|Since the attainment of political independence in 1963 our beloved country Kenya has had its fair share of political hiccups, assassinations, a mutiny 1975, an attempted coup et etat in 1982 clashes in 1992 and 1997 and even botched elections but it has never lost the tag ‘an island of peace in a vast ocean of turbulence” that is our Africa.
A good friend of mine constantly tells me that Kenya is held hostage by peace. It is therefore shocking and unprecedented that since the announcement of Presidential election results on the 30th day of December, 2007 the country has not known a moment of peace and quiet. Lives and property continue to be lost as brother and sister continue to rise against each other, with the ethnicity being the proverbial mark of Cain that defines who an enemy is.
Today, Kenyan children from one ethnic group fear to travel to another “ethnicity’s enclave” for fear of being maimed or killed.
In this hour of anxiety, Kenya looks to its political leaders now engaged in negotiation for a way out of the Lions den. These are difficult if not dangerous times for the moderates who pray for Kenya’s victory while protagonists on either side look forward to their “sides” victory. Yet, it is in times such as these that personal danger must be relegated for the national good.
So today, I take this opportunity to address the people of Kenya across the political divide and the political leaders sitting on the hallowed negotiation table.
To the people of Kenya I urge restraint. Although great pain and bleeding has been experienced I beseech all of us to stop further haemorrhage through revenge and counter-revenge attacks whose only effect is to exacerbate the situation.
We must today remember the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi that “an eye for an eye will only make the world blind no matter how justified we think our actions are.”
We must avoid ethnic “apartheid” where children of one ethnic group cannot attend schools in another as is now the case.
To our political leaders the burden is big, yet in the face of your anger, frustration and feeling of betrayal, patriotism and magnanimity must be your creed. As a citizen, I urge you to ask the following questions as you sit on the table of negotiation:-
- Are your personal interests more important than the good of the people of Kenya?
- Are your actions designed to preserve Kenya under the banner of truth, justice and amity?
- Will your actions and decisions be the balm that soothes the pain that now afflicts Kenyans who have lost their loved ones?
- Will your actions and decisions be the antidote that will restore the socio-economic and political health of Kenya and Kenyans in the long term?
The list of issues to be taken into cognizance cannot be exhaustive but our focus must be the preservation of the nation. This is the time when the description of politicians and statesman by Georges Pompidiou (former French Prime Minister) must be remembered; that a politician puts his nation at his service while a statesman puts himself at the service of his nation.
Fellow Kenyans, this impasse has shown the international community’s love for our country. Former and serving Heads of State have shuttled between their homes and Nairobi urging us to embrace peace and avoid the path of war however attractive it is to some emerging Kenyan fire eating pseudo-revolutionaries.
Let us hearken to the voice of our friends for our own sake. Kofi Annan and his team’s efforts must not be in vain.
Lastly, Kenyans we must remember that our domestic quarrels stand in the way of East Africa and African Unity and we cannot to be wayfarers in the well travelled route of hate and bloodletting.
This is the time to deal with all the issues we have swept under the carpet of political expediency since 1963.
Dr Lumumba is a Nairobi lawyer and politician.