Saturday, January 26, 2008


It has emerged that Kenyans are increasingly subscribing into two distinct categories on how they understand what is going on and why. There are voices and viewpoints of change on one hand and status quo voices-those who believe "things could not be any better" group on the other. After trolling many Internet sites and reading various variety of opinions in the media on the Kenyan situation, the seeming various views fall neatly in two distinct categories. The views vividly display with serious implications on how the problem can be resolved if ever. They point to a much deeper issue that goes beyond the immediate problem. They suggest irreconcilable views about life, its meaning, and society and hint at a fundamental rift in the country’s social fabric that may be difficult to mend if not approached with the sobriety it deserves.

Category 1) Spokespeople for this first group tend to argue that whatever the difficulties and problems thrown up by the disputed election, reality dictates that compromises that favor the status quo be made, because therein lies the route to normalcy. The ‘normal’ in this view is of far greater desirability than the more just outcome from a potentially combustible present, which has many unknown variables in play. This view intend not to pay a closer look at the root course of the crisis but strives to wish it a way and "move on."

A twisted version of this view was on display in a post by a Njoroge Wachai, on a Washington Post blog. He grandly concluded that Kenyans should not be too peeved or belligerent about rigging (fixing) of an election as kibaki and co has done. Since it had happened before and it is bound to happen again, Why become overplayed over something as everyday as a rigged/fixed election?

But as with any kind of this status quo argument, Mr. Wachai quickly faces serious difficulties as soon as he gets to a point where moral judgments are required. He, for instance, could not hold back his moral contempt at the wanton destruction of life and property in certain parts of the country. He calls the actions morally indefensible, which they are, and its perpetrators — hoodlums, an epithet he carefully avoided throwing at other agents of violence in the situation. And then he quickly lapsed in amorality by minimizing the significance of harm done to the body politic by election rigging.

Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o has fallen in the same trap. In his writeup on the BBC website, he called for international investigation into the mayhem in parts of Rift Valley. He admonished Kenyans for obsessing about electoral outcomes at the expense of upholding human rights. To him, the two should be de-linked and weighted differently, a suspiciously partisan position in the eyes of some.

Some local writers also belong to this category 1 group. They scan statements by international players for snippets that seem to support the status quo. They read statements calling for resolution of the problem through democratic and legal means as excluding demonstration and direct actions as if such activities cannot be democratic and legal. They thinly disguise their support for the status quo, but again, they are quick to point out alleged moral lapses on the other side.

For them, the church burning incident in Eldoret has become a cause celebre that blights out any other concerns. Visits by foreign dignitaries to the infamous site are construed as an endorsement of their world view that a great wrong above all wrongs was committed.

The category 2) Spokespeople for this second group , dominant views on many Kenya related websites and discussion fora, is adamant about the necessity to face the issues squarely. They are not willing to minimize great injustice they see being perpetrated on Kenyans, let alone, let go for the sake of placidity. They quote- equality,justice, peace, integrity, honor and fairness for all. And they are pushing their views to anyone who will listen. So far, they have dominated the debate, especially among the online community. Without ceding the high moral ground, they have condemned the burning of the church in Eldoret but they have also steered the discussion towards the use of live bullets and the consequent killing of protesters in some towns in the country( read kisumu and the slums in major and cities and towns).

Pictures of bodies in morgues are circulating on the Internet. The second group too is calling for international investigation into the killings. They have vowed not to let up and as far as they are concerned, the country they loved died after December 27.

They use code words, such as election theft, instead of rigging to suggest a deeper character flaw among supporters of the status quo. They blame this latter group for subscribing to impunity and arrogance, the culture where ‘anything goes philosophy’- suggesting as the root cause of the country’s ills.

This starkly contrasting reading of the same set of facts suggests that the rift in the country is more fundamental than we are wiling admit. Some have even suggested that in the light of such differences, pious calls for reconciliation are sidestepping the issue. They say there is such a thing as irreconcilable differences, which usually leads to parting of ways in relationships.

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