On Wednesday (30 November), Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta spoke at the opening of an exhibition celebrating the centenary of Irish involvement in Kenya at the Nairobi National Museum.
Below is a transcript of her speech from the launch of 100 years – The Irish in Kenya:
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you tonight.
Thank you for your gracious invitation to officiate this significant event.
And, really, there can be no doubt of its significance being, as it is, a celebration of an enduring, century long relationship between Ireland and Kenya; a relationship which has been marked by generosity, kindness, reciprocity, service, mutual respect and appreciation.
The strength of that relationship owes, in part, to common experiences of triumph over adversity —as former colonies—shared value for the ideals of freedom, autonomy and self-determination.
We also have in common great cultural histories, in the arts and music; an outward facing and embracing curiosity, as well as a similar commitment to sport.
Tonight, we can trace the evolution of our relationship in the exhibition on display: we can see how it has grown,developing dynamism and structure over time – culminating in the opening of a Kenyan Embassy in Dublin in 2007 and the reopening of the Irish Embassy in Kenya in 2014.
These milestones in diplomacy are the natural consequence of the strong, people-to-people interactions we have experienced over time.
Through the course of Kenya’s history we have hosted Irish Missionaries, NGO workers, businesses, and individuals who have contributed immensely to the development of our country and the welfare of our people.
In fact, just recently I attended a ceremony of the Little Sisters of the Poor here in Nairobi, in which we commemorated the 50 years of service of one of their Sisters—Sister Anthony—an Irish nun who has spent nearly a quarter of a century serving in Africa; with several of those years being spent in Kenya. Sister Anthony’s service to the elderly—marked by patience, commitment, humility, self-sacrifice and joy is a good representation of Irish engagement in Kenya.
That engagement has also seen the establishment of many prominent schools: including St. Mary’s, which my husband attended, the Loreto schools and others. These schools gave rare opportunities for women to attend school and have access to good education that has today positioned many of them in leadership positions across the country.
Notable hospitals like Mater Hospital and leading Universities like Strathmore College stand as a permanent reminder of the friendship and commitment the Irish have extended to Kenya. Just earlier today I visited the Consolata Hospital in Kyeni Embu County, which was established in 1933, and which today stands as a quality healthcare facility serving thousands of citizens of the upper Eastern provinces of Kenya.
Conversely, many Kenyans have worked and lived in Ireland over the years where they have contributed their cultural flair, and entrepreneurial know how. They have left their enduring mark on the social and economic fabric of Ireland.
As the relationship between our two unique countries continues to grow, it is necessary for us to document our journey so that we remember its evolution and so that our youth may know what history binds us together. I am therefore grateful to the Irish Embassy for convening today’s gathering as an opportunity to reflect on the roots of our relationship.
I am confident that as the people of Kenya, and the people of Ireland continue to interact and forge strong partnerships that we will —in another 100 years—be celebrating the profound social, economic and political progress we will have made.
Tonight, I trust that you will have a memorable and enjoyable time; and thank you all for taking the time to attend.