Archive for January, 2008

Friend of Kenya grieves

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that those of us who are of east African origin, wherever we may currently reside, looked up to Kenya as a shinning beacon in a troubled and turbulent region.

That is why I was very excited to hear the results of the early returns which showed many of the incumbent MPs, especially those who were accused of wrong doing, had lost their seats. It gave me hope that maybe the rest of the countries in the region, and even Africa as a whole, would follow the example set by Kenyan voters; that is, voters will hold elected officials accountable for their actions. Unfortunately all that was undone by cowardly election officials and by selfish, power hungry politicians.

As far as I am concerned, both the president and Mr. Odinga have forfeited their right to become president: The president for declaring victory too soon and being sworn in even though there was plenty of evidence that showed there were irregularities with the reporting of the results. Another reason why the president has forfeited his right to the presidency, and why he needs to resign, is the killings of demonstrators by security forces who apparently were given shoot to kill orders. The orders may not have come directly from him (either the interior minster or the police commissioner may have given the actual order), but ultimately the buck stops with the president.

And Mr. Odinga does not deserver to become the next president of Kenya for failing to demand an end to the senseless killings on Kenyans by his followers. Even though it looks like Mr. Odinga was cheated of the presidency, and he initially called for calm, he should have demanded that his followers refrain from killing Kikuyus for several reasons, one of the reasons being Kikuyus or other ethnic groups were not responsible for the vote rigging. In my opinion this glaring failure disqualifies him from becoming the next president of Kenya. His failure to demand an immediate end to violence demonstrates he lacks the required moral authority and leadership skills he is going to need if he is to lead a country that is going to need to heal the deep wounds it suffered during this crisis.

The main blame for this crisis rests squarely at the shoulders of President Kibaki though. Instead of recognizing that Kenya is the beacon of hope for the region, and that it needs to lead by example, he chose to follow examples set by Ethiopia’s and Nigeria’s recent, largely discredited elections. He saw that the leaders of these countries were able to getaway with blatant disputed elections and thought if they could getaway with it, he should too.

The opposition should have responded by peaceful demonstration, the way Ukrainians did when their election was stolen from them. There is no reason why Africans can’t express their grievance without resorting to violence. We are no more predisposed to violence than our brothers and sisters in other continents are, despite what some people may believe. We have to stop following political leaders who are only interested in their narrow political agenda, and are willing to do and say anything to achieve it.

My biggest fear now is that Kenya will be permanently scarred by this, and will never be the same again. I hope and believe this isn’t going to be the case though. I believe kenyans can and will overcome this tragedy and come out the stronger for it by vowing never to kill another kenyan for political reasons.

In my view, one way to recover from this crisis is to start by forming a national unity government until presidential elections are re-run. This national unity government should be lead by somebody respected by most, if not all, Kenyans. I am not Kenyan, so have no right to suggest a name, but if I had to pick one then it would have to be Nobel peace prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai.

The second step in this process would be to hold a truth and reconciliation like hearings to grieve and forgive. The final step in this recovery process would involve the erection of a monument to remember the lives lost in this senseless violence, so Kenyans will never forget what happened and will never let it happen again.

We Africans have to understand that African lives are just as precious as the lives of those from other continents. We can’t resort to killing our neighbors every time we disagree with them, be it for social, economic or political reasons. After all, no politician is worth a single life, let alone hundreds or thousands of lives.

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