Today, in the town of Windsor in the United Kingdom, huge crowds will gather to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle. Street parties will take place across the country, and around the world; here in Kenya many will tune in to watch the festivities live on TV.
Harry and Meghan will be making today the greatest commitment two people can make to each other. They have decided to use their marriage not just for themselves and their families, but to celebrate the contribution of everyday people to communities in the UK and around the world.
The Royal Couple have invited over 1,000 community and youth leaders to the festivities, alongside 200 charity representatives. Instead of gifts, they have asked anyone wanting to honour the occasion to give their money or their time to helping others. In particular, they have used their wedding to honour the causes to which they, as a couple, are deeply committed: Supporting children with HIV and Aids; helping the homeless; empowering the world’s poorest women; supporting Armed Forces families; bringing more children into sport; and conservation, both on land, and in our oceans.
The Queen and her family have dedicated their lives to public service. Between them, the family acts as patron or president to 3,000 charitable organisations.
They support and honour a culture of volunteering, of public service, and of working to change the lives of others for the better, both in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth.
I draw inspiration today from the Royal couple’s dedication to public service. And I believe it is a theme of great relevance here in Kenya.
Kenya has spent much of the last year in intense political competition. That has showed the strength and vibrancy of Kenya’s democracy. But it has also brought polarisation and mutual accusation; attacks on Kenya’s institutions; and for some Kenyan families, tragic personal loss.
Kenya’s leaders have now taken the courageous decision to reconcile — to work together and to put their country first. We welcome and salute that commitment. I will continue to call on Kenya’s leaders to pursue reconciliation in the spirit of public service and the greater good.
That means two things in particular. First, politicians must put the interests of the country, of all Kenyans, before their own ambitions. Second, a stronger Kenya built on justice can have no place for those who steal from its citizens. Whatever their high rank or station, those who act for private instead of public gain must be held fully to account.
It is the responsibility of us all to work for positive change in our communities, and our wider society. So in addition to encouraging Kenya’s political leaders to put public service at the heart of their work, I also want to use this happy day to pay tribute to those everyday Kenyans who are contributing so much to their country.
Around Kenya, individuals and organisations are working to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. From tackling homelessness, to supporting street children, to helping reduce plastic pollution in our oceans, among us are remarkable individuals, who have identified a problem, and decided to take action to tackle it.
One such example is Golda Ayodo, who runs the Golden Girls Foundation in Western Kenya. In March this year, the Queen gave Golda the Commonwealth Points of Light award for her outstanding work helping to keep girls in education in her local community. Golda saw a problem and tackled it, empowering girls to attend school by distributing thousands of menstrual cups.
Golda, and others like her, show us how Kenyans from all walks of life and all parts of society can shape and strengthen Kenya. They set an example for us all.
This is a moment of real promise for this great country of Kenya. The United Kingdom stands with all Kenyans as you seize the opportunities ahead, as a close friend, partner and fellow member of the Commonwealth.
Today, I hope you will join us in celebrating the marriage of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle; their love for each other, and the positive things they stand for. We wish them a lifetime of happiness.
Mr Nic Hailey is the British High Commissioner to Kenya