The Kenya @50 secretariat was formed three months ago to largely organise last Thursday's hugely successful Jubilee celebrations. The secretariat's communications director Hussein Mohammed says they won't close soon because the work has just begun. He spoke to Star's Sam Kiplagat
What does Kenya @50 mean to you?
Kenya @50 is basically grounded on three pillars. First, it is about a reflection of our past. This means really looking at where we have come from and what we have achieved over the last 50 years. It is also an analysis of today, appreciating those achievements and also being cognisant of the challenges we faced and how to address them in the future. So we have to analyse our present situation and appreciate those achievements. Thirdly, it is a projection of the future. What are we going to do in the next 50 years and what kind of legacy will the future generation inherit from us. Those are the three fundamental pillars that Kenya @50 secretariat is grounded on. To sum it up, it is a reflection of our past, an analysis of today and a projection of the future.
So what you have lined up is not a one-off event?
No, definitely this is not a one-off event. Of course we celebrated the birthday on December 12 and all the activities that we had that were in line with the celebrations, but we have to continue with other events for the remainder of the year and into next year. We intend to execute a number of projects that we had promised Kenyans. Of course we had to mark the birthday but we have bigger projects. Real works starts now. We intend to execute and some projects and we are happy that a number of partners have shown interest.
What are these projects that you now want to start?
Other than the jubilee celebrations, in the short-term, we will continue celebrating throughout the year in different ways and events that will have an impact on the society in what we are terming as Kenya @50 Legacy Projects. Among these projects is the planting of 50 million trees across the country. We will also have the rehabilitation of the pediatric wing of the Kenyatta National Hospital, a project that will be undertaken by Safaricom limited, the Rehabilitation of Mathari Mental Hospital, also by Safaricom and the rehabilitation of Kenya National Theatre, which will undertaken by East Africa Breweries Limited.
We have also lined up a couple of other projects such as the rehabilitation of City Park to be done by the Aga Khan Foundation. Safaricom also did the Kenya @50 Niko na Safaricom Live on December 13 at Kasarani as part of the celebrations. A lot of companies have shown interest, among them Equity Bank, BIDCO, Coca-Cola, National Social Security Fund and the National Bank of Kenya.
How can other Kenyans get involved in some of the long-term projects?
Now moving forward, Kenyans need to embrace Kenya @50. At a personal level, there are things that we can do to bring fundamental changes in the society and also ensure that we move the country forward. Every role played by individual Kenyan is critical. Some of the things that one can do at a personal level is passing a message of unity, branding ourselves with the Kenyan colours and Kenya @50 logo. We are urging all commercial entities, both government and private, to brand their buildings (in these colours) and pass messages of unity, prosperity and also sell Kenya as a home of greats. We need to attract more tourists and grow our economy. Kenya @50 secretariat is just a platform for these activities, but ultimately, the ownership is the people of Kenya. It has to be taken up by the people of Kenya at every level. We will be traversing the country to pass the message.
It seems most of these projects are concentrated in Nairobi. What plans do you have for other counties?
Nairobi is the launch platform but we have a couple of programmes in other towns such as Mombasa, with details coming in due course. In Mombasa we have planned a cardiovascular laboratory. The details of the partnership will soon be unveiled. We are also calling upon the private sector in other counties to come up and support long-term projects. As we travel and visit other counties, we will be announcing the plans we have for them.
Any other things planned by the secretariat other than the events to celebrate 50 years of independence?
The best platform for projecting our future is through the Vision 2030. Recently, President Kenyatta launched multi-billion Greenfield Terminal construction at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. He also launched the construction of the standard gauge railway. These are part of the aspirations to improve on the infrastructure. All these projects will help us visualise what the future portends for Kenyan. The Vision 2030 has clearly outlined where the country needs to go and how Kenyans can participate. We will put more emphasis on education, infrastructure, health and environment.
The youth seems disillusioned or left out yet they are the majority. What message do you have for them as we celebrate 50 years of independence?
The youth are passionate about two things- sports and performing arts. We at Kenya @50 are cognisant of that. That is why we are refurbishing the Kenya National Theatre. It is not lost that many celebrities went through or are products of KNT. As we celebrate them, we must also ensure that the future generations have a place to showcase their talent. We want that industry to grow. We also have the same plan for sports. We must focus on infrastructure and building institutional capacities. We want professionals to manage the sports and help federations to be run professionally and they have requisite support. At the secretariat, we will be advocating for the development of these projects.
Has the Secretariat faced any challenges since inception three months ago?
After its launch three months ago, the team hit the ground running. The steering committee has so far successfully managed the programme. One of the biggest achievements is the rallying of the private sector to support the legacy projects. We really do not like spending a lot of time talking about the challenges because we believe every problem has a solution. But of course like any other organisation at its infancy, there are hurdles along the way. How to handle it matters. Convincing the private sector to come on board was not that easy. But we must commend Kenyans and their patriotism. At the initial stages of the secretariat, it took a bit of time to gel but we have pulled through successfully. We managed to come through all the hurdles.