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Kenya at 50 – Lessons from Nelson Mandela

This week Africa and indeed the whole world is celebrating the life and times of one of the greatest men that ever walked the surface of the earth – Nelson Mandela. A man whose legacy can only be mentioned alongside the likes of Mother Teressa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr.

That his death came at a time when Kenya is celebrating 50 years of self rule is more than a coincidence. I remember watching the national prayer service held in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday and one quote from one the priests stood out for me: “While the living close the eyes of the dead, it is the dead who open the eyes of the living.”

Nelson Mandela’s death should be an eye opener for us and the rest of the continent. Like the Christians live by the principle of What Would Jesus Do (WWJD), Africans should start living by the principle of What Would Madiba Do (WWMD).

In the past few days I have watched a lot of documentaries on Mandela’s life (thanx to Channel 200 on Dstv) and I can’t help but draw parallels to the Kenyan situation. When Madiba was released from prison, he came out to a deeply divided society. Divisions both racial and tribal.

Even though he had every right to seek revenge for the atrocities committed against him by the colonial administration he chose the path of peace. Embracing the same people who took him away from his family for 27 years…embracing them so much so that he gave them a share in his government.

It was not an easy ride for the statesman…in 1993 just before he became president, South Africa saw the first ever ethnic violence that followed disagreements between the Zulu tribe who wanted to set up their own autonomous Kingdom and the ANC supporters. That violence cost the lives of more than 4,000 South Africans. This was worse than the post election violence we had in Kenya….

Madiba still sought for negotiations and eventually brought the Zulu to the table with one of their own even running for President alongside him.

The biggest lesson we can learn from the fallen soldier is that of forgiveness and inclusion…as Kenyans we need to forgive one another for past atrocities for crimes we committed or for those that were committed by people purporting to represent us. Then moving forward we need to include everybody in the development plans for this country.

As divided as South Africa was Mandela found little things that united his people…SPORTS was one of them. He used football, rugby and cricket to rally South Africans for their nation. The results were indeed amazing. I love the unity I see when we support Shujaa Sevens team at the IRB circuit, the joy our athletes give us when they race and win medals abroad…our lovely footballers. What we need is a leader who will take advantage of the opportunities that these sporting events provide and use that to unite our people.

So instead of mourning a man who has lived his life so well, we should ask ourselves whether we are ready to take up the Mandela challenge. This country badly needs a Kenyan Mandela who will deliver us from the bondage of ethnicity, greed and haughtiness. It’s time for another Mandela to rise up – In Kenya.

Happy 50th Birthday Kenya….Long Live Nelson Mandela.

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

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