OP-ED: Kwaheri ya kuonana

Kwaheri ya kuonana

By Ambassador Robert F. Godec

As I prepare to depart Kenya, I have been reflecting on this magical country and its remarkable people. My wife Lori and I have loved being here for the past six years. We’ve met amazing, creative, and generous Kenyans and marveled at your beautiful country.

Together, we’ve done a lot. From the threads of mutual respect, shared values, and common goals, we have woven a rich tapestry of ties: government to government, business to business, NGO to NGO, and people to people. And our bonds are growing stronger. Just last August, President Trump welcomed President Kenyatta to the White House where we cemented our strategic partnership. In historic firsts, in 2015 President Barack Obama visited Kenya and last October First Lady Melania Trump was here. Out of the spotlight, even more is happening.

Every day, the American people, through our exceptional Embassy team, are investing in the Kenyan people and their future. We’ve placed reading books in the hands of every early primary school child; we provide HIV/AIDS treatment to over one million Kenyans daily so they can lead healthy lives and take care of themselves and their families; and, we are helping thousands of young people develop their skills and get better jobs. We are supporting President Kenyatta’s Big Four initiative, encouraging better governance, and empowering women and people with disabilities. We are the largest international investor in devolution and are pleased to see the counties begin to bring about real change across Kenya. We are helping to reduce poaching and protect elephants and other wildlife. And, we strongly support the fight against corruption and are working with the justice sector to strengthen the rule of law.

We have built deeper commercial ties, too. We now issue five-year visas and the first direct flight between Nairobi and New York took off last October, moving us even closer. We’ve brought thousands of entrepreneurs to Kenya, increasing trade and investment. American companies, seeing the vibrant Kenyan entrepreneurial spirit in world-class technologies, are boosting their engagement. Just in the past few months, we’ve concluded nearly one billion dollars in new commercial deals that will help build prosperity in both our countries.

In tandem, we’ve worked to advance peace in East Africa and are committed to restoring stability in Somalia. We stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism. Sadly, we have also shared moments of great tragedy, including the craven terrorist attack on the Dusit hotel complex just days ago. Together, we mourn all those who were killed as we help the injured and the grieving. The United States will continue to do all it can to help Kenya defeat terrorism, including offering information, technology, and training. We will never forget the sacrifices of the brave Kenyan men and women of the defense, security, and law enforcement agencies who work tirelessly to keep us all safe.

As a leader, Kenya has the eyes of the world upon it. Every country has challenges and every country – both its government and its people – must decide how to face them. Kenyans know theirs all too well. They include widespread corruption, divisive ethnic politics, impunity, human rights violations, unemployment, and poverty. Kenya is being tested as it seeks long term solutions to these problems. I am encouraged, though, that in times of crisis Kenya’s leaders have demonstrated they are willing and able to bridge political divides for the sake of the country, as President Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Odinga did with their handshake on March 9thof last year.

But most of all, it is the Kenyan people themselves that give me hope for the future. In my travels to every corner of this country, Kenya’s teachers, farmers, business leaders, health workers, conservationists and so many more inspired me with their determination, resilience, and courage. Remarkable Kenyans are creating jobs, growing produce, promoting peace, countering violent extremism, conserving the environment, and improving literacy and digital skills. Talented, intelligent, and resourceful Kenyans are building this country and, at the same time, weaving the fabric of our partnership.

Lori and I offer a profound asanteni sana to all Kenyans for making us truly feel at home. Serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya has been one of the great privileges of my life. Kenya and Kenyans will always have a big place in our hearts. I congratulate Ambassador Kyle McCarter, and look forward to watching the special partnership between us continue to deepen and broaden for the benefit of both of our nations. Kwaheri ya kuonana.