Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so happy once again to speak to the youth of Kenya, as the leadership of this country under the mediation of FSG Kofi Annan are seriously and tenaciously charting out a strategy and a political compromise that will give a lasting solution to the crisis. I ask you all, right at the outset, to join me in observing a minute of silence and respect for those who have lost their lives in recent weeks. We pray also for those who have lost loved ones, their homes, property and their livelihoods.
Young ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed, know that many of you have come here at considerable personal risk to join us here today. I want to thank you for your courage and sacrifice. It is a regrettable situation that some of you had the misfortune of having witnessed neighbors and loved ones being killed, homes being torched, families being evicted and separated, and fear of insecurity among neighbors creeping within settlements and communities. That is what makes the meeting timely, and your presence here is therefore most valuable and important.
Indeed since we started our activities with the youth to campaign against violence two weeks ago, I am gratified to note that things have improved markedly. Let me start by congratulating you all and the people of Kenya for the confidence and patients they have shown to give mediation a chance. When we last met, I told you that as young people, it is your generation which must lead the way. You must be the agents of change to bring peace where our generation has clearly failed. The current cloud hanging over this nation is not only a threat, but also an opportunity. If corrective measures are taken, a new order is bound to emerge, turning adversity into opportunity. Those who lost their lives and those who are suffering and hurting will not have done all this in vain.
As you know, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon was here a few weeks ago when he implored Kenyans to stop violence and killing each other, urging all of you to go out and to reach out to your friends and to your neighbours to stop all the violence, the attacks, the revenge attacks, the burning of churches, homes and businesses, and to bring a quick end to the rape and pillage. Criminal elements take advantage of violence to attack innocent victims thus turning away would be sympathizers in what you believe as your cause. Individuals are enshrined the freedom of expression in a non-violent manner without interruption or intimidation. What must be foremost in everyone’s mind is that the issues we are dealing with are not about individual politicians, individual political parties, but the future of Kenya and its people, indeed it is also about the future of this region and this afflicted continent.
The people are tired; they’ve been traumatized. Some live in fear and they want to see this issue resolved. It is you the young people who will tell feuding parties that enough is enough, and now we need to move on through reforms that can address long standing grievances thereby restore peace.
And this is why the former Secretary General Kofi Annan is here and the international community and friends in the region are so engaged in finding a lasting peaceful solution to this crisis. The current SG of the UN came to Kenya also to express the solidarity of the entire UN with the Kenyan people, and the need to find a solution to the crisis. The international community is engaged; they are engaged because of their concern and friendship for Kenya, solidarity. They are here because of their solidarity with the Kenyan people.
We members of the UN are all working together to assist those who need humanitarian assistance, as we do in all parts of the world who find themselves in a humanitarian situation. But we are also keen and working to assist Kenyan leaders and Kenyan people to get the right results so that Kenya continues to be a stable, prosperous country and the haven it has been in this region for all the countries. Clearly as host to the only UN headquarters based in the developing world, stability in Kenya is also important for our work in other parts of the world. The way the UN works is through dialogue with leaders of a given Member State, in this case Kenya. Unless the UN Security Council so decides, the UN works with Member States through dialogue and never never dictates its views or positions.
However, in times of crisis such as this, UN staff and agents always advocate for basic values and governance principles we believe in without fear or fervor. So today, once again, using historical experiences, I shall emphasize these values, without which a country cannot attain sustainable peace and prosperity.
In 1913 one of the most courageous women heroes, the late Rosa Parks, was born in Alabama in the United States. History tells us that 52 years ago Rosa defied the segregation laws of the South by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Little did she know that she ushered in a new era to be advanced by Martin Luther King Jr. who led many other African Americans to follow her example, of not giving up the seat but boycotting the bus company as long as they were being discriminated against. However, they did all this without violence, although they were surely tear gassed several times. They refused to be intimidated into retaliatory violence. In other words they lost the battle to win the war. The current crisis is pregnant with opportunity for a new Kenya, a new society, that will shine again on the world stage. A unified new country that looks beyond parochial, ethnic interests. I have faith that through you young people, a march to freedom has started, and there is no turning back.
About the same time that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were struggling against racial discrimination in America, leaders such as the first South African Nobel Laureate, the late Mr. Albert Luthuli, were doing the same in South Africa. They founded the African National Congress, ANC in 1912 on principles of nonviolence. His Excellency Nelson Mandela followed and you have seen the kind of respect that Mr. Mandela commands around the world. Another legendary figure is Mahatma Gandhi. He was able to fight for the independence of India, the biggest and most valued colony of Britain by peaceful means. I can also today add another example. The suffragettes or women who fought for the right to vote, and much else. No feminist has ever resorted to violence, but see what women have achieved? If am addressing you today, it is because some women in the past had to fight for the right of women to go to school, to get jobs, and to be promoted to high office. And my young friends, see what women, as your mothers have achieved! So my young people, the issue is not whether you fight for what you believe in, but how you do it. You are likely to succeed and win strategic allies and sympathizers to your cause if you do not resort to violence.
