I hadn’t expected to return to Nairobi so soon, but if I hadn’t, the radical change in the city would have gone unnoticed by me. Things are really, at long last, back to normal.
And normal is good.
There are a lot of sarcastic cliches about hindsight, but in this case it’s a perfect lense for realizing how bad Nairobi and Kenya had been. First the horrible election violence of 2007, and then the “drought” finally ended by flash floods and mud slides.
From December, 2007, through March, 2010, Kenya suffered one of its worst periods in its modern history. In hindsight, its remarkable any of us thought we could just sail through it unscathed. And to top it all of with a global depression…
Today, it’s back to June, 2007. The city is green and growing. Politics is all healthy fisticuffs but sane and masterfully Shakespearean.
The mood on the streets hasn’t been so positive for ages. People talk of going back to work; of increased harvests; of new factories and positive outlooks for their kids. The Nairobi dam is full; there aren’t electrical outages, anymore.
In fact, the cost of electricity has gone down!
The East African Community – a pipedream of the British a half century ago – made its first big play with a new Nile River agreement that has the power to force giant Egypt to the table. In extraordinary deft pan-African politics, Vice President Kilonzo attended the inauguration of southern Sudan’s primary official in Juba, an important diplomatic snub of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and then attended Bashir’s inauguration in Khartoum, a balancing act that will probably work and rivals the Chinese diplomacy with the Koreas.
And the once venomous rivals, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, were practically holding hands at several rallies and today promoting the “Yes” campaign for the constitutional referendum.
And there’s been an unexpectedly large surge in tourism! Most of it is to Kenya’s grand beaches, and never mind that’s probably in large part because of oil spills, earthquakes and drug wars on Caribbean beaches that compete head-to-head with Kenya.
Kenya’s doing everything right, right now, and everything seems to be helping Kenya.