Kenyan spirit brings out the best in us

Thursday September 14 2017

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta joins other Kenyans in cheering the Kenyan team during the World U-18 Championship at Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani in Nairobi. Sports, especially athletics usually brings out Kenya's unity and pride. PHOTO | PSCU

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta joins other Kenyans in cheering the Kenyan team during the World U-18 Championship at Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani in Nairobi. Sports, especially athletics usually brings out Kenya's unity and pride. PHOTO | PSCU 


The recent provocation to secession got me thinking about how Kenya’s worst compares with its best. And my quick conclusion is that the Kenyan psyche is ruinously—yet needlessly—predisposed to negative energy even in the glare of momentous features, attributes and people that bequeath Kenya evident greatness.

Sport, for instance, tends to bring out the best of our spontaneous amity and unanimity. Even when it is clear that of the nearly four dozen Kenyan communities one predominantly produces the majority of world-class athletes, the majority of Kenyans end up owning their victory gracefully and unprompted. That is a fact.

Interestingly, Kenyan athletes naturalised abroad attract no less celebration back in their native home when they win races.

When the rugby sevens team wins, we coalesce and exult as one.


Regarding Kenyan-born intellectual capital, including its complement resident abroad, thousands of Kenyans who appreciate superior scholarly and intellectual excellence care less which community our luminaries hail from.

I have in mind the late Prof Wangari Mathai and Prof Ali Mazrui, as well as Prof Calestous Juma and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Apparently, there are numerous eminent Kenyans living and working abroad who have excelled academically and whom we hardly have a chance to acknowledge and celebrate.

In a peculiar but truly marvellous way, there are brands that constantly exude the Kenyan spirit—notwithstanding that they are not necessarily embraced for their exemplary performance. And Kenyans appreciate these emblematic brands with bear hugs, both in good and bad times.


For some reason, the archetypal Kenyan psyche feels the need to protect these brands—perhaps in the search for beacons that exact our shared identity, heritage and dignity as a people.

Clearly, it is during high political season when the sense of togetherness among Kenyans is severely tested, stretched and, sometimes, disassembled.

Of course, politicians find it easy to create artificial fissures between communities and schools of political thought to shore up support.

In the pursuit of power, some politicians display unscrupulous tendencies that disregard the solemn prerequisite to foster national cohesion.


Profiling our journey as a republic thus far in the context of statecraft and leadership, we have produced statesmen of note—among them the Founding Fathers.

Kenya’s abiding success is embodied in its trailblazing position as Eastern Africa’s commercial, manufacturing, transport and communications hub.

Recently, it struck me how the electoral triumph of one John Paul Mwirigi, the 23-year-old Igembe South MP, turned into a Kenyan celebration in social places as well as online.

That he is the youngest lawmaker in the National Assembly—having trounced wealthy, experienced competitors despite having no money to print a campaign poster—is itself an object of celebration for many Kenyans see their circumstances in his.


In the real sense, Kenyans are not enemies. Indeed, we are friends, albeit sometimes dormant. And our country works best when we activate our friendship.

What we, as a people, should perhaps invest in are reasons to multiply the activation of our friendships across creed, circumstances and occasions.

Kenya’s recovery from the post-election violence of a decade ago via the Grand Coalition Government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, I dare say, was powered by the innate spirit of friendship that we incubate.


Yes, we may have our differences but we keep going back to uniting and making the weight of our arguments that much less weightier to carry.

Many hands make light work. As Mattie Stepanek once said, “...when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved”.

It is time Kenyan unity, collaboration and teamwork went back to achieving great things. That there is more power in unity and where destruction is the motive unity is dangerous has often been Kenya’s national ethos.

Kenyans have every reason now more than ever before to chart a path that will continually affirm our shared physical space, humanity and dignity.

 Mr Daniel Makdwallo, former Kenya’s Ambassador to Egypt, is a businessman and board member of several organisations. [email protected]