•The Kajiado Governor, who is the current spokesperson of the Maa nation, was invited as a special guest and keynote speaker – at the four-day African Union meeting.
•In his keynote address to the conference, Governor Ole Lenku argued that beside economic benefits, cultural diversity is a powerful enabler of national integration whose value has become ever clear with time.
Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku has challenged African countries to embrace culture as an engine for economic growth, pointing to the crucial role the Maa culture has played in Kenya’s economy.
Speaking at the ongoing Africa Union ‘Africa Celebrates 2023’ meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Governor Ole Lenku said the Maa culture of tolerating wildlife in their land and holding on to their traditional dressing and rituals, is one of the reasons Kenya has become a major international tourism attraction.
“These Maa cultural practices are not just an enduring tradition, but compelling tourism attractions now appreciated even by global tourists.” Said the governor.
The Kajiado Governor, who is the current spokesperson of the Maa nation, was invited as a special guest and keynote speaker – at the four-day African Union meeting themed on celebrating Africa’s unity in diversity by encouraging economic, social and political integration through culture, heritage and trade.
One of the objectives of Africa Celebrates is to promote intra and inter Africa trade investment and tourism with the goal of supporting and empowering women and youths in creating wealth.
In his keynote address to the conference, Governor Ole Lenku argued that beside economic benefits, cultural diversity is a powerful enabler of national integration whose value has become ever clear with time.
“The Maa people are, perhaps, the most recognizable peoples in East Africa. Our culture is many times appropriated to represent the culture of Kenya; and, at times, Tanzania. We do not mind that. We are proud of it.” Said the governor.
He said the endurance of African culture after years of colonial and post-independence efforts to undermine it, is a statement to the endurance of all Africans.
He praised the revised Constitution of Kenya that was enacted in 2010 for recognizing culture as ‘the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation.’
The Governor at one point caused laughter at the conference when he noted that the Maa are the only ethnic group in Africa which “scared the British colonialists sufficiently to enter into a treaty with them to avoid war.”
The treaty, he said, protected designated Maasai land from encroachment by the colonialist but was later trashed after the community was systematically weakened, under the dubious claim backed by a court judgment that “the Maasai could not validly enter into the treaty because they were not a civilized nation.”
The governor called for the African people to adapt their culture to the evolution of time, noting that the Maa have assimilated many “modern” ways of life – from taking their children to formal state schools to embracing some forms of “modern” medicine alongside their traditional ones. “This acceptance is not viewed as incursions into culture but as the organic growth of culture. They do not threaten the Maa way of life; they enrich it.
Other notable speaker at the conference included Dr Joyce Hilda Banda former president of Malawi, Dr Alhaji Lai Mohammed former Nigerian Minister of Information, Arts and Culture and current special Advisor to the (UNWTO) Secretary General, Ambassador Mudenda Muchanga Africa Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals, Dr Melinda Harris Barrow president and CEO 6th Region Chamber among others distinguished dignitaries.
The meeting ended on Sunday October 29 with Maa Fest team showcasing Maa cultural heritage, cuisine and dressing.