Many have tried to pin down the source of Kenya’s magnificent beauty. Some, like American author Ernest Hemmingway, focussed on the beauty of our nature and wildlife. Others, like our famous Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, set the spotlight on the richness of our culture, most notably by only writing in Swahili and Gikuyu.
Yet, I think that Kenya’s most beautiful and touching feature is, in fact, our unity. We are a nation as varied as a patchwork, with beautiful diversity on every level.
Kenya boasts 68 languages, spoken amongst 42 tribes. Believers of a multitude of creeds live together in Kenya.
This diversity strengthens us, just as a rope woven from several strands is stronger than a single tissue.
Of course, there are those who wish to disturb this harmony and disrupt our progress as a nation by acts of terrorism or tirades of tribalism. But fortunately, the former is fought with an iron-fist by President Kenyatta, while the latter is denied by a strong civil society.
Another strong example of our beautiful harmonic co-existence could be observed on August 12. Just a few days earlier, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had declared this date a national holiday to celebrate the Muslim Eid Al-Adha.
The Festival of the Sacrifice, as it is known in English, marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
It is an encouraging sign that our government, led by President Kenyatta, takes such proactive steps to foster our nation’s social cohesion. It also shows the universal aspect of religion: we can all connect to the hardship of standing in front of a hard moral trial, where it isn’t always easy to make the right choice.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the Festival of the Sacrifice commemorates a defining act of Abraham, the common Patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Thus, us Christian Kenyans can relate to the festival as well.
This is even more important today, in a world rocked by divisiveness and populism. It is a great to see our government working hard to foster harmony and unity amongst all citizens. And what’s more, we all have a chance to partake in the celebrations of our Muslim neighbours without losing a day of work, and can learn about another culture just across the street.
This is just another example of the government’s progressive actions. Whether in the handshake with Raila Odinga in March of last year or in the indiscriminate fight against corruption – even hitting former allies – Uhuru’s second term is driven by a commitment to reconciliation and collaboration towards a better future for all Kenyans.
These instances show that Uhuru is someone who is not fazed by making peace with his foes. His sole interest is the benefit of the nation, and not his own benefit. This characterises a truly altruistic leader: instead of politicking or making pompous statements to polish his public image, his top priority is the wellbeing of all Kenyans, irrespective of ethnicity, gender and religion.
And fortunately, we can already see the effects of Uhuru’s actions: Political debates are more centred on the issue at hand, and less along tribal lines. They are focussed on national, rather than partisan, interests.
The diverse yet similar messages of the handshake, pushing for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement or the declaration of the Festival of the Sacrifice, resound loud and clear. When we act in unity, so much more is possible. Things we never dreamed of in our time of division.
The notion that what unites us is stronger than what divides us is as true in national politics as it is in religion. We should follow our government’s lead and strive for even greater unity amongst ourselves. A good start would be to partake in your neighbours religious celebrations.
Mr Kwinga is a political scientist based in Nairobi. [email protected]