Nairobi, Kenya, 14 August 2007 - His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims was awarded Kenya’s highest medal of honour, the Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya, (C.G.H.) by the President of the country, His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki.
Bestowing the award during a state banquet held in honour of the Aga Khan yesterday, the President noted that the Aga Khan had recorded an impressive and enduring legacy of service to the Ismaili community, Kenya and the world at large. “The achievements you have accomplished are an eloquent testimony of your dedication to your spiritual calling as well as selfless commitment to the well-being of mankind, irrespective of race or religion” said the President.
President Kibaki praised the Ismaili community’s contribution to Kenya’s development. “The energy and resources that the community has continued to deploy in various fields of development, including health, education, business and investments have immensely benefited our people and country,” he said. “We value your contribution and look forward to even stronger bonds in the years ahead.”
East Africa in general and Kenya in particular have been the traditional home to many members of the Ismaili community, which has played a significant role in the region’s development for more than a century.
The Kenyan President also applauded the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the health and education sectors, which impact positively on the lives of many Kenyans. He spoke hours after the Aga Khan announced the launch of East Africa’s first private medical school – the Faculty of Health Sciences that is part of the Aga Khan University.
The Aga Khan thanked the President, “Let me say first what a wonderful honour it is – to become a Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya, and to do so on one’s Golden Jubilee!” He reflected upon his early childhood days in Kenya and spoke about his hope for the future of the country and renewed optimism of the Kenyan people.
“Kenya has one of the highest per capita literacy rates in Africa and is determined to make democracy work. It has created an enabling environment for vibrant enterprise in fields such as agriculture and horticulture, tourism and finance. In fact, at a recent World Economic Forum, Kenya was ranked among the top three countries in Africa in welcoming investment and innovation,” he said.
Speaking about the work of the AKDN in Kenya, the Aga Khan noted that these projects “reflect our respect and affection for the Kenyan people - and for the sense of promise which I recall from my childhood in Kenya, and which I continue to feel on every return visit”.
The Aga Khan is in East Africa for his first official tour of his Golden Jubilee. He leaves on Thursday for Tanzania and will be in Uganda later in the week.
For further information please contact: Semin Abdulla
Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan
Tel: + 254 733 530 053
Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan completed his 50th year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th July 2007, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. The Aga Khan leads a community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries around the world and is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). In the Ismaili tradition, the Imam’s Jubilee celebrations offer occasions to launch new social, cultural and economic development projects. In keeping with the ethics of the faith, these projects aspire to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in society. During the Jubilee year, the Aga Khan is expected to travel to a number of countries to meet with members of the Ismaili community and visit projects of the AKDN. He is also likely to announce the creation of new development institutions and projects and the significant expansion of existing ones.
The Aga Khan Development Network
His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$ 300 million.