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Calls for optimism and unity as Kenyans embrace an election year

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Edwin Mwangi was in ecstatic mood as he recounted a night of merry making at a friend’s house to usher the New Year.

The Kenyan college student in his early 20s joined millions of Kenyans to welcome the New Year with joy and optimism despite some gloomy predictions on what lies ahead.

The finance major at a public university said 2017 could mark a critical milestone in Kenya’s history if leaders and their citizens retained fidelity to the East African nation’s founding ideals of love, peace and unity.

"I expect to see monumental changes this year especially in national politics and the economy.

There are indications these changes will be positive," said Mwangi.

To graduate in June this year, he said his major priority is looking for a well-paying job in a listed company but has also been toying with the idea of establishing a clothing line targeting middle-class youth with sophisticated fashion tastes.

"It is a fact of life nowadays that white-collar jobs are hard to come by and there is always an urge to have a back-up plan," Mwangi told Xinhua.

Kenyans ushered in the New Year against a backdrop of heightened campaigns ahead of the August general elections as well as paralysis in the health sector due to doctors’ strike.

This has prompted calls for sobriety and patriotism that many say are prerequisites to sustaining peace and prosperity.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in his new year message urged Kenyans to foster cohesion, hard work and patriotism in order to realize economic growth and stability.

Peter Mokaya, a middle-aged shopkeeper, welcomed the New Year with cautious optimism, saying that unity of purpose and a sober national discourse was critical to ensure Kenya remains a vibrant nation this election year.

"We should enter the new year with an open mind aware there are pressing economic and political issues that must be tackled to ensure the country is peaceful and prosperous," Mokaya said.

The father of three said his primary concerns for this year includes a resilient economy that would be critical to growth of his retail business.

"I have teenage children for whom I am saving every penny to educate, and it is my wish that our economy will record new growth to create jobs for these youngsters," said Mokaya.

Kenyans from all walks of life who were polled in a recent survey had mixed expectations for the year 2017 but were unanimous in agreeing that peaceful elections, security and a sound economy were critical to their lives.

Residents of Nairobi’s low-income eastern suburbs who spoke to Xinhua were optimistic about the dawn of the new year.

Regina Wakaba, a mother of two, struck a confident pose as she gave a list of the things she intends to accomplish this year.

"Enrolling for a higher diploma in nursing is a top priority this year. Likewise, I will look for a better school for my young boys since they occupy a central place in my life," said Wakaba.


Rising populism in West a threat to global order: Kenyan experts

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The unprecedented rise of populism in large parts of the West poses a grave threat to the multilateral system that has sustained global peace and prosperity, according to Kenyan scholars.

They warned in separate commentaries published by a local daily that 2017 could present new uncertainties in multilateral affairs due to the rise of far-right parties in the West that advocate isolationism and xenophobia.

Peter Kagwanja, CEO of a Nairobi-based pan-African think-tank Africa Policy Institute, said that growth of political movements in the West that espouse radical ideologies is a mortal threat to world peace and stability.

"The year 2016 will be remembered as the year when right-wing populism broke the seams and forcibly returned on the world stage to haunt the global liberal order," said Kagwanja.

He noted that Britain’s vote to disengage itself from the European Union and presidential victory of Donald Trump in the United States have emboldened far-right political ideologies in many parts of the world.

The scholar warned that the divisive rhetoric from U.S. President-elect would undermine Africa’s young democracies that are on the verge of a leap into an industrial era.

"Trump’s wedge politics based on ethno-nationalism is likely to inject a divisive and violent tinge into Africa’s nascent democracies, and undermine their stability," Kagwanja said.

The wave of nationalism in the West may undermine global diplomacy and efforts to tackle pressing challenges like poverty, disease, terrorism, climate change and inequality, according to him.

He also noted that the global financial markets are in peril unless the rising tide of nationalism in the west is contained.

Macharia Munene, a Nairobi-based international relations scholar, warned that far-right political movements in the West could shrink the influence of multilateral institutions like the United Nations.

He predicted a blatant disrespect for international law and norms by the incoming U.S. administration, which will in turn undermine action on global security threats like terrorism, climate change, illegal migration and violent conflicts.



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