by Mike Rast Jr. | February 8, 2008
Kenya’s current leaders must be replaced before the East African country can cure the violence that plagues it or fully realize its economic potential, Mwangi Mukami, the founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Africa Foundation, told GlobalAtlanta.
Mr. Mukami, 23, has been an activist in Kenya since he was 14 years old, having organized youth groups promoting health care and democracy in his and other countries. The foundation based in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is a new organization inspired by Dr. King’s life to involve youth in democratic processes.
He was in Atlanta on Jan. 21 to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. While here, he received a Goodwill Ambassador Award from the Gandhi Foundation USA, which is affiliated with the King Center.
GlobalAtlanta conducted a video interview with Mr. Mukami at Kennesaw State University where the university’s Institute for Global Initiatives hosted in conjunction with the Association of Kenya Professionals in Atlanta a seminar examining the roots of the violence following Kenya’s Dec. 27 election.
During the interview, he described Kenya’s current leaders at both the national and local levels as selfish and said that they were “gluttonous to get more power.” He blamed them for provoking the violence, which has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
“Our nation is at stake and it is wrong for the world community to side with either of the two leaders,” he said referring to Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, and his main opponent in the recent election, Raila Odinga.
Mr. Mukami said that Kenya’s youth who have been incited to riot need role models such as Dr. King in contrast to politicians that incite them to violence and bloodshed.
“By studying the career of Martin Luther King, Kenya’s youth would develop a broader appreciation of human rights and build a democracy from the grassroots up," he said.
The foundation, he added, seeks “to provide Mr. King as a role model that Kenya’s youth can emulate rather than corrupt politicians who maintain power by reinforcing tribal prejudices.”
While he said election abuses sparked the violence, he reiterated the criticism of Kenya’s parliamentary democracy and emphasized that social and economic injustices were its root causes.
Mr. Mukami has worked through a variety of political youth organizations to develop grassroots initiatives among Kenya’s youth.
In 2004, Mr. Mukami founded the National Youth Parliament, a youth agency established to promote youth participation in democratic decision making. As president he helped start the first e-learning program in Kenya and was awarded the Youth Order of Merit for Community Service.