My brother and I break out in jestful laughter as my mom, for what feels like the millionth time, tells us how she and her siblings were out to buy breakfast during the 1982 coup in Kenya. We laugh cause we know what she will say to the last word. She always tells it so passionately, how they were going out to get bread and milk only to run into a drunk AirForce soldier wielding a gun and threatening to shoot them if they don’t go back to the house immediately. It is for this reason that we always have to watch the news in our house, lest something happens again and this time the drunk soldier keeps his word.
I never quite understood how deeply it affected her till I did the math. It has been 35 years and she still remembers it literally like it was yesterday. Isn’t that enough time to forget? I would think so but that is only because I have not gone through anything closely traumatic to that. Where am I going with this??
Only 7 days ago, Kenya went to the polls to choose its leaders and we were all crossing our fingers and hoping that it is free, fair and above all PEACEFUL. We saw companies shut down in precaution and people pack up and go home to their rural homes. The busy CBD and the nightmarish traffic on major roads we experience every day disappeared. We are just being careful right? Hold on to that for a minute.
I don’t need to narrate how things went, the media has been quite clear on that plus we were all glued to screens following the results. We all have different conclusions and thoughts about what went down. I am not here blogging because of that. Truth be told, I do not affiliate myself with any party. I have not invested in political allegiances only because my reality seems not to be directly affected. I will accept it if you call it ignorance.
My concern arose when, after the announcement of the elections, we all held our breath and waited to see if history would repeat itself. The post election violence that happened in 2007 is very freshly remembered more so by people who were right in the middle of it. People died, people lost their homes, people were emotionally, physically and psychologically scarred by their fellow countrymen. Hold on to that too. I shall come back to it.
Yesterday we went back to work, those of us brave enough and at my place of work, we had the conversation on where each one of us is at after the elections. I came to agree, yes I am an ignorant observer of all things political. I watch from a distance and move on with my life. I have made no effort whatsoever on that front. I could not care less who won because I have not seen a leader worth my attention yet. Their dossiers come packed with looting experience, uncouth language, shady histories and it seems the darker it is the better we like them.
My concern is how did we end up so tribal? Admit it, we are all tribal. In our safe spaces, in those closed doors, we have said something that falls within the tribal line. It is how we have been brought up. It may not be intentional but we have stereotypes for each tribe. Heck, even our most successful comedy shows thrive on tribal jokes and stereotypes. It seems like one tribe’s win is another tribe’s loss. Marriage is a good example of how deep the roots run. We have all heard stories of how families rejected someone’s choice simply because they are not of their tribe. We bring up kids, we ourselves were kids and we soaked up the things our people said and they became beliefs. We do not even know why we believe these things, we just do!!!!!!
Our beliefs are shaped by many things, our influences, our experiences, our environment and the culture around us to name a few. We are a product of all these things and more. Until we accept that we have a problem we won’t solve it. Our nation has been shaped into what it is by its experiences. The colonization, the rebellion, the independence, the death of certain people, the discrimination of others in the division of power….I could go on and on but you see what I am saying. History has set us on a course that is headed for destruction if we don’t change it.
Back to my mom’s story and the 2007 one, it hit me that people have wounds that run deep. People have been affected by the different things that have happened in Kenya. You may be one of the lucky ones if it has never happened to you. We may think we are over it, but going back to the second thought I asked you to hold on to, we were all scared 2007 would happen again. It means we are not over it, in fact, we were all afraid it would happen all over again that we locked ourselves up and stocked up on food to increase survival chances if things went bad. Really? Yes, we did that.
Can we understand that we experience different things differently?
Can we accept that we have been hurt and we carry prejudices knowingly and unknowingly because we never healed?
Can we accept that healing is a grueling process that needs Vulnerability, Openness, Trust, Acceptance, and Forgiveness???
Can we accept that it needs time and that the best time to start is now?
Countries such as Rwanda have experienced what ethnic tensions can do to a nation. It starts simply and escalates into a genocide. It does not happen in a day, it happens over years. The original perpetrators may not even be alive to see the damage happen but it still spills over to generations.
There have been injustices, gross misconduct and hideous crimes against Kenya. Justice is important. That is why we have the arms of the government which sometimes, actually most times seem to fail us miserably when we need them most. I cannot refute that fact, it pains me every day that we entrust our country to people who seem not to see the importance of their role.
All I have been trying to say this whole time is that we Kenyans are bigger than one or two leaders. Killing each other will not sort out the leadership or economic problems we have. We have seen it in other countries, we have seen it here at home. No good came out of it. It only escalated things to a worse degree any way you look at it.
Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise, it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.
Let us seek justice the right way. An eye for an eye will leave the whole country blind.
We are bigger than a presidential seat, we are bigger than tribe, we are bigger than the place we come from or the language we speak.
We need to come together as a nation, each and every one of us and take responsibility for where we are heading.
Use your words to speak life.
Do your part in safeguarding Kenya the nation.
We begins with Me and You.
I shall do my part, will you do yours??