well, nothing was more stunning and cathartic than those few words. Not the remarkable American diorama — in all its polychromatic wonder — spread out for miles on the National Mall in Washington. Not the clear, sober cadences of our new President's Inaugural Address. Not the prayers and tears, the unstoppable smiles and barely controlled giddiness of what may have been the happiest crowd ever to grace the nation's capital. A man named Barack Hussein Obama is now the President of the United States. He came to us as the ultimate outsider in a nation of outsiders — the son of an African visitor and a white woman from Kansas — and he has turned us inside out. That he leads us now is a breathtaking statement of American open-mindedness and, yes, our native liberality. Even before his first act as President, and no matter how he fares in the office, he stands as a singular event in our history.
And let it be recorded that Obama's first act as President was to correct Chief Justice John Roberts, who managed somehow to mangle the 35-word oath of office, misplacing the word faithfully, as in "faithfully execute the office of President ..." Roberts then mangled it a second time, Obama raised an eyebrow, and Roberts moved on, a bumpy beginning and something of a metaphor: one of the new President's functions will be to correct the mistakes of George W. Bush's benighted tenure. Obama made that very clear in his sharply worded address, which contained few catchphrases for the history books but did lay out a coherent and unflinching philosophy of government. Nearly 30 years after Ronald Reagan heralded the onset of his conservative age by saying "Government is the problem," Obama announced the arrival of a prudent new liberalism: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified." Conservatives assume such tasks — employment, health care, retirement — are the province of the market. We have had 30 years of paeans to the wonders of free enterprise, but Obama made it clear that markets are not an unalloyed good: "This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." (See pictures of Barack Obama's campaign behind the scenes.)
Overseas, the President announced another clean break with the Bush Administration on foreign policy. Summoning the wisdom of "earlier generations," he said, "They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please." Take that, Dick Cheney — who exited the scene in a wheelchair, looking grim, as if he were about to foreclose on someone. Obama piled on several foreign policy zingers when he denounced the "false ... choice between our safety and our ideals" — a reference to Bush's harsh treatment of prisoners — and in his message to the world: "We are ready to lead once more."
But the tone of the speech was not defiant or angry or celebratory for that matter. It was resolute, suffused with sobriety, reflecting a tough-minded realism at home and abroad. Obama made clear that his domestic liberalism would be enacted conservatively. Where government programs can help, he said, "we intend to move forward." If they are useless or outdated, "programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day." Overseas, he warned, "those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents ... You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
Note the simplicity of the words. This is a different Obama from the one who, full of himself last winter, filled his speeches with gaseous oratory like "We are the ones we've been waiting for." The personal transformation has been gradual, subtle — and the words have grown simpler as the economy collapsed and the full weight of office began to press in on him. The preternatural calm that seemed an attractive part of his personality during the primaries became his dominant trait in the general election — and the defining principle of his transition. He seems, in the modesty of his rhetoric, to have embarked on a rather bold experiment. "This is going to be a general principle of governing," he told CNN's John King. "No spin, play it straight, describe to the American people the state that we're in." (See pictures behind the scenes of Obama's inauguration.)
And that was the oddest aspect of Obama's transition, the lack of pomp and bombast to it. He rarely used the word "I"; he addressed the nation as a community of mature adults. He was all modesty; he asked for better ideas for his monumental stimulus plan (and quickly acceded to Democratic demands that he remove some of the tax breaks for small businesses). He seemed, at every turn, to predict that he would make mistakes; he did so once more at the congressional lunch immediately after he was sworn in. The cumulative effort of this behavior has been to convey a sense of seriousness — not just in his own personal aspect but also in the work of his team. In gestation, this was an Administration marked by attention to detail and a deep appreciation of the intricacies of governance.
In the midst of the transition, President Obama was faced with a telling policy choice: whether to declare a temporary sales-tax holiday. His economic advisers loved the idea. It would provide immediate consumer stimulus, a direct jolt that might unclog the commercial arteries. The money could be easily passed from the Federal Government to the states, which administer sales taxes. But Obama resisted and finally rejected the idea. "He thought it would provide a temporary benefit, that it had no substantial or lasting policy impact," a senior transition adviser told me. "I think he was remembering the campaign, when Hillary and McCain favored the gas-tax holiday, which he thought was frivolous, and he opposed it for that very reason — if we're going to spend money, let's spend it on investments that will make us stronger in the future."
