Kenyans should build bridges, not walls

What you need to know:

  • With all of the modern global changes taking place, it is time Kenya faced the world as one unit.

The renowned philosopher and mathematician Isaac Newton was quoted as saying “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

Writing in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Englishman explored the universe around him in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, theology and philosophy.

As an author, he was one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the European Enlightenment, who added a revolutionary change to what humans knew about the world previously.

One of the many things that Newton wrote about were the laws of motion and universal gravitation. His theories were added onto, and changed by, Albert Einstein when he developed the theory of relativity. In simple terms, Newton is responsible for teaching us how objects move in relation towards one another, including accounting for tides and planetary motion.


In short, what he wrote should not be taken lightly. What he wrote about bridges and walls, at the height of the Enlightenment, was no doubt a metaphor for how European society was changing. All of the scientific developments, which eventually led to the industrial revolution, left many people confused.

Old notions were being thrown out the window and new understandings of the universe were being introduced at a dizzying pace. Those that could not keep up were left scratching their heads in confusion, and missing the tide of excitement and new knowledge.

Humanity was changing for the better, and it was hard to keep track in how many ways.

This is not too different from what has been happening in Kenya over the past several years. Our country is changing rapidly, and everything we were used to seems to be evolving - all for the better.

Where in the past most of the country did not have access to electricity, let alone internet connection - more and more Kenyans are getting connected to the grid. Where in the past different Kenyan tribes remained homogeneously set in their ways, people from different backgrounds are now blending together to form heterogeneous melting pots across the country.

Outside of our borders, our connection with the rest of the world is changing. We are seeing more and more diplomatic and cultural exchanges with countries as close as Ethiopia and as far away as China and Canada.

There is simply no limit to how much we can and will grow, especially when a vaccine for Covid-19 has been developed. And with all of these positive developments, we should remember the brilliant advice of the English philosopher.

Walls will only stand in our way. They will block us from connecting and they will waste our time as we try to climb over them.

Bridges, on the other hand, will serve as a universal connector. Not just in the literal sense, but metaphorically.

Within Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta came up with the Building Bridges Initiative as a way to link our nation together. With all of the modern global changes taking place, it is about time Kenya faced the world as one unified unit.

It is about time we showed the world that Kenya is one single package, that we have leaders who represent all of our interests.

The government is one for all Kenyans, one that links us to one another rather than putting barriers between us. The moment that each and every one of us begins to internalise this idea, is the moment that we will be able to work together using true teamwork.

Our country’s history shows us that working for our own interests has not served us all well. Sure, some tribes have been able to occupy more positions of power than others, and they have benefitted. But what does this do for the rest of the tribes?

It essentially has built walls to keep them enclosed, to make it extra hard for them to climb over and better integrate into our society, and to become leaders.

We have all had enough of this. The barriers have started to come down and we have begun to gravitate closer and closer towards one another. If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything it is how very interconnected we all are as a nation. There is no pulling us apart or isolating us. We shall continue to stand together and grow as one.

Mr Leo is a public policy analyst. [email protected]