Barack Obama should inspire unity among Kenyans

The arrival of US President Barack Obama will go down in the annals of history as one of the most significant visits to Kenya by a foreign leader. Kenyans have united in welcoming President Obama, irrespective of ethnicity, party affiliation, religion, colour, gender and all the other divisions that often hold the country back.

If there is one important outcome from the presidential visit, it is that we can, indeed, stand above all the little schisms that all too often turn us against each other, and impede the march towards a united, peaceful, stable, progressive, prosperous democratic nation.

We can use this visit to study the Obama phenomenon as an example of the boundless possibilities open to us as individuals and as a nation.

The story of how the son of a Kenyan student in America overcome the odds and made it all the way to become the first Black resident of the White House must stand as one of the most inspirational tales of all time.

It tells us that we can overcome all manner of obstacles, ingrained prejudices and historical injustices to realise our true potential.

President Obama was elected on the slogans of ‘Hope’ and ‘Yes We Can’, and those are the principles we need to adopt if we are to strike out on the brave new path towards a modern, progressive society.

President Obama is in Kenya to grace Global Entrepreneurial Summit that he probably had a personal hand in ensuring was hosted by the county of his father.

The Summit programme indicates an agenda tilted towards youth and the new economy.

The fifth youngest US president ever to take office — he was just 47 when elected in November 2008 — is an inspirational figure in his own right. Throughout his presidency, he has demonstrated a keen interest in providing a leg up for the youth, women, minorities, the poor, and other marginalised or disenfranchised groups.

These are the groups that even in Kenya can learn great lesson from the Obama story. The lesson is that perpetually whining, dwelling in the past, waiting for handouts from the government or politicians, and lashing out against imagined enemies in other groups, offers absolutely no solutions.

True, groups on the fringes need all the help they can get, but ultimately they must design and implement their own ways out of poverty and want and into prosperity and inclusion.

The trip may see bilateral aid programmes announced, agreements signed on key development projects, and deals struck with the captains of industry and innovation attending the Global Entrepreneurial Summit.

However, we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that President Obama and the wealthy entrepreneurs in his entourage are here to lavish us with free gifts.

Therefore, we must not hold out the begging bowls, but look for linkages and partnerships that will provide sustainable solutions to our problems.

We can gain much just by learning from example. We will go far when we clean up our politics, rise above ethnic competition, root out ingrained corruption, abandon the culture of ethnic banditry, shape up our security services, and provide the enabling environment for entrepreneurs and innovators to do honest business.