Many a times when I am asked to talk about my country, I feel very privileged! Afterall, I am very honoured to represent my country (Kenya), my continent (Africa) and I try my best to do it with strength and dignity. When I take such assignments, I am looking at myself as an ambassador and thinking that I need to do something that my President would be happy about and proud that I am representing our country well.
In the diaspora, I realised people are more interested in the country I come from than who I am. Kenya is a country that is very dear to many Norwegians, with corruption as the biggest vice that everyone remembers to mention when they talk about Kenya.
“You know, we were once discussing Kenya at a forum in Germany and we made a conclusion that Kenya is not as corrupt as many imagine. What Kenya does, is more than corruption, we are yet to get a definition to describe the greediness that goes on in Kenya. You as Kenyans know who is mismanaging Kenya, you know who is stealing from the government resources, (read public funds) you know who is exploiting the local citizens and you brand that corruption! That is not corruption. Consult your dictionary.” Said a journalist from Germany at a coffee round table during 2011 World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Copenhagen, Denmark and I felt very ashamed of my country.
Oh, how I wish they stopped discussing my country. So I get to my phone and try to Google search the word corruption and before I could get it, “Here, this is what corruption is all about-dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery,” read another journalist from Denmark.
“Do you understand now….corruption is about deception, dishonest, unfair and dubious means and when you research more about corruption, in most cases you might never get to know about the parties involved and so it remains as mere speculations. In Kenya, this is not the case, you know who embezzled what amount of money, for what use and when. You know this Member of Parliament or this Government official or this person stole this amount of money and did this with it…total incredible and you in turn coin that as corruption, no no no, it is not. It will be right to say Kenya has thieves for leaders, do you get my point, think about it.” Said the Germany journalist.
Ok, I am looking at him (feeling a potato in my throat) and thinking to myself, “Patience, you have done classes in Diplomacy and International Studies, please defend your country, this is what Diplomacy and Representation is all about!” Then I ask myself whether I am ready to defend my country against vices, if anything these journalists have given me a new approach to this, to think of the many thieves we have in our Government leadership and be happy that we are not corrupt as many people imagine! At least that is a good starting point, the task now is to invent ways in which we can clear out the thieves in Kenya. Honestly, I had never seen it from this angle before.
A few months back on my Facebook page, I asked Kenyans to help me out, to name the problems that seem to be the greatest challenge in Kenya as a country. I needed to present these at my church in Norway, (Misjonhuset) we had a one month prayer focus on Kenya. Your guess is as good as mine, most Kenyans mentioned “Corruption” as the main challenge. This is simply because we have all been raised believing that Kenya is corrupt, has corrupt leaders and different surveys has listed Kenya among the top corrupt countries in the World. This is the same thing that the world knows about us out there. They read, watch and listen to news about corruption in Kenya and they are all convinced that Kenya and Kenyans are corrupt. Not very good reputation for those in the diaspora, where your name, reputation and personality is not so important but all they see is “What country do you represent?”
In Norway when you meet people for the first time, they ask you, “Hvor kommer du fra?”( Where do you come from?) Due to the fact that I have no idea what individual perceptions different people have about Kenya, so I devised a strategy, they will know my name then my country in that order. “Jeg heter Patience og jeg kommer fra Taita i Kenya.” *(My name is Patience and I come from Taita in Kenya). Then, from there we can strike a conversation!
This is because I realise many are fascinated by my name, which translates to (tålmodighet in Norwegian) and want to know how I got this name and whether I live to it´s definition. Then I start a long story “In Kenya we have unique virtues that define us as a nation, you will therefore, find names like, Patience, Purity, Love, Happiness, Grace, Blessings, Mercy, Hope, of course these represent the various people who can be found in Kenya. (You get the drift.) Then I get a chance to talk more about my country in a good way and change the focus from the thieves and the corrupt leaders.
“Are you patient as your name suggests?” My answer is a definite yes. I wonder why many other people don´t believe so, but yes I am. Do not just crucifize me based on my name, we are 13 Patience´s in my immediate family and we all have different degrees of patience, so it just depends with different Patience´s and in different circumstances. I can be very patient at one point and I can be totally impatient at some other time.
So now you have it, in Kenya *(according to the non-Kenyans) we have the wrong definition about corruption and what we have previously called corruption might not be! Maybe it could be theft, impunity, greediness, selfishness, robbery, exploitation, injustices, (just wondering) what could it be? Think about it!!
“I want either less corruption or more chance to participate in it.” Ashleigh Brilliant!