U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden ends his three-day official visit to Kenya Thursday after urging Kenyans to transform their country. At a public forum held at the Kenyatta International Conference Center in Nairobi Wednesday, Mr. Biden expressed support for Kenya’s journey towards securing a free, democratic and a prosperous country.
He also warned against ethnic divisions saying, “Kenyans are now divided... torn apart by ethnic tensions perpetuated by leaders who place their own interests ahead of the country. The 2007 general election crisis revealed exactly how dangerous these forces can be.”
P.L.O. Lumumba, a constitutional law expert, said Biden’s message was clear adding that Kenya has no choice other than to decisively deal with corruption as a cancer in the country’s body politic.
“Those in the know will tell you that corruption does contribute negatively to our economy and it eats up anything between 20 and 25 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And, that tells you that it is the one thing that stands in our way towards the realization, not only of the Millennium Development Goals, but our own (development initiative) Vision 2030,” Lumumba said.
Biden also said Kenya’s destiny is in the hands of its people after expressing disappointment at the failure of some Kenyan leaders who he said have failed to drive the country to exploit its full potential, 47 years after independence.
Kenyans have demanded more democratic reforms following the 2007 post-election violence which led to the deaths of at least 1,300 people, while 350,000 were made homeless.
P.L.O. Lumumba said there is need for Kenyans to resolve the ongoing challenges the country faces.
“Ultimately, I hold the view that the key to Kenya’s, and indeed Africa’s, salvation lies with Africans themselves,” Lumumba said.
He also said that the Biden visit is a clear statement that Kenya is a member of the international community of nations and that it must conduct its affairs in keeping with the accepted standards of democracy.
Kenyans are expected to vote in a referendum scheduled August 4 to determine whether to accept, or reject, a proposed constitution that will also pave the way for the next general election.
The U.S. vice president said, “a new constitution will accelerate reforms...reforms will bring more foreign investments into the country. The power to bring about change in Kenya rests with its people.”
Lumumba expressed confidence in the draft constitution.
“I have no doubt in my mind that come the fourth day of August, Kenyans will overwhelmingly endorse a new constitutional dispensation. And, the truth is that that, in my view, will be the beginning of the creation of a new Kenya because that constitution is a bridge to the Kenya that many desire. We will have our teething problems like every other nation, but it will be a new beginning,” Lumumba said.
Meanwhile, Biden is scheduled to go to South Africa to participate in the opening ceremony of the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, which is set to begin Friday.