This Is No Time for Petty Politics [opinion]

Many visitors to Kenya are amazed at the passion that Kenyans have for politics. They note that when Kenyans gather in a pub in the evening, almost all the discussions at all the tables are about the political dramas of the day.

And newspapers, of course, ever eager to improve their sales, appeal to this Kenyan appetite with a never-ending menu of political intrigues and manoeuvres.

President Barack Obama’s historical visit to Kenya is, however, one of those times when we must all set aside our usual – and usually very petty – political differences, and put our best foot forward.

This does not mean that when opposition political leaders meet with President Obama, they should not voice their complaints about those things in the ruling political coalition they see to be a betrayal of Kenyans.

Nor yet, does it mean President Uhuru Kenyatta should try and pretend all is well, and not freely admit to President Obama that we face very many challenges over security, over corruption and over many other issues which impact on the lives of ordinary Kenyans.

But it does mean we should shelve – if only for this weekend – the usual petty political skirmishing and theatrical confrontations that are the staple of Kenyan politics, and which the media usually covers so lavishly.

It cannot be emphasised enough that this must be an occasion of displaying Kenyan unity.

And just as Kenyans always instinctively unite to cheer on our great world-beating athletes; or unite in the face of attacks by terrorists; this is one time when we simply have to be seen at our best. We must strive to create a strong impression of a nation that is worthy of the attention we will receive for as long as the American President is here.

For there is a phrase, often misused in the media which very literally applies at this time: this is a historic occasion; and the whole world is watching.


It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.

Arthur James Balfour, first Earl of Balfour KG OM PC DL, was a British Conservative politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He was born on July 25, 1848.