See pictures of Obama's historic Inauguration.
See TIME's Person of the Year: Barack Obama.
Actually, Obama was resisting in the name of balance: the bulk of his proposed stimulus package will probably go to short-term fixes — his promised $300 billion in tax breaks for the middle class, $200 billion in aid to cities and states, benefits for the poor and unemployed. Even so, aides say, most of Obama's attention has been focused elsewhere — on the long-term stimulus projects, the larger transformations in the economy, the health-care system and foreign policy. Quietly, the Obama transition team reviewed every government agency "to find out which specific programs were working and which weren't." It was a terrifyingly brisk and comprehensive process, especially compared with the dust storm produced by the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, during his chaotic transition period. "During Clinton's transition, you had all these people writing ad hoc papers about what to do at this agency or how to deal with that policy, but that was an extension of how Clinton's mind works," says one of the many Obama aides who is a veteran of the Clinton Administration. "Clinton had this great horizontal intelligence. He could pull an idea from a meeting he had in northern Italy and apply it to spreading broadband service through Iowa. It was amazing but not exactly efficient. Obama is more vertical. He pushes the process along, streamlines it. We had one 25-to-50-page policy paper for every agency."
Well, that's Democrats for you. It's hard to imagine any Republican President since Reagan wanting to rummage through all that paper, or being fastidious enough to care about the strengths and weaknesses of every federal agency. If government was the problem, as Reagan suggested, the solution, theoretically, was less of it — and since reducing government proved impossible, as opposed to reducing taxes, there didn't seem to be all that much interest in actually making it work more efficiently. By contrast, Obama and his eclectic team of appointees give the impression of being positively intoxicated by the prospect of figuring out how everything works. Obama's closest aides like to say he isn't a "wonk" like Clinton, immersed in policy details to the point of immobility, but clearly the new President has a breadth and depth of policy interests, especially in comparison with his immediate predecessor. (See the best of the Obama Inaugural merchandise.)
In some ways, the most surprising of his appointments — Hillary Clinton, the new Secretary of State — has emerged as an exemplar of Obamism. At her confirmation hearing, Clinton seemed completely prepared on every imaginable topic, orderly, undramatic and yet willing to propose some radical changes in the State Department's structure. She seems intent on tilting the department away from its stultifying bureaucratic orthodoxies and toward solving specific problems. To do so, she will appoint no fewer than five, and perhaps more, high-profile special envoys who will do the heavy lifting and share her spotlight on the most vexing foreign policy problems — former Senator George Mitchell to calm down the Middle East, Richard Holbrooke to deal with the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus and others for Iran, North Korea, the global-climate-change treaty negotiations and possibly another for the ever forgotten neighbors to our south. (See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)
Clinton, who can be spiky, has re-emerged as a natural diplomat. When she heard that Holbrooke and General David Petraeus had never met, she invited them over to her Washington home on a Friday night before the Inauguration. The two men spent two hours in front of a roaring fire with Clinton, getting to know each other, talking about the diplomatic and military division of labor in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Clinton's was an Obamian gesture — enticing the lion to lie down with the lion — the sort of attention to detail that seems to have been replicated across the policymaking spectrum during the Obama transition.
It will be domestic, not foreign, policy that will occupy the President's attention for the next few months. The first order of business will be to shepherd the $825 billion stimulus package through Congress and ride herd on the additional $350 billion available to stabilize the banks. But the goal is to press an ambitious series of actions — policies that might have seemed impossible before the financial crash — across the board as quickly as possible. The quest for a national health-insurance system will debut with a major conference, bringing all the various players — including corporate America and the insurance companies to the table in late winter or early spring. The hope is that a bill to provide universal access, as promised during the campaign, will nudge its way through Congress by next fall. Also coming in the first half of the year will be a comprehensive environmental policy, including some tough decisions on how to go about reducing carbon emissions. If Obama can accomplish any one of these, he will surprise a great many Washington skeptics.
