Prof. John S. Akama, PhD, Vice Chancellor, Kisii University,

Senior Government Officials present,

Lectures and Students from Kisii University,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is with deep gratitude that I join you to grace this auspicious occasion of the 2nd Annual Kisii University Cultural Week Celebration whose theme is “Securing our Culture, Safeguarding our Future”. First and foremost, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the organizers of this week long event. I anticipate that during this Cultural Week Festivals, participants would have had the opportunity to celebrate not only their own ethnic and cultural background, but also those of their neighbors, friends and colleagues. The celebrations provide a chance for participants to experience the unique and rich Kenyan cultural fabric that has woven over time. I wish to submit that it is in such festivals, that we should be able to be “proud of our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, and be determined to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation” as espoused in the preamble of our Constitution.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Although Kenya is a single and large nation, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) acknowledges the composition of many ethnic groups that require making objective contributions to all matters of governance and leadership, despite their different cultural practices. The desire to establish the Commission was a blunt recognition that Kenya had many communities with diverse cultural practices and as many political affiliations, that required a common rallying strategy to enhance cohesion amongst and across them. Fundamentally, NCIC since inception in 2009 remains an embodiment of expectations from Kenyans of different walks of life irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. It has a functional relevance to invest the strengths of Kenyan diversity in a way that enhances national appreciation through patriotic building strategies.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The embodiment of NCIC endeavors to uphold the right of people to partake in the political, ideological and cultural practice of their choice, while seeking to diminish retrogressive tendencies that undermine the very existence of different ethnic groups, by examining the factors that promote discrimination and marginalization with a view to prescribing sustainable mitigations. Primarily, NCIC puts in place strategies that nurture a national identity of the Kenyan people while providing systemic conciliation structures that inspire communities towards national values rather than individualistic tribal affiliations. In a nutshell, the Commission exists to promote national unity in Kenya.

In order that this is actualized, NCIC facilitates processes and policies that encourage elimination of all forms of ethnic discrimination irrespective of ethnic background, social circle, race and ideological belief(s), and by so doing enhance the capacity for Kenyans to accept each other in appreciating the significance of diversity. The Commission denotes the urgency that Kenyans should be mobilized, sensitized, trained and educated about non-violent conflict resolution processes as well as peace building initiatives that appreciate human dignity and abhor intolerance to divergent views and opinions.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Kenyan social structure is conspicuously ethnic and thrives on the strands of common cultural practices that are emphasized by tribal groupings both in urban centers and rural areas. This set up continues to expose Kenyans to the trappings of ethnic solidarity, in a context that encourages tribal mobilization while it suffocates national cohesion. Although the professional community, mostly urban is more averse to ethnicity, this is could be a fallacy considering the way people carried out the voting process in the 4th March 2013 general election. The social structures carry with them stereotypes that have both positive and negative connotations. Some of these on a wider scale have been exploited to widen the gap between communities in the country, a scenario that has continuously generated Kenyan generations that are more “ethnicized” rather than “Kenyanized”.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The national Goals of Education in Kenya seek to promote the development of values and skills that help Kenyans operate effectively in their families, community, and nation and also as global citizens. They emphasize promotion of national unity, sound moral and religious values, individual development and fulfillment, respect and appreciation of diversity. The national Goals of Education in Kenya also seek to promote social equality and responsibility and respect for and development of Kenya’s rich and varied cultures. These clearly demonstrate the role of education in building a just and cohesive society. Education is thus, a key pillar in the building of a united and a stable nation. Educational systems must therefore make a significant contribution towards the development of habits, attitudes and character, which will enable its citizens bear the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. Education must also counteract all those emerging tendencies which hinder the development of a broad, national and secular outlook of the Kenyan society.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Education sector is critical for inculcating national cohesion and integration amongst our young people. In this regard, the Commission has identified co-curricular activities as important forums for mainstreaming national cohesion and integration issues within the education sector. NCIC has thus focused on the wide range of local opportunities provided by co-curricular activities like sports, music and drama festivals, as well as Institutional cultural festivals to advance its mandate. For instance, the Commission was the thematic sponsor of both the 53rd and the 54th Annual Kenya Schools and Colleges National Drama Festivals held in 2012 and 2013 respectively. In all these festivals, the Commission managed to influence the mainstreaming of the cohesion agenda and serious advocacy on the promotion of national cohesion and integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has this year developed guidelines for the establishment of the Peace (Amani) Clubs, in educational institutions. The overall goal of these clubs is to promote good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence amongst students themselves and between schools and their neighbouring communities. The Guidelines will serve as a reference document in regard to the establishment and operationalisation of Peace Clubs in all learning institutions in a structured and coherent manner.

