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Sep302009

Kenya Prime Minister Speaks to Diaspora: Cool Coalition but Snow Shock

With the General Assembly in session at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the leaders of countries around the world are in town. Besides high level GA meetings, the dignitaries also make speeches and host other events. I went to a reception for the Kenya Mission to the UN at the Helmsley Hotel, at the invitation of my Kenyan-born UN NGO intern, Wiarimu Kuguru. Many officials, including the Prime Minister, made speeches, talking humorously and honestly about the situation "back home" to the audience of appreciative Kenyans. The loudest cheer, when states were mentioned for the assembled diaspora, was for "New Jersey," though there were sprinkles of Kenyan New Yorkers and even DC'ers.

The speeches were certainly eye-opening about the situation in Kenya.

“We have drought and also floods,” one dignitary said.

Climate change is another serious problem, explained the Prime Minster of Kenya.  I was shocked to hear that there is “less snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro.”  My sister had just told me her dream of climbing that mountain.  I have climbed the Annapurna Range in Nepal, but said I would go with her to the Kenyan challenge, and was distressed to hear of its victimization by global warming.

Besides the snow, the forest is also disappearing: another shock.

Noting the bad economy, he told the diaspora, “We know you are sending less money home… I know because I see the figures.”  Some in the audience laughed in guilty recognition.

The P. M. also addressed the political situation. emphasizing the success of the coalition government, with a Prime Minister and a President sharing dual power as the first example of its kind in Africa. “The country went through a difficult time in 2007, but we are now working together,” he said, warning against believing media hype about the problems and political unrest in Kenya. 

Another dignitary noted that politicians in Kenya are telling the truth even at the risk of being unpopular. 

The Kenyan diaspora was clearly plesed to hear the review of their country, and proud of what they are doing besides how things are being handled “back home.”

 

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