Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you. Thank you all very much. We gather today to celebrate an organisation whose mission of compassion shows us at our best.
But let us begin by admitting a hard truth. Kenya has suffered far more than its fair share of calamity. And let us accept a more welcome truth: that what has kept us together – what has kept this nation one – is simply that Kenyans have been their brothers’ keeper.
They fought back when tragedies struck, they healed their sick, and fed their hungry compatriots.
They did not do it alone. Throughout our history, we have joined together in groups, across boundaries of race, ethnicity and culture, for mutual aid. The Red Cross is a very good example of these Kenyan values: it was established in 1965 by an act of Parliament, and it has distinguished itself ever since for its humanitarian work.
I am proud to join you today to celebrate its Golden Jubilee. And I want also to thank each and every one of you: those who work for the Red Cross, and those who partner with them to support their work of compassion. Thank you, and God bless you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we celebrate not just the Kenya Red Cross’s Fiftieth Anniversary, but also the international Red Cross and Red Crescent, without whose help Kenya’s Red Cross could not do what it does.
Since its inception, half a century ago, the Kenya Red Cross has stood with Kenyans whenever there has been trouble. Indeed, we ought to begin the story a little before that. Some of you might not remember that the Red Cross defended the rights of Africans in the last, violent days of colonial tyranny. It was natural, then, to set up a Kenyan version of the organisation when, at last, we won our freedom.
At every step of the way, the Kenya Red Cross has been there.
When famine has struck, you have distributed food and water to the neediest among us. Let me particularly commend you for your leadership during the 2010/11 Horn of Africa crisis. At that time, you were involved in raising more than 10 million dollars (a billion shillings in today’s money). You also roused our spirit of patriotism, and togetherness. Kenya seemed to turn as one to meet the challenge of the droughts and famines. You did well.
The compassion and impartiality that you have shown throughout your time in Kenya resonate powerfully in a country, and a world, where these values are not always in evidence. You are an example to us of what we could be.
Ladies and Gentleman,
To continue its mission of compassion, the Kenya Red Cross will need the support of its friends and partners here and abroad. The recent entrepreneurship initiatives are a very good idea: they open the way to sustainability and give the society the independence it has always aimed for.
But even then, even as we rely on external support from donors and other benefactors, it is vital that we seek home-grown solutions to our unique circumstances. In this respect the society stands out as a champion and role model.
Let me be direct: my Government knows the value of the work you do. That is why the Government has given the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies full diplomatic status, with accompanying privileges.
In recognition of the work of the Kenya Red Cross, my Government has complemented the Society’s efforts by zero-rating VAT on relief goods and services, and by waiving import duties for the society. And although we do not directly fund it, my Government has been a supporter of the society in all sorts of other ways. I anticipate even closer relations, as the society has proven itself the foremost humanitarian organisation in Kenya.
I should say a little about the nature of the partnership I expect between the Red Cross and Government.
Your work is particularly important for our disaster and emergency preparedness. We in Africa are particularly vulnerable to these troubles. Given our place in the world, we are particularly likely to suffer serious losses. More: we know that Africa is likelier to suffer from the effects of climate change and extreme weather than other parts of the world.
These facts concentrate our minds. We need to do at least two things. First, we must improve our ability to predict and prevent disasters.
And, second, we need to be more resilient in the face of calamity. And we can serve both these goals by tapping into the long experience, and the international expertise, that the Red Cross, among others, offers. In you, I believe that we have a partner with the experience, the expertise, and the goodwill that Kenya will need for years to come.
I say this because we need to gather both the scientific expertise that will help us to prepare for emergencies, and the people with the skills to apply it.
Even as my Government works inside the country to predict and prevent disasters, and internationally to share information and shape the rules of the international order, we remain keen to make the most of your knowledge, your compassion, and your goodwill. I trust that you will work more closely with us in the years to come, to keep Kenya safe, and to mitigate those emergencies that may occur.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have said much, and I could say more. Suffice it to say that every Kenyan would do well to help the Kenya Red Cross in any way possible. For my part, as its patron, I will do everything within my power to help. But now, let us join in celebrating the most moving of golden jubilees – that of the Kenya Red Cross Society.
Thank you. God bless you. And may He keep you for another 50 years.