Mr President, prove Kenya has not gone to the dogs
Published on February 8, 2008, 12:00 am
By Kipkoech Tanui
Little is happening in Government and the nation is under siege.
We live in fear of tomorrow; we do not know what it holds. The name of Mr Kofi Annan is on every lip and the prayer is that he succeeds in holding back the drifting tectonic plates that once were the tablets of one nation, one people.
We can safely assume, even if just out of curiosity, the President watches television news and reads newspapers like us. Besides the fancy title every one wants, and which he is holding firmly to, there must be the softer and human side of our President.
We are Africans and we know that even though it is taboo for a man to cry before his wife and children, in certain circumstances it is silently understood and forgiven.
This is allowed if rinderpest wipes off the kraal, the ‘living’ bank account of any man worth the name.
We can also assume that the President, who is the symbol of our unity, and to whom congratulatory messages even from town and county councils have not been forthcoming, has seen what we have seen.
For power cannot be that deluding, and the court poets cannot always succeed in blinding the King from reality.
In Eldoret, a maddening group of men — armed with all that kills: arrows, pangas, sharpened metal rods — burned the church. In the church, children and women, including a granny on a wheelchair, cried as they burned.
In Naivasha, Mr Bernard Orinda Ndege watched from the fence as his two wives and eight children, including a two-year old, were burnt alive by a rowdy mob in daylight.
There are many other shocking cases of violence that will haunt us, like that cruelty meted out to a Catholic priest on the Nakuru-Eldama Ravine road. Hundreds of others have been killed by police bullet or the raiders’ panga, arrow or spear.
Some simply lie buried under a heap of stones thrown by the aggressors. There are the thousands sleeping in the open because they were thrown out of their homes.
Like any other Kenyan who looks at the President as the Father Figure, I wonder if his heart has the semi-permeable membrane through which the anguish of the suffering seep through.
I say so not so much because of the claim that he stole the election and, therefore, should step aside or allow for a repeat election if only to silence the guns and stop the killings.
It is not even so much about the fact that he is presiding over what is quickly turning to be a pariah nation, wobbling at the knee because of post-election violence and the subsequent dent on the economy and international image.
It is not even because of the accusations that he is captive to a cabal that would never imagine he would one day be ex-President. The issue is not even that the same should be demanded of Mr Raila Odinga — whose victory he claims the MP for Othaya stole.
It is no longer, as many have said, about who won and who lost — the robber and the robbed.
It is that his is at the risk of being the continent’s most disgraced presidency. His reign is taking the shape of the ruinous regimes so much abound in Africa, even though there is still hope that all is not lost.
Yes today, no matter what the President and his team believe about ‘closely-fought’ elections, there is a moment to cast an eye on the future and book archives. After all, he is Africa’s most talked about President for now, but for all the wrong reasons.
For, that is what the human side of us will tell us — it is just not enough to be President. It is this side of a politician that goads one to set aside pride and deception of invisibility and invincibility, and use the power of office to inspire confidence that the nation is not going to the dogs.
It is this side of us that is not just contented with the stutter of the gun — for bullets and bayonets never won peace, or even sustained a budding dictatorship.
Yes, over and above Raila and his team, attention is now on the President and each of his words should be coached, not just to show he is in charge, but also not to add fuel to the raging fires.
The Addis Ababa speech Mr President read was a diplomatic disaster. Not when your opponents were mourning the murder of two MPs. Not when Annan was talking peace.
Not when the displaced were standing in the rain at night. Not when the world landed in our country. Not when Kenya is on the precipice and his legitimacy under attack.
The writer is The Standard Managing Editor, Weekend Editions