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By: Michael Mugwang'a
Whenever President Uhuru Kenyatta is asked about the foundations of the nation and how Kenya can attain its lofty development goals, he almost always talks about “peace and unity”.
This might seem incongruous to some, who might think that greater investment in infrastructure, education or housing would be the most obvious answers.
Of course, Uhuru’s Big Agenda of food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all, is the roadmap towards a better Kenyan future, but without peace and unity, it will never be achieved.
Peace and unity in Kenya can be described as the fuel which will assist Kenya attaining the heights that Uhuru and his government set for themselves.
Sadly, in the past, we know what happens to any well-laid plans when there are violence and disunity.
That is why, from the beginning of Uhuru’s presidency, and especially during this second tenure, he has reached out to his opponents with an outstretched hand in a spirit of peace and unity. This example has calmed the stormy waters of ethnic and tribal mistrust which is always bubbling below the surface in Kenya.
In South Africa, we are now witnessing some of the worst xenophobic violence against foreigners in a while, with Kenyans living in that country have been caught up in the violence.
Understandably, many Africans look on with a mixture of disgust, concern, and worry.
There are now reports that several African leaders are boycotting or considering boycotting the World Economic Forum (WEF) event in Cape Town. Nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Malawi will not participate in the event due to the violence.
While there could be outrage directed at the South African authorities for what is taking place, Uhuru has taken the most sensible route of not making such declarations and focusing on the nature of the conference and how it can be a driving force for our continent.
The WEF event is focusing on innovation, cooperation, growth and stability, all important parts of Uhuru’s agenda, not only for Kenya but the region.
However, Uhuru’s presence can be even more beneficial.
As the leader of a nation that has battled with its tribalism and xenophobia, he is perhaps best placed to talk to his partners about the importance of peace and unity on our continent.
It is enormously important that we focus on innovation, cooperation, growth, and stability, but without peace and unity, Africa will not succeed.
If Uhuru can bring Kikuyu, Luo, Kalenjin, and other tribes together in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), then he can certainly provide sage advice to leaders of other African nations where violence regularly boils over because of someone’s background.
Perhaps he can even export the Building Bridges Initiative to the continent as a whole, where leaders from different countries can get together and travel around to speak to the people and understand their challenges.
This could serve as the first step for a more integrated Africa, which serves the interests of the people of our continent, who have suffered so much from inter- and intra-national conflicts at the costs of millions of lives in recent decades.
That is why, when the decision is between a boycott and build, Uhuru will always choose the latter.
Building bridges, dialogue, and understanding are the only ways to combat challenges and solve problems.
What is taking place in South Africa is almost a paradigm for our continent at the moment. While there are those trying to solve our continent-wide challenges with ideas of innovation and driving growth, there are others who ruin our children’s future by resorting to the oldest hatred and succumbing to the worst urges.
Uhuru has shown that another path is possible. One where we focus on the drivers and engines of growth, innovation, and development, but without ignoring the problems that have constantly undercut our dreams of a better tomorrow.
That is why, for Uhuru, peace and unity are not extra or even important components for our national or continental achievements, but vital.
It is hoped that more leaders in Africa will sit and learn from Uhuru about how best to achieve this because once again Africa is showing an ugly face to itself and the outside world.
Especially at such a critical time for our continent, we need fewer boycotts, violence and hate, and more building bridges.