As Germany marks unity day, we value ties with Kenya

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 00:00 |
Germany marks unity day. Photo/Courtesy

Annett Günther

Do you remember exactly where you were 30 years ago? I do, and in Germany most people do. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down in a peaceful revolution. 

The wall, topped with barbed wire and watched by armed guards, epitomised the separation of my country into two parts with opposing political systems.

East Germany was so afraid of its own people’s desire for freedom that it had automatic weapons to kill its own citizens when they tried to escape over The Wall.

East Germany was so afraid of its own people’s desire for freedom that it had automatic weapons to kill its own citizens when they tried to escape over The Wall.

In the year before Germany’s reunification, many brave citizens in East Germany had stood up against the regime and protested, risking harsh repression and imprisonment.

Their peaceful revolution in 1989 led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. You may come across images of ordinary German citizens on top of the hated wall, chiseling at it with small hammers and tools, streaming through the holes to visit the West. 

All this happened in November 1989, paving way to a new year of incredible change that culminated in the political reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990. This opened the way for political integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union. 

Today, Germans at home as well as here in Kenya celebrate this day that brought freedom and many opportunities to East Germany. I grew up in East Germany.

I experienced what it meant to live in a system that only gave you opportunities if you expressed the right thoughts, if you were in line with what the authorities expected you to do.

But I always wanted to travel the world, and joining the Diplomatic Service was my dream. 

However, I knew that under the East German socialist regime, my dream would forever be unattainable.

Thus, I did the next best thing to see the world: study languages—English and Farsi. Thirty years ago, I found myself working on my doctoral thesis in Iran’s capital Tehran, anxiously following the news from home.

On my return, I swiftly applied to join the diplomatic corps of the new Germany, and got accepted.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the October 3, 1990 reunification changed my life and opened up a new path for my future.

My career as a diplomat has since lead me to many different parts of the world until I arrived in Nairobi last year. 

But looking ahead, I believe the message of freedom and opportunity that the fall of The Wall signifies is as important as ever today.

Kenyans today enjoy many political and social freedoms that we in East Germany in 1989 did not have.

But many Kenyans today unfortunately lack the economic opportunities to realize their full potential, separated by invisible walls from a better future. 

This is, of course, is something that the Kenyan government is striving to change under the Big Four Agenda spearheaded by the President. Germany is closely standing by Kenya on this path.

It never ceases to amaze me how many hardworking young people I see and meet here in Kenya, since my own country struggles with an ageing population. And also I see the opportunity here. 

Together with the Kenyan government and companies we are working on a joint programme with Technical Vocational Education and Training Institutions (TVET), as well as on the establishment of an East African-German University for Applied Sciences. In fact, we have put our  development cooperation agenda with Kenya under the theme “Bringing youth into employment”. 

The various scholarships we offer to young Kenyans, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), our cultural Goethe Institut and the German School in Nairobi—open for students from Kenya, Germany and all other backgrounds—are proof of our strong and lasting relations.

I commit to strengthening the ties between our countries and peoples.

The writer is the German Ambassador to Kenya

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