In the latter days of the transition, there seemed an inclination to delay some of the splashy foreign trips that will, in the end, be among the most memorable moments of the Obama presidency. The President will go to the next G-20 meeting on the global economic crisis in Europe in April. The steady pitch of crises and atrocities will demand his attention. There are crucial decisions to be made about the pace of withdrawal from Iraq and how many U.S. troops to add in Afghanistan. (Asked about the persistent reports from the Pentagon that up to 30,000 more troops are scheduled for Afghanistan, a senior Obama aide said, "No — repeat, no — decision has been made about troop levels in Afghanistan, and anyone at the Pentagon who says otherwise should be fired.") But foreign policy developments seem destined to take some time, given the new President's proclivities: there will not be the macho kinetics of the Bush years nor the bang-bang nor the bellicose phrases like axis of evil. Obama was careful to avoid the phrase global war on terror in his Inaugural Address. Instead, there will be a steady drip-drip-drip of diplomacy, especially on neglected issues like nuclear proliferation. Even in the war zones, the Obama Administration will be talking relentlessly — trying to bring the nonextremist Taliban tribes into the Afghan government, trying to establish coalitions of Iraq's and Afghanistan's neighbors (including Iran) to help lower the tensions, hoping the steady accretion of talk and trust will bring the Israelis and Palestinians to a point at which they can begin negotiating a real peace.
See pictures of the rise and fall of the Shah of Iran.
See pictures behind the scenes on Obama's inauguration.
It is likely that when Obama said, "We only have one President at a time" during the transition, he actually meant, "I disagree with George Bush on that one." After all, he wasn't reticent about making his views known on the economic crisis or the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The breaks with the past will be subtle but emphatic: I suspect an Obama Administration would have voted for the U.N.'s Gaza cease-fire resolution rather than abstaining as Bush's did. But all this will be done diplomatically. American foreign policy will be a direct reflection of the man who is now President — quiet, conciliatory, civilized. (See pictures of Mumbai picking up the pieces.)
Toward the end of the campaign, Michelle Obama asked me if I was going to write a novel about them like Primary Colors, my satiric account of the 1992 presidential race. I was at a loss for words, in part because the thought hadn't even vaguely crossed my mind. "He can't write a novel about us," Barack Obama reassured his wife. "We're too boring."
Yes ... and no. It's hard to call the most exciting politician in decades boring. The millions who trekked to Washington for the Inauguration, who cried their eyes out and cheered their lungs raw, are testimony to the man's sheer inspirational power. Reagan's movement was called a revolution, but this may be more than that — the beginning of a whole new era of Obama-inspired and Obama-led citizen involvement. During the transition, the Obama website called for supporters to hold community meetings to discuss their health-care priorities. A staggering 10,000 meetings purportedly were held; 5,000 sent written reports — more paper! — to the transition office. This is a new kind of politics, with the potential to be the most powerful citizen army in U.S. history. If so, it will more likely be a force for civility — for "boring" things like good governance, for new ideas about how to control the cost of entitlements (which Obama pointedly mentioned in his speech) — rather than a rabble spamming the offices of recalcitrant Republicans. It will fit neatly into the Obama zeitgeist.
By the tone and style of his move to power, Obama has shown the world — and the people living in Sarah Palin's small-town America, and even many liberals who had lost hope over time — a new, gloriously unexpected and vibrant face of our country. The sheer fun of the Inauguration, the world-record number of interracial hugs and kisses, augurs a new heterodox cultural energy, a nation — as the man said — of mutts. Already the Obama ethos is slipping into the nation's cultural bloodstream — not just the interraciality but also the mind-blowing normality of the family: the fact that Michelle Obama brought Laura Bush a going-away present, the fact that Sasha and Malia will make their own beds in the White House, the fact that our President proudly wears a Chicago White Sox baseball cap when he goes to the gym.
Even more important, Obama promises a respite from the nonstop anger of the recent American political wars, the beginning of an era of civility, if not comity. "What the cynics fail to understand," he said in his speech, "is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."
It would be nice to think the magnitude of the problems facing the nation would lead to a minimum of puerile contentiousness, but vile still seems to be the default position for some of Obama's noisier detractors — "Obama Flubs the Oath" was the inaccurate headline greeting the new President on the Drudge Report. Too many of us in the media remain reluctant "to set aside childish things." Happily, though, our new President seems to have an honest predilection for treating his opponents with respect. He seems intent on hearing their points of view and arguing, decorously, with them — that's why he accepted a dinner invitation at conservative columnist George Will's house. This is radical behavior in the village on the Potomac. It could force everyone to argue more carefully, to think twice before casting aspersions, to remember that the goal has to be more than temporal electoral victories — but, in this moment of peril, a better and stronger nation, a less ugly and dangerous world.
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Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

