Only days into his Presidency US President Barack Obama might get around to penning a letter to the leaders of East Africa, understandably so seeing as he has family in Kenya.
This is how the letter might read without his usual eloquence and turn of phrase, which were edited out so his letter could fit in my allotted space (but really, because I couldn’t match him word for word even if I wanted to).
Thank you for your support during my campaign and the kind words of encouragement and counsel in the last few weeks.
Kenya is the home of my father and I am not averse to being called a Kenya American and by extension an East African American, it is with this background that I write to you gentlemen.
Gentlemen, we stand on the cusp of history.
Our region is a much more peaceful place than it was 20, 10 or even five years ago, but unrepaired hurts continue to simmer under the surface. This has allowed the region to begin to harness the minds of its sons and daughters to drive progress and yet poverty continues to dog our every step. We are only just beginning to appreciate the true potential under our soils but our efforts to exploit these may be scuttled by greedy bureaucrats and corrupt businessmen.
Gentlemen, we need to reassess our ambitions and reposition our legacy.
I write to you in salute of your efforts at East African cooperation and also to lend my hand in furthering this cause that will bring us together as brothers and do away with the artificial boundaries that have no basis in culture or logic.
Beyond sentimentality, the reestablishment of the East African community is our best hope of maintaining our relevance in a world that is moving and changing fast, leaving the weak nations behind and enriching the people’s of organized, determined and focused nations.
We need to inject a sense of urgency into forging our people together as one common market with no barriers to the movement of labour, capital or ownership of property and land.
I have at least four years, at most eight, in office, I have inherited an economy on its knees and country groping to regain its preeminence in world affairs, but even with these limitations America can still do good for East Africa.
American capital can help extend your infrastructure – road, railway, power and communication networks, the key ingredients necessary to meld a people into one, to set the engines of commerce in motion and bring wealth and prosperity to our people.
American science and technology can help in boosting your agriculture, improving the health of our people and widening the scope of your education system, because after all what is a nation without its people.
Given an unfettered market the size of which you aspire to, American entrepreneurship can fire up your manufacturing sector and power up your service industries creating hundreds, thousands even hundreds of thousands of jobs for our people.
Gentlemen the upliftment of our people out of the desperation of poverty and ignorance should be our ultimate goal. That is what will ensure that our legacy will endure beyond our children and our children’s children.
But gentlemen this dream can only come about through clean and accountable government. Without clean governments the costs of doing business will rise and make East Africa unattractive for commerce and trade.
Whereas America, through its various agencies may send money to your countries, it is harnessing the power of corporate America that will have a more lasting and sustainable impact on our peoples.
The curve of history has not been kind to our region. We have suffered brutal dictators, kleptocratic despots and genocidal generals but we are still here. That should count for something.
Gentlemen it is your duty, in fact your obligation to turn things around to clean your houses of corruption, nurture and oversee efficient governments that can deliver the services that will see our people to the promised land.
America and I, can help you in this historic mission but I need you to help me, help you.
God Bless America. God Bless East Africa.
President of the United States of America
Cc President Mwai Kibaki
Cc President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Cc President Jakaya Kikwete
CC President Paul Kagame
Published January 2009, New Vision