KENYA: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

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Good bad and uglyA WEEK is not complete unless it contains the good, the bad and the ugly from Kenya. This week, the good from Magical Kenya came from the women and men whose feet are like the feet of a deer. They run and win almost every marathon race in major cities worldwide. In the just concluded London Marathon, the Kenyan men led by Eliud Kipchoge took the top 4 positions. Mary Keitany took the second position in the women’s race behind Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia.

Wherever they appear, the Kenyan runners are greeted by thousands with excited shouts of Kenya! Kenya! Kenya! They are the country’s best goodwill ambassadors who take the colors of the Kenyan flag to the furthest corners of the globe. They are the subject of curiosity, commentaries, research and sometimes plain stereotyping as many seek to understand why Kenya does so well in marathon.

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Consider Kipchoge Keino, Ben Jipcho and Paul Tergat. Or John Ngugi, Samuel Wanjiru and Patrick Makau. Consider Lornah Kiplagat, Catherine Ndereva and Priscah Jeptoo. All of these iconic runners have been gifts of God to Kenya and the people of the world who they awe and pull together in celebration of the best in humanity, namely, mental toughness, sheer hard work, dedication to duty and patriotism.

These runners generate a lot of free publicity for Kenya through print and electronic media. They also make for themselves handsome incomes through prizes and appearance fees. As the fire of the marathon competitions sweep across Kenya, from Nairobi to the remotest village, the huge public reception is transforming running into a national pastime of the Country On The Run.

Now is the time for the counties, the national government and the private sector to harness the unexploited potential of this sports industry through documentaries, endorsements, sponsorships, preparation and kitting of the marathon teams and promotion of the international Kenyan Brand. Michael Jordan, the wealthy United States basketball legend has shoes to his name. The world is waiting for among others, Kip Keino running shoes, t-shirts, caps, jerseys and umbrellas and for his name imprinted for posterity in Kenya’s Hall of Fame honoring the country’s great athletes.

Guess who was the undisputed winner of the Kenya bad news award of the week? If you thought of Kisumu County MCAs, give yourself a pat on the back. Last week Kisumu County topped the chart of generating good news successfully hosting the Second Devolution Conference. That same county flipped the chart this week when, in shameless violence, some Members of the County Assembly physically attacked their Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Pamela Omino, following which she was hospitalized.

Such behavior has no place in civilized society. Hon. Ababu Namwamba, the Secretary General of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), must be commended for taking swift and decisive action against the MCAs who brought shame to their party. It is true that such brawls happen in other countries such as South Korea and Japan. But that is no excuse for the Kisumu County MCAs to behave like primitive cavemen dressed in suits and ties.

Finally, the award for generating ugly news goes to those faceless Kenyan individuals who use abusive language to spread toxic ethnic hatred on the internet. There is a big difference between social activism based on dissenting views and ideas and outright promotion of inter-ethnic violence.

Shame goes to the Pokot, Turkana and Isiolo leaders. They have for long failed to launch solidarity initiatives between their warring communities. Shame also goes to the county governments that failed the test of disaster preparedness when the long rains commenced and flooded many towns due to poor drainage. With a little foresight and planning, the deaths and destruction witnessed this week could have been avoided. There is a lot Kenyans can learn from their marathon runners regarding preparation, execution and winning.

By Leonard Njoroge, Diaspora Messenger Contributor, Email: njorogelg@yahoo.com

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