Because Kenya’s mainstream media and many other sources will not tell you more about the visiting South Korean Leader Park Geun-hye, let me do it here.
Like Uhuru, Park Geun-hye’s father was Korea’s President in the 1960s, precisely the same time Jomo Kenyatta was President of Kenya.
Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled Korea from 1960 to 1979, when he passed away. Uhuru’s father ruled Kenya also from 1963 to 1978, when he too passed away.
Often when people discuss Kenya and Korea, they end the discussion at the point where the two countries had the same GDP in the 1960s while the South Korea GDP today is almost 10 times that of Kenya. What people don’t see is how the leadership of these two countries have been markedly different.
Between Park Chung-hee (president of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th republics of South Korea) and his daughter, Park Geun-hye (president of the 6th republic of South Korea), there have been seven presidents!
Between Jomo Kenyatta and his son, there has only been two other presidents, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.
In the 53 year period where Kenya has only been ruled by four men, South Korea has been ruled by 10 men and one woman, the current President who is in Nairobi. When Moi ruled Kenya for 24 straight years, the Koreans had seven presidents in that period alone!
One Korean President has been assassinated. There has been two coups and several massacres.
Park Geun-hye came to power in February 2013, just a month before Uhuru. She is barred from seeking re-election next year. The South Koreans elect a president for one term of five years.
The irony is that as Park Geun-hye and her National Frontier Party will leave leadership next year, she is not discussing some succession line-up. She has no ethnic baggage to protect.
South Korea was developed by Park Geun-hye’s father, the venerable Park Chung-hee. He was solider, diplomat and statesman. As Jomo Kenyatta was grabbing land and stoking ethnicity and betraying fellows like Jaramogi who fought for him and country, Park’s father was setting the conditions for Korean take-off.
Park Geun-hye’s family are not the richest in Korea; neither are they the largest land owners of peasant squatters lands.
So, today, as we celebrate her and give her our highest military honour; we must do so feeling ashamed of the historical opportunities we’ve wasted with men like Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi.
The 24 years Moi spent building cattle dips and gabions and terrorising the opposition in a monolithic tyrannical fiefdom would have been used for industrial take-off.
The other day as I came from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, I saw LG branded billboards welcoming her. LG is a Korean Manufacturer. So is Samsung.
What modern tool have bequeathed humanity?
The politico-moral gist of this post is that you cannot elect dunderheads and tribal chiefs and expect to prosper to the global stage. Also, there is wisdom in continually changing leaders, including through assassination, coups and massacres.
Historians now widely agree that had the 1982 coup succeeded Kenya would have attained its middle level status by 2005. Right now, even the 2030 dream is a mirage.
Unless we make a paradigm shift in how we do politics here, we will keep on staging 21 gun salutes to nations that should be our equals, but are not, because we are a mediocre people, used to mediocre political leadership.