Tuesday, May 08, 2007


By Ababu Namwamba
On Tuesday (July 10th), I am scheduled to deliver the 2007 annual African-American Programme Address at the Grand Valley State University in Michigan.When I received the invitation, I decided to focus on a notion that I have been propagating for some time – the notion that a strong Africa is good for the world. So my address is ‘Why a Stable Africa is Good for the USA’.

Preparing for this address has been a moment of deep reflection for me; reflection on the complex collage of challenges confronting Africa; reflection on the cocktail of opportunities that perennially simmer in the African pot, without brewing into the potency of monumental growth and the magical take-off.

Reflection on the dominant world perception of Africa, which is one largely defined by pity and condescension, often born of misrepresentation and ignorance.

But perhaps more important, I have agonised over our motherland’s apparent fatalistic disposition to self-destruction. My mind has literally chocked under the weight of myriad examples of wasted opportunities and eerily deliberate tangos with danger. I have looked at all points of the compass, and been greatly depressed by images of States that seem to find pleasure in tempting fate.

The case of Nigeria, Africa’s giant in demography and resource terms, has perhaps been best reflected our determination not to break out of the woods. The character of the recent elections that bordered on the farcical did little to burnish this image.

But it is not all gloom. Africa does have some shinning examples that we should be proud of. Chaotic as they were, the recent elections in Nigeria were in themselves epochal for that country and the continent, and hold real promise for entrenching civilian rule in a country and a region more accustomed to scars of military hegemony than to stripes of democracy.
Senegal, Benin, Botswana, Mali, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa are examples of countries determined to bequeath the continent a new paradigm.

Kenya is one intriguing case in this context. Our land strikes a rather curious posture on the continent, always seeming to be delicately poised on the line between the progressive and the retrogressive, occasionally getting stuck in the vortex of inertia or lost in the labyrinth of self-doubt.

But there has been marked progress here too. We successfully waded off the ogre of military rule. Fifteen years ago, we took a huge leap of faith in the direction of democracy, and though the flight was not entirely smooth nor the landing wholly soft, we have doggedly kept the faith and largely stuck to the straight and the narrow.

And this does strengthen my faith that indeed Kenya has the potential to shine as any other star in the global constellation of democracies.

But to achieve this, we must make a conscious effort to break free of some negative traditions that have repeatedly held our land hostage, preventing us from realising our enormous potential. Forging, nurturing and jealously protecting our national cohesion is crucial. Fidelity to a defining national philosophy and ethic is mandatory. Democratic constitutionalism that guarantees justice and equity would be a great philosophy, accompanied by ethos that celebrates honesty, hard work, compassion and patriotism.
As we prepare for important the General Election later this year, we have the opportunity to add a rare shinning feather in Africa’s cap. We can campaign sensibly and peacefully, thereby debunking the notion that African democracy cannot break free of violence.

Government can play fair and honest, and help shatter the belief that African leaders seem incapable of beating the intoxication of abuse of power. We can install a government of the people by the people for the people, well balanced by a strong opposition committed to the national good, and show the world that ours is a maturing democracy.

Out in the mid-west of the US, I will be a good ambassador for Africa and Kenya. I will make, as I have always done, a strong case why the US and the rest of the world must play fair with this continent.

Why, as former US Vice-President Hubert Humphrey would say, we must open gates of opportunity for everyone, because unless there is liberty and justice for all there is liberty and justice for none. But above else, I will challenge Africa to raise the bar in its own aspirations and vision.

After all, we are very much the size of our dreams!



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