Sunday, February 17, 2008


Let not arrogance and careless talk derail peace search


There was a lone woman seated at the corner of the road last Friday, her baby cradled in her arms. I stole a quick peek from her bent head and solitary movement as she fed her child on some food from a polythene bag.

It was easy to tell that she was in lamentation pose.

Lamentation as is the poise of the country at the moment.

On that Friday while an obviously homeless woman sought refuge in the wind without the slightest idea of where she would lay her head that night, the world was waiting with bated breath for news from the dialogue team.

Air-conditioned office

Self-control is something that most Kenyans will tell you is their greatest challenge so far — the self-control not to explode at the team that is currently holding us to ransom and in essence, holding the fate of a nation in its hands.

There might be no solution as yet. There might not be a solution for a long time to come. What Kenyans do not want to know or hear is that the mediated talks have collapsed.

Ask the woman by the roadside or the manager in the air-conditioned office or even the child playing on the swing; what we dread the most are headlines that read; “Talks collapse” or even “ Deadlock”.

These are the headlines which we in the media would agonise over even as we splash them because we know what the repercussions would be.

I salute Kofi Annan, in whose humble stewardship the sanity of the talks still holds.

Yes, you were right sir, contrary to popular belief, what we in the media have been clamouring to report — what we are still hopeful to report is exactly what you said sir: “We have a deal”.

The past few weeks since the negotiators began their sittings have been awash with suspicion, careless public declarations, adamant hard-line stances and a general indication that what this team gets into behind closed doors may not be exactly pretty.

We never assumed that it was going to be easy. This is about power over a whole country is it not? Well, wrong!

When both sides picked out the team to determine the fate of over 30 million Kenyans, it was not for them to sit rooted over their own selfish party loyalties and affiliation, it was to make sure that every night Kenyans go to bed assured of sun-rise the following morning.

We are aware that they must have jostled and cajoled both sides so as to be chosen to speak on behalf of their parties.

We are aware that they walked up to their roles with confidence and the sheer belief that they hold the key to holding this country together or let it slide into perpetual anarchy.

We are also aware of the sheer arrogance, chest-thumping and ego-boosting tirades most likely to occur when digressing opinions are seeking the top price. But lest they forget, let it now be known to the negotiators that they are deliberating over the fate of this nation and its people. Period.

Academic discourse

We have watched the circus of the absurd in the form of verbal exchanges sugar-coated in intellectual and academic discourse poised to derail the focus of the talks.

We have been alarmed and downhearted as diehard stances take root and assumed stubborn poses.

We have heard accusations and counter accusations as demands from both sides glare back expectantly.

Kenyans sit back through these desperate scenarios played on our screens and cringe on the prospects of any indications that the process might sire cracks.

Still the very same Kenyans whose very core of moral survival has been so shaken in the past two months are desperate for a solution — a peaceful solution and nothing less. This is a fact that the Annan team should never ever forget.

Their mandate is signed by the fact that the fate of 33 million Kenyans is hinged on it. Arrogance, power greed and cultivated stubbornness just will not do, nay; this is not the time for a show of might.

This is the time when Kenyans demand that the peace-seekers who represent the two divides across which Kenya is split, will rise above all indices of pride and come down to that level of peace and stability which is the essence of a surviving nation.

They should not allow anything to stand in the way of peace. The negotiators, as lawyer P.L.O. Lumumba puts it, may not allow their arrogance to stand on the way of peace.

It is a plea of desperation that mirrors the sagged shoulders of the homeless woman on the side of the road — a desperation felt by a nation on the brink of losing its most vital breath of survival.

Will the negotiators put their pride aside and bring back the peace solution we so much crave?

Where are leaders who can put country first?

So, the giants of this world are in town? The presumed super-powers whose verdict is feared and causes ripples the world over?

Kenya is in a crisis matters to the rest of the world, and that is why the “whole world” is in the country to help solve the crisis, says Uncle Sam.

What would be nice to see is not the continuous lambasting directed at those scampering to assist in bringing back the peace. What would be nice and encouraging to see and hear is a different kind of leadership displayed by those we have entrusted both in government and the opposition to stabilise a nation that is almost on its knees.

Let those who purport to be leaders seize this moment to declare and display their uttermost dedication to the survival and wellbeing of this nation. I like the sacrificial stance taken by Kofi Annan that spelt out his dedication towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis.

Peaceful solution

“I will stay as long as it takes to get the issue of a political statement to an irreversible point. I will not be frustrated or provoked to leave,” he said.

If there were other words to describe hope from the former UN secretary-general then these were the words. Where then are our very own leaders both in government and the opposition who “will not rest until a peaceful solution is found?” Where are they who will lay down their commitment to peace regardless of the stakes they claim in a win or a loss?

Where are the leaders who will put selfish gains aside and accede to the higher commitment to serve and honour a country’s craving for peace?

Waiting for poisonous kiss

This prose is dedicated in sadness to all those who live in fear and are being threatened every day for being from a different community.

Yesterday, we woke up against the backdrop of the madness of violence to pick leaflets strewn in the compound by my brother.

He had written to warn of his coming.

“We are coming. We shall revenge the killings of our people. If you know you are not from our tribe, be prepared”.

And so we sit and wait. In our tiny makeshift houses, we pray the most we can. We recall prayers yanked from our bleeding souls, trying to remember all those like us, scattered across the country who await a brother who comes with a kiss laced in poison.

Just when did we get to this crossroads of anguish and pain? When did we begin to sink so low?

Election day was victory day. The determination of the people to vote won the heart of freedom and democracy. On Election day, we marched to tell the world that Kenya is of a different breed — that Kenyans know better about mutual respect, justice and democracy, when expectations for sobriety were high enough to help us sleep well at night.

But that was the last night we slept well — the very last night we smiled in our dreams.

Today Kenya burns with a vengeance that has eclipsed the history of our existence. Violence rocks the very heart of a country that had gained the reputation of being a peace mediator in the region, a country that has for eons been a safe haven for refugees fleeing anarchy in their countries.

The polling was free and fair. Kenyans knew the fate of the next five years lay in the little ballot paper they would slip through the box. And so Kenyans flocked the polling stations in droves, as early as before the birds found their voices.

The devil was dead during voting day, but he resurrected on vote counting day. He waved his evil wand and greed for power seeped through.

Today we have become the country that has lost its soul as we burn children in churches, rape fleeing mothers and slash fellow men whose ethnic community happens to be different.

Kenya bleeds to the shock of the world. Democracy dies as the intricacies of the power game and the power hungry plays on inflated egos.

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