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Ambassador Elkanah Odembo is optimistic.

With a new constitution in place and governmental restructuring well underway in Kenya, Odembo, the Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, gave a public address at Houston Hall on Tuesday evening to discuss Kenya’s recent progress as well as its goals for the future.

“I am hopeful, many Kenyans are hopeful and I hope that you can share in our optimism,” Odembo said.

In August, Kenyan voters approved a new constitution to address issues of governmental inefficacy and provide for national growth and development.

“It is historic,” he said. “Students of constitutional law will tell you that new constitutions are not usually made in times of peace.”

Kenya’s new constitution includes a bill of rights that ensures the right to food, health, education and shelter, Odembo said.

“This constitution is one that we have been struggling with,” he said. “Over the last 20 years it is something we have been agitating for. Lives have been lost, people have been injured, but now we have it.”

Kenya is likewise undergoing an overhaul of the judiciary to root out the corruption that had been plaguing the legal system.

“This title that we have been carrying for so long as a corrupt nation is coming to an end,” Odembo said.

The address was presented jointly by the USA-Kenya Chamber of Commerce, the African Studies Center and the Wharton African Students Association.

“One of the objectives of [WASA] is to bring Africa closer to Wharton and Wharton closer to Africa,” WASA President and Wharton graduate student Abiodun Sanusi said.

Like Odembo, Sanusi emphasized Kenya’s potential for economic growth.

“Most investors are scared of Africa because they are unsure of the economic situation,” Sanusi said. Odembo “shows that the government structure and political climate in Kenya is more stable now.”

Odembo urged the Penn community to become involved in Kenya’s transition.

“We don’t want students saying ‘What’s going on in Kenya is too far removed from us,’” Odembo said. “Get engaged and be part of it.”

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