MASHUJAA DAY SPEECH

We must deal with the moral, ethical crisis

The tragic and shameful events of 2008 are indelibly etched in our collective memory.

In Summary

• While Article 10 of the Constitution frames national values and principles of governance, all of us have failed to uphold them.

• We have an intergenerational moral and ethical crisis, thanks to the zero-sum political calculus that drives our politics and the vain pursuit of riches.

President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with Eliud Kipchoge during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa. Looking on are Chief Justice David Maraga and National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale
President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with Eliud Kipchoge during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa. Looking on are Chief Justice David Maraga and National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta joined Kenyans in marking this year’s Mashujaa Day on Sunday.

In a rare departure from custom on such occasions, President Kenyatta spent just 10 minutes talking about the achievements of his government. In the remaining 29 minutes, he spoke about the values we must live by and the ideals we must aspire to.

While Article 10 of the Constitution frames national values and principles of governance, all of us, ordinary citizens and the men and women who serve in government, have failed to uphold them. In violation of Article 73, public officials have neither brought honour to the nation nor dignity to offices they hold.

We, the people, have not demonstrated credible or believable effort to live in peace and unity. Ours remains a fractious society polarised by narrow ethnic rather than public interests. On somedays, it is doubtful that we are one indivisible nation.

The tragic and shameful events of 2008 are indelibly etched in our collective memory. Somehow, we now believe that every election must visit violence, death, bloodshed, displacement and more ethnic vitriol. Our politics is governed by the revolting ethnic zero-sum calculus of the political and business elite in whose twisted logic citizens are dispensable pawns.

Nationhood remains a mirage. Our politicians lack the imagination and motivation to articulate and galvanise citizens to a higher purpose. The majority of politicians from governors to senators to MPs do not need to mobilise diverse, multi-ethnic coalitions to win an election. It is, therefore, not surprising that some politicians express egregious, distasteful ethnic stereotypes fully aware that there will be neither electoral or legal consequence.                                                                                                                              

We, the people, – elected politicians, public servants and citizens – have failed to articulate a national identity. We have failed to carve from this diverse ethnic assemblage, an image of nationhood. We remain a collection of ethnicities, locked in a food fight; a duel for public resources, especially jobs and the privilege of state largesse.

We have an intergenerational moral and ethical crisis, thanks to the zero-sum political calculus that drives our politics and the vain pursuit of riches. A study by Aga Khan University revealed that Kenyan youth did not care how they made money if they did not go to jail. About 35 per cent of youth would take or give a bribe. An estimated 60 per cent would not pay taxes and 30 per cent believed corruption was profitable.

In his Mashujaa Day speech, President Kenyatta attempted to frame a national moral-ethical premise. In his words, a shujaa (hero) pays taxes without coercion; a shujaa will not give or take a bribe; a shujaa is not an innocent by-stander, she or he speaks boldly; mashujaa (heroes) do not cheat or compromise, they choose the hard road.

Heroes, the President added, sacrifice greed, selfishness and personal comfort in the service of others and the nation.

The hard work of moral and ethical re-calibration begins with you and I.