A National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation

Moments ago, in his first official act since taking the oath of office, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation, calling on Americans to serve one another and our common purpose on this National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation. Check it out below, or read it on the proclamations page.

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As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God.

We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright -- it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
Some more stories:
Kenyans celebrate Obama's inauguration
World celebrates Obama's inauguration

Obama's Kenyan relatives head to the US for president's inauguration
by Mnet on Thu 15 Jan 2009 10:40 AM GMT Permanent Link Cosmos

President elect Barack Obama's half-brother Samson Obama is one of several close family members from Kenya headed to the U.S for the presidential inauguration.
President elect, Barack Obama's close family members from Kenya have begun their journey to the United States where some will attend the presidential inauguration on Tuesday (January 20). Obama's half brother Solomon Obama, one of Barack Obama Senior's sons left Nairobi on Thursday (January 15) and says he is looking forward to being part of the ceremony that will see the installation of the first African-American president of the United States. "Right now I'm feeling so happy, so filled with excitement and I dont know how to describe it in words. I am feeling so emotional," said Obama. Barack Obama's 87-year-old grandmother, Sarah Obama and other relatives including his half sister Auma Obama are also expected to leave by the weekend. Born in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father, Barack Obama is idolised by many Kenyans. Babies have been named after Obama, drinkers knock back "Senator" and "President" beers in his honour and pop stars sing his praises in the East African country where his late father hailed from. Days of celebration are expected ahead of the inauguration, in Kogelo, a tiny village where Obama's grandmother lives. Solomon Obama hopes the inauguration in the U.S. will be a good time for a family reunion. "The last time was 2006 when he came here to Kenya he was on an official visit that's when I saw him here in Nairobi and he even came home to Kogelo that was the last time we saw each other," Obama said. "When I get there first of all I will check in to my hotel then I will see how the arrangements are. Then when the big day reaches we will go as a family," Obama added. Africans hope an Obama presidency will mean more U.S. support for the majority on the world's poorest continent. However, analysts have warned that Obama will be able to do little to bring tangible benefits to Africa, and that he does not have a strong track record of interest in the continent. Print Article
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Friends hold second peace conference in Kenya - Jan 13-15, 2009

Peacebuildiing in Kenya - Friends Church Conference, Jan 13-15, 2009

From David Zarembka
African Great Lakes Initiative
Lumakanda, Kenya

At the Friends Church (Quaker) Peace Conference
January 13-15, 2009
Mabanga Farmer Training Centre
Bungoma, Kenya

... Here we are in Kenya where a potential civil war broke out a year ago today, December 30, 2007, when post-election violence erupted after the disputed election results were announced.

There are more Quakers in Kenya than anywhere else in the world and some of the conflict was right in the heart of the area where the Quakers are most numerous--my hometown of Lumakanda included. Quakers, like everyone else here, were stunned by the violence; totally unprepared to respond. Yet within a week the Friends Church of Kenya issued a very strong anti-violence epistle.

By the end of January 2008, while the post-election conflict was still at its height, the Quaker organizations – Friends Church in Kenya, Friends World Committee for Consultation-Africa Section, Friends United Meeting-Africa, and the AGLI sponsored Alternatives to Violence program (AVP) – held a conference in Kakamega to determine what would be the Quaker response to the conflict.

The Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT) was created. During the past year, they overcame many challenges in funding, transport, and other resources.

With mostly volunteer efforts, they conducted a wide range of activities for peacebuilding, reconciliation & trauma healing in 2008:
  • gave relief supplies to those internally displaced people (IDP) who had been missed by the Red Cross and the Kenyan Government.
  • reconciliation and peacemaking work, focusing on Lumakanda, not far from Eldoret, one of the epicentres of violence.
  • visited the local internally displaced people's camp at Turbo, also not far from Eldoret.
  • held listening sessions in nine local communities that had displaced the people.
  • accompanied the IDPs back to these communities when the Kenyan Government closed the IDP camps.
  • visited the receiving villages to see how the reintegration is progressing.
From January 13 to 15, 2009 FCPT is holding another Quaker peace conference, with two representatives from each of the 16 yearly meetings in Kenya and others who have played a part in the reconciliation work. The purpose is to review what we have done in the last year and discern where we should put our efforts in the future...

More coming soon.

> Click here to read the full report