Amani Clubs are expected to provide young people with avenues to confront negative ethnicity, in a targeted way, and plant seeds of appreciation of diversity and tolerance thus enabling students to learn to co-exist harmoniously despite their ethnic, racial or religious differences. The clubs also aim at reducing conflicts among students through effective dispute resolution, mediation and entrenching peace education activities in the schools. The clubs will assist in character formation, by guiding young people to respect diversity in a pluralistic society. I would like therefore to urge Kisii University to take a leading role in establishing Amani Clubs in all its campuses.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The recent increase in the rate of establishment of public universities has brought with it a new cohesion challenge. The new universities are being established on regional basis with a view to decentralization and increasing access to university education for marginalized communities. While this goal is noble, there is a risk of “ethicizing” these institutions by staffing them with students and staff from the region that they are located. The country has witnessed an emerging trend where most of the teaching staff at these universities hail from ethnic groups in the locality. It is as though the universities were established to serve the majority ethnic communities in areas of location.

A policy on university recruitment of staff needs to be developed to stem this mass exodus of lecturer from older national universities to new ones in their regional domains and therefore foster a national image at these centres of learning. Festivals like the 2nd Annual Kisii University Cultural Week Celebration are therefore noble and timely initiative to bring into fore the diverse Kenyan cultural heritage while at the same time inculcating the intercultural respect, trust and appreciation of Kenya’s’ rich and varied culture.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Kenyans are yearning for a cohesive and integrated society founded on the rule of law and respect for human rights of every individual irrespective of their ethnic or racial backgrounds. It is against this background that the government established the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. The Commission, as stipulated in the National Cohesion and Integration Act (2008), is mandated to among other things, facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful co-existence between persons of different ethnic and racial communities of Kenya, and to advise the Government on all aspects thereof.

NCIC’s objectives include the elimination of all forms of ethnic or racial discrimination and discourage persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination; to enhance tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life; and to promote respect for religious, cultural and linguistic diversity in a plural society.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Although calm has been restored in many parts of our country, many Kenyans still view each other with suspicion and mistrust. The negative feelings of aggression, mistrust, greed, prejudice and harmful indifferences have served to deepen divisions among Kenyans along social, economic, religious, and political lines. Such feelings have been exaggerated by minimal respect to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution. For Kenya to work towards sustainable cohesion and integration, we must overcome the fundamental challenges of disunity amongst our people by respecting others, even when we do not necessarily agree with their opinion. If Kenya is to progress, the youth must strive to overcome such negative mindsets by refusing to be misused by misguided leaders.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

National cohesion and integration is one of the strategic issues that should concern every Kenyan. The Commission therefore seeks to forge partnership with all stakeholders in developing programmes and activities which will nurture harmony and peaceful coexistence between persons of different communities and social classes. As a country, we need to devise innovative and practical strategies that will promote tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of diversity among all Kenyan communities and racial groups. The Commission anticipates harnessing the energies and synergy from other stakeholders such as Universities, in developing a sustained national campaign aimed at fostering cohesion and integration of our society.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Building social cohesion is as much about building hope and aspiration as it is about confronting fears, stereotypes and prejudices. As Kenyans, our common vision should focus on integrating all Kenyans with a clarion call of ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny.’ We should strive to create an environment where there is acknowledgement and valuing of diversity. It is imperative therefore to note that respect for diversity is an essential part of building a successful society and it needs to take place within a common framework of rights and responsibilities that are recognized by, and applied to all. We must therefore exorcise the ghost of tribalism, negative ethnicity and intolerance to divergent views.

Thank you and God bless you.

Contact Details

National Cohesion and Integration Commission

KMA Center 6th Floor, Mara Rd, Upper hill

P. O. Box 7055-00100 Nairobi

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020 2786 000


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