Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bleeding from the same wound: when ‘Never Again’ is a fatal option

I am writing this article out of a keen urge to keep pressing for peace, a strong urge to see tolerance and pride in the diversity of this country. I intended to use this blog for matters green, hence Green Background. But my spirit keeps pushing me to matters of this country. Patriotism, peace, politics, values, tolerance…I guess I stay true to my green orientation, with my strongest principle being peace and non violence. You may see me pull away from confrontational situations, shut down debates that sway towards intolerance, respectfully walk away from arguments that refuse to focus on the objectives, even after listening and trying hard to see someone’s pint of view. We all have diverse opinions that should be tolerated unless they call for the dehumanizing of the very nature of our being human. You may see me smile at the tone of insult. It’s all something that I consciously do, in the need to find peace. Human beings all strive to be good; they all have something magical inside of them. That magic is the state of being human. So I look for that humanity. Sometimes going to bed wondering why I did not respond when someone insulted me, wondering why I let myself be misunderstood. Then I meditate a practice I am striving to master. It gives me calm. I feel at peace again, and I remember why I walked away, shut down, smiled…and I am ready to do it again.

Ubuntu: “I am because you are”. Do we ever think of the profound and deep meaning of these words? Loosely translated, it could mean, ‘utu’ in Swahili, meaning the state of being humane or human if you like. The meaning of these interconnected words from two Bantu languages from the South and East of Africa should live within us. To remind us that we are all human and when we stare into each others eyes, we should see the same God, living inside each and every one of us,” I should recognize the God in you as you the one in me”. (Jacqueline Novogratz)

Kenya is approaching the 2013 March general elections with a lot of apprehension. We are all worried that there may be election violence. We know that we vowed “never again”. But never again cannot on its own, be enough. We have to do more than ‘never again’ and as it is, I do not think we are doing much to ensure that we remain intact as a nation post March 2013. It is sad to think about the possibility. It is more than sad; it is heartbreaking to imagine that we could go the inhumane way of 2007/2008. I have been reading stories from the genocide in Rwanda, stories of loss, displacement, pain and suffering. People reliving this 1994 nightmare 19 years gone. As I read, I recall the tough moments we had as a Nation in 2007/2008. Killing and displacing one another for power. Editing out each other and breaking the interconnectedness that we have as human beings. Exposing the weakest chain in our link and breaking the strongest one, diversity. I call it the paradox of similar strength and weakness. But it is the identity of the Kenyan state. 

When a careful and objective history about Kenya’s democratic growth and elections will be written, tribal clashes and disintegration will feature heavily. That history may forever remind Kenyans that their boundless love for their country may have saved this African giant from a possible and destructive civil war. I hope civil war shall not be part of that history for we cannot bear it. The surrounding countries relying on us to send our army to fight terrorism cannot bear it. The refugees who seek solace in the hands of our motherland cannot bear it. The international community working in Nairobi and loving the tropical friendly weather, beautiful beaches and affordable luxuries that they would otherwise not afford in their home countries cannot bear it. Men and women who have fallen in love with the Kenyan blood and found families raising children who bear the great diversity of cross oceanic citizenships, cannot bear it. Kenyans, who work hard to feed their families, who have built the economy of this country, who so passionately gave themselves to the governing of a new and progressive Constitution, setting the stage for indigenous jurisprudence and a new constitutional order, cannot bear it. A second displacement (appreciating the fact that displacement due to tribal clashes has been rife since 1992), a second mass and sexual assault, rape as a weapon of war, armed bandits, murder in cold blood, love turned guile , husband against wife, wife against husband, lover against lover, neighbours against each other. Kenya, we simply cannot afford to bleed from the same wound twice, for we would never heal. “Never again”, would not have meaning a second time. 

The post election violence of 2007/2008 may have driven this country towards an unprecedented state of togetherness; the passing of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The general election of the year 2002 may actually have been the greatest form of togetherness as a people. We changed a 24 year regime that did not work for us as a country. We, the Kenyan people, did it. We can embrace this togetherness again. We have done it in politics and in policy. We have crossed the dual carriage way of politics and policy and we have found commonalities in both. Now is the time to focus on our humanity. On the things that unite us and shed those that divide us. We must focus on our unique state as a country. Embrace our divergent political choices with a nod of the head and a giving of the ear. We must listen to one another and accept the divergent political choices, for that is the definition of democracy. We must however never kill or maim, or assault, or vandalize for the exercise of these choices. Rather, we must learn to accept the will of the majority. Whatever the choice of the majority may be we must hold our heads high, adjust to the outcome of the general elections and together, as a nation forge forward. We are 50 years of age as an independent state; our youthful years as a country are behind us. We must be hard on ourselves and demand the best from ourselves, from each other. Indeed may we dwell in unity, peace and liberty and nature will hear us, and plenty shall be found within our borders. 

In the Constitution we passed, together, as a people, we included the NATIONAL VALUES AND PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNANCE thus; patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised; good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and sustainable development. These are the values we chose to bind us to the state of our Kenyan citizenship. We must hold onto these values and principles for we are called by this sacred document to be these things. We must not abdicate our political duties. We must strive to ensure that we have the best, even if the best is recognized by our solitary selves. For from these principles we shall raise a generation of Kenyans who in the addition of their solitudes will forge an army of men and women dedicated to the progression and survival of their nation state.

We must not also lose sight of the gains we have made. Laying the ground for electoral justice is the new mantra of the Kenyan judiciary guaranteeing expeditious and fair hearing of all electoral disputes. We have an option for justice. We should not walk in fear, for those are things we shed with the blood in 2007/08. We decided to strengthen the institutions and started with the judiciary and we can all attest to the dedication and reform of our Kenyan judiciary, of its capacity to handle electoral disputes for by dint of the Constitution, it bears the sovereignty of the people and indeed, it is the only arm of government that has its two feet on the ground before the election and even after, until we have the other two firmly established, ready to preserve this sovereignty. With this in mind, quoting Winston Churchill in one of his greatest speeches; “I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do”.

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