In his article "Kenya and the Cult of the 'Big Man' " {Outlook, Dec. 9}, Blaine Harden denigrated Kenya's image, leadership and economic performance, even while admitting that "sanity" prevails in Kenya and that it is a "success." How could he cite success in one breath and then turn around and claim national stagnation?

Evidence of success in Kenya is plentiful:

The per capita GNP increased from 330 U.S. dollars in 1987 to 380 in 1989. Meanwhile, population growth has declined and now stands at 3.5 percent per annum.

School enrollment increased 502.2 percent from 1963 to 1987; adult literacy went from 20 percent in 1963 to 50 percent in 1988.

The number of health institutions increased 30.6 percent from 1981 to 1987, leading to reduced rates of infant mortality and preventable causes of death; life expectancy has risen from 44 years in 1963 to 58 years in 1987.

In addition to almost ignoring such evidence of our country's success, Harden's statistics were erroneous. First, 250,000 people, not 150,000 people, leave institutions of learning each year. The modern sector created 46,500 new jobs in 1988, an increase from the 44,000 jobs created in 1987; small-scale enterprises created 34,100 jobs in 1988 and 31,000 in 1987; self-employment created another 5,800 jobs. The 250,000 young Kenyans who leave school each year may be "flooding" the job market, to use Harden's jargon, but they are also the outcome of an expanded educational system that has attempted to keep pace with population growth.

Further, Harden ignored the fact that in a country like Kenya, in which most people depend on agriculture, it makes no sense to look to industry alone as the source of jobs. Statistics indicate that in 1989, the Kenyan economy grew by 5 percent. Agricultural growth was 3.9 percent, while industrial growth was 5.8 percent. And, no small matter, Kenya has been self-sufficient in foodstuffs for the past decade.

We Kenyans do not need Harden as our spokesman. We know what we want, and we articulate our wishes in one of the freest presses in Africa. During the past year or so, our wishes have led to reforms of our political system, such as: The restoration of the secret ballot for the nomination of candidates for general election; a constitutional amendment to restore the security of tenure of judges, of the attorney general, of the controller and auditor general and of members of the public service commission; elimination of "70 percent nomination rule," which stipulated that a candidate who won 70 percent of the vote in a party nomination was automatically elected; abolition of expulsion of members from the party; and institutionalization of mechanisms to review the need for changes in our political system.

Kenyans appreciate their leadership too. President Daniel arap Moi marked his 35th year in parliament this year and is its longest serving member. He was elected to his third presidential term in 1988 -- during Harden's stay in Kenya.

We agree with Donald Trelford, editor of the British newspaper, The Observer, when he stated, "Sometimes, I think, we send the wrong kind of reporter to cover Africa, people living in a combatant stage of African development, or seeking to revive it."

Harden, in our view, was such a reporter. He spent considerable time among us, saw what he wanted to see and left with his prejudices intact.

-- Denis D. Afande

The writer is Kenya's ambassador to the United States.