I have gone through these historical examples, to drive home a point that young Kenyans can and must learn from Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the women movement. All fought for rights and justice, but peacefully without endangering the lives of their neighbors or anyone else. All religious teachings abhor violence because clearly, those who live by the sword, will also die by the sword. It is self-defeating.
I for one have always looked with pride for the Kenyan runners bearing a flag for Africa. I used to say with pride and conviction that “KARIBU KENYA, HAKUNA MATATA”. I would hate now to say the reverse, “matata mengi”. That should not and cannot be allowed to continue.
Today, I would like to encourage you to understand and observe one of the most important principles of the UN. That is to solve disputes through negotiations, by peaceful means, without interfering in other people’s basic human rights. The United Nations condemns violence. It also recognizes that if you deny people freedom of assembly and freedom to express themselves, they resort to violence. It follows that the UN principles must be upheld by all of us, both as individuals or groups, or government officials. It is also clear that both immediate and long standing historical grievances must be addressed, once and for all. The UN family is active in practically all these areas and stands ready to assist if and as requested.
In this regard, responding to young people who wanted to deliver immediate relief and longer term peace building activities, UN-HABITAT has entered into partnership with Kenya Red Cross to make this possible. I am told that a number of you present here are involved in these initiatives. I thank you for your voluntary spirit and is counting on good performance, serving others with sincerely and sacrifice.
At this gathering here today, we have an opportunity to exchange views and learn from one another. This gathering of young people from all corners of Kenya is going to be a peaceful one! Everyone here is unique and a resource. Imagine how boring this meeting would be if you had not all come to participate! No man is an island, so the saying goes!
AT THIS STAGE, LET ME ASK YOU to pose for a moment, and EXTEND TO EACH OTHER A HAND SHAKE, as a sign of peace. ……..Thank you!
With this gesture, I am pleased to open the National Youth Forum on Safe Neighbourhoods which is part of the initiative by young people to dedicate this week to discuss youth violence prevention measures. I do hope that your deliberations will lead to a National Campaign on Youth Violence Prevention and that this Forum will convene annually to take stock of the progress made on the Campaign effort by young people.
I conclude these remarks by asking you to ask yourselves how a country can grow and flourish beyond its borders, when it cannot even embrace its own people living on her lands? My challenge to you is to go out to your school, to your neighbour with the message that violence is not an acceptable part of how individuals should treat each other. You must make everyone understand that the main reason people attack neighbors is because they are the soft target. You cannot reach those who are really the cause of the problem so you vent out your frustration on your neighbor. A soft target, this is tragic and must be exposed! At the same time criminals take advantage of violent protests to commit crimes. Imagine those raping women, what has that got to do with governance issues? Imagine those murdering and robbing people? Once you are associated with these sad acts, the public gets tired and forgets your cause, which could well be a valid one.
Surely, grievances must be tackled, wrong actions must be pointed out, and those involved named and shamed?
But clearly that does not happen after you have killed your neighbor, torched their homes, or thrown then out of their jobs. That is not the way to resolve any issue but to make a bad situation worses. So please go out with the messages “Peace begins with you and me”, “No more violence, lets talk”, “A peaceful Kenya begins with me”, “I am Kenya, I am Peace, Lets Talk”. “The children are crying, this is shameful on all of us´. You are my brother, I am your sister, and we all are one human family. The leaders are talking. In their wisdom they asked Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to come and mediate or facilitate the dialogue, to avoid a confrontation. That takes time and humility but it will pay a high reward. That is why we talk of TRUTH, JUSTICE AND RECONCILLIATION. This can be done at all levels, including in communities who want to move on. If youth groups want a facilitator in such matters, you can invite UN experts to come and help!
Last time I encouraged you to take this message to the grassroots by forming 10-cell systems, so that the message reaches your friends and is spread. I am very serious about this initiative and have instructed my staff to follow it up. One day when you are fully established, I shall come to visit your cells or mashina. It is a way to make this peace and non-violence initiative meaningful and sustainable.
Individual action CAN and WILL make a difference! BUT GROUP ACTION IS SUPREME.
The choice before us is peaceful and enriching coexistence or no existence at all. The choice is ours and the youth have to lead.
We must stop the bleeding. This will take both determination but also investment.
Once again, I thank you for your courage and please from now on promise me you will never become violent, will stay safe because only you can make Kenya, the only host to a UN headquarters in the developing world, safe to live and work in.
UN stands ready to help and facilitate. Together we shall soon over come. I have a dream.
Thank you for your kind attention.