Afternoon Gathering of the Swiss Community in Kenya at the Swiss Residence

Position, 29.01.2017

Remarks by Dr. Ralf Heckner, Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda, at the occasion of a Reception for the Swiss Community at the Residence of the Swiss Ambassador, Nairobi on Sunday, 29 January 2017, from 3-5 p.m. 

Willkommen! Bienvenu! Benvenuti!

My fellow citizens, 

As we are in an English-speaking country, I address you in English.  I have no intention to hold my speech in four languages.  That would take too long.  So please bear with me! 

Thank you for being with us on this sunny afternoon. My wife Ilaria, my children Lorenzo and Giulia and I would like to welcome you to this Reception for the Swiss Community.  I would also like to thank my staff and all the people who have been working to make today’s event possible. 

In 2016, there were two important events for Switzerland: The inauguration of the longest tunnel of the World through the Swiss Alps, and the renovation of the Swiss Residence in Nairobi. 

We have invested less time and efforts in renovating this Residence than in the new railway tunnel.  But as you see, the sun shines through the trees again. The water pipes won’t burst again – hopefully!  And the Swiss flag flies in fresh colors.  Having said this, let me also point out something that has not changed: A couple of turtles is still here.  For them, this is not the first bigger reception in the park of the Residence. With a bit of luck you will see them roaming around the grounds.  

Residence.  This little piece of Switzerland in Nairobi is a platform to engage Kenyans and Swiss.  It is a platform to foster even stronger ties between our nations.  And as such, it is a platform to serve the interests of our country,But, why did we do all of this, you may wonder. My family certainly fills this house with life.  But: It is not our private home.  It is the Residence of the Swiss Ambassador, the Residence of Switzerland, and - that means, my fellow citizens - it is your interests!  

Fellow citizens, the fact that our first major event at this renovated Residence is dedicated to you, the Swiss citizens living in Kenya, is not a coincidence.  My team and I value the Swiss community as an asset in our diplomatic endeavors.  The support of my Embassy to you is a priority.  You have chosen Kenya to do business; we support Swiss businesses.  You have chosen Kenya as your new home; we provide consular services to you. 

And this brings me to our work at the Embassy. As you have read in the newsletter, we cover a lot of ground from here in Nairobi.  I have just travelled to Kigali to nurture relations with Rwanda. We run complex regional development programs focused on the Great Lakes and on the Horn of Africa. But, in terms of our work here in Kenya, the agenda is set for this year: Elections, elections and elections.  Newspapers, radio and TV stations, people on the street, everybody is talking about the 8th of August.  Many nations, including Switzerland, stand as partners with Kenya as it approaches this important democratic exercise.  We all work towards fair, credible, and peaceful elections. 

As for our personal safety and that of our families, the primary responsibility lies first and foremost with each one of us.  But rest assured: I attach the utmost importance to the security of Swiss nationals and interests in Kenya. 

My fellow citizens, back home in Switzerland we enjoy solid democratic institutions and a functioning federal State, where power and wealth is shared peacefully.  But let us not forget: This has not always been the case.  Our country as we know it today is the result of a civil war in 1847.  It was our Constitution in 1848 that created the institutions, which allowed us to build up respect between different communities, share power among them and maintain domestic peace.  And, as we all know: To keep this going requires continuous attention and work by each and every one of us.  My fellow citizens, today more than ever, it is important that we ask ourselves how we can contribute to nurturing peaceful and prosperous societies – in Switzerland, here in Kenya and beyond. 

It is my conviction that the biggest enemies of our free societies are egoism, nationalism and racism. So, let us be generous, open and respectful – generous, open and respectful!  This is my message to you today. 

In this spirit: Thank you again for being here with us.  Enjoy the Kenyan tunes, enjoy the Swiss wine, and most importantly – enjoy the company!