My dad once told me a story. And to this date, I have never really known whether it was a hoax, or real. Because soon after he did, I heard this story from someone else; and then another. So basically, my dad is either a well-connected storyteller, or a big rumour monger. But that, is not why we are here today.
This story is about a man who woke up from a deep slumber to find himself hanging from a cliff, with only a growing root to clutch on. It was dark all around him, and he couldn’t exactly tell how he got there. All he knew was that he would be dead, if he failed to maintain his grip on that growing root.
He vainly tried going up the cliff, raising his grip on the root, but every time he did this, it would twerk, making that breaking sound; an indication that it was about to break under his weight. And so he had to stand still, immovably so.
Time flew away, and soon, darkness paved way to the first break of dawn, and the old man took advantage to see how away from the ground he was. He looked beneath him, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. He was less than 3 inches away from the ground. After all the pain and qualms he had borne the whole night, daylight was finally here, and he was able to tell how far away from the ground he actually was!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today I choose to liken this man to our beloved country, Kenya. At 51 years, Kenya is hanging on a growing root, from a cliff we aren’t sure of its height. Some of us will say that they do not know how we ever got here, while others could try giving a background on it. Nevertheless, we are here; each one of us.
As a nation, we were falling off a cliff, but hope came our way-Devolution. And for 4 years now, we’ve been clinging on this root, oblivious of what awaits us beneath. We do not know how far away from the ground we are. We could be a million miles away from our feet. But unless darkness paves way for light, we will never know the answer to this question.
My fellow countrymen,
They say hope is the dream of a walking man. It has now been close to 4 years since we first promulgated a new constitution. Kenya was ‘falling’, and Devolution was the straw that we clinged upon. However, hopelessness and uncertainty still lurks in the dark from where we stand today. Kenyans are no longer sure about Devolution. Many today do not consider it as the straw that saved a drowning man. Well, atleast some of us still do. And this is what Scholars Festival is all about.
P.L.O Lumumba, Prof Yash Pal Ghai, Gitobu Imanyara, James Orengo and many will tell you that though we aren’t where we ought to be as a nation, we have made incredible strides where governance, civic duty and fiscal responsibility are concerned. Today, our people are at the center of any avenue of decision making. Chapter One of our constitution gives all sovereign power to the people, who in turn exercise it both at National level and at county level, through representation and public participation. Devolution, in article 174 (d) recognizes the right of communities to manage their own affairs as well as the protection of minorities’ rights. Our mothers and sisters are more empowered, not forgetting the two-thirds rule that seeks to equalize our genders. For the first time in 50 years, Kenyans have their own governments at county level, and they can run them, on how best they feel like.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Poverty, Ignorance and Disease bedeviled us at independence. Now 50 years later, we grapple with the same ills. We keep trying to run away from them as a nation, but they still come after us; faster and harder. But should we stop, Ladies and Gentlemen? Can we afford to? Today I say, running is the only option left for us. And we must run, faster than the mad dogs. Because though it may be dark now, dawn must come.
The Transition Authority will tell you that we have now completed the first of three cycles of transiting into a Devolved system. Atleast two more years must come and go, before we can tangibly touch and see Devolution in her complete sense. And this is why we cannot afford to kill an idea whose time came in 2010, and was born in our hearts.
Devolution, at the moment looks ugly as a consequence of some of the leaders we elected in the last elections. They have substituted delivery with greed, diligence has been traded for status, and Prudence has been exchanged for personal interest.
Our current constitution places an integral role for us as Kenyans, in matters of governance. We have a place for each one of us in Devolution. And though we may feel betrayed, let us not forget where our interests coincide-in leaving a better Kenya than we found. But to do this, we must learn to remember the seasons. We must know when to start, and when to stop. When to slow down, and when to accelerate. When to play politics, and when to work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Whether Devolution is good or bad for us, we must give it a chance to be heard. She is speaking; she has been since last year on the 5th of March 2014. Devolution is still speaking, but are we ready to listen? She’s still an infant, and we must give her a chance to walk, eat solid food and fit into our lives before darkness paves way for the light, and we’ll know how far away from the ground we really are. But while she still breathes, Ladies and Gentlemen I say, LET THE CHILD LIVE!
Speech presented at the Scholars Festival
(Kenya National Debating Council)