On the 22nd of June 2014, inter-clan clashes left over 20 Kenyans dead in Wajir. From the 15th to the 17th of June 2014, more than 60 Kenyans were killed in attacks in Mpeketoni at the coast of Kenya. On the 16thof May 2014, twin explosions at Gikomba market claimed the lives of more than 10 Kenyans. On the 4th of May 2014, homemade bombs were exploded on two commuter buses on the Thika Highway in Nairobi killing 3 Kenyans and injuring at least 62 others. On the 3rd of May 2014, twin terrorist attacks in Mombasa killed 3 Kenyans. In Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, 6 Kenyans were killed and dozens more injured when terrorists exploded bombs at two separate locations. These are just a few of the deaths that have happened in Kenya in the past couple of months. The one and only important common factor in all these cases is the fact that Kenyans are dying.
The most unfortunate thing is that these attacks come at a time when Kenyans are heavily divided. A division that is being widened by the utterances of some of our politicians including, and this is the saddest thing, by the head of state. I am personally not a proponent of either Jubilee or Cord, the main players in Kenya’s political field. That said, I have watched in dismay as both factions have said and done things that they really shouldn’t have.
The objective of democracy is to enable the citizens to participate in the governance of the country. Kenyans exercised their democratic right last year and elected His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta to the highest position of the land. As much as this election was contested, the courts ruled that he was the duly elected President. This then made him the President of Kenya. Not the President of Jubilee supporters. Not the President of the Kikuyu community but the President of Kenya. Mandated to think about the welfare of every single citizen of Kenya; be they Kikuyu, Luo, Giriama, Luhya, male, female, living with disability, elderly, child, gay, straight, white or black.
The rise in insecurity has placed every Kenyan citizen at risk. The rise in corruption has increased the cost of living in Kenya without increasing the wage of the average Kenyan. The warped priorities of our law makers have made it such that the important issues facing Kenyans are not tackled. These are the people we democratically placed in a position to work on our behalf and ensure that we live in a secure, corruption free state (a naïve yet achievable goal) where services, be they health, security or education are easily attainable by all of us.
Raila Odinga recently called for a national dialogue. While this is not a bad idea in the face of it, details of it need to be made clear to the citizenry. As Gordon Omondi so rightfully asks, What is this national dialogue? Is it a national holiday where people gather somewhere and the President addresses the nation? Will it happen between the Government and the opposition, or will the common citizen will participate? If it is the latter, who decides which common citizen participates and in what capacity? Is it a one day event? Where will it be held? Will it involve every county? Who chairs the proceedings? Who moderates? When does dialogue end? When people have agreed on the way forward? When there are enough suggestions on how to deal with the problem or when CORD gets what they want? What do they want by the way? Before Raila Odinga came back with the idea of dialogue, what were our options in dealing with the very many issues we had? Are we demanding dialogue because Odinga said so? The idea of national dialogue at the moment is very abstract. The danger of setting a deadline (saba saba) on an idea as abstract as that is that it leads people to draw conclusions. We have heard Kenyans (including some politicians) say that they will have no power-sharing deals, which in my analysis of Raila’s speech and in his own admission, was never on the table. Before calling for a national dialogue and setting a deadline for the same, Raila Odinga should have answered these questions. Made the idea a lot less abstract. Something his advisers should have picked up on.
His Excellency the President Uhuru Kenyatta in a strongly worded, highly emotional speech stated very succinctly that the recent attacks in Mpeketoni were not the work of the Al-Shabab terrorist group but were politically motivated. “The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons.” He said, adding that such “dangerous leaders” portray certain people as less human and less deserving. Ever since the statement was made, no political leader has been arrested and arraigned in court. No evidence proving this theory has been provided to Kenyans. Yet the head of state spoke in front of millions of Kenyans and floated a “political motivation” theory. This was incredibly unfortunate. Had there been evidence of political motivation (which there might be), we should know about it. I would be the first one to insist that the perpetrator be put to book. The rest of the Kenyans, from whatever political faction, presented with hard evidence of the political motivation would also stand behind the President on the same. The President’s statement however divided the country even further.
An analysis of Kenya’s security status would have shown that in a matter of days or weeks after Mpeketoni, something would happen that would put the lives of Kenyans at risk. Indeed, less than a week later, 20 Kenyans lost their lives in Wajir leading people to ask, “Where is the President’s speech condemning these attacks?” This is something that the President’s advisers should have picked up on.
In Kenya’s current political and social climate, decisions on reactions to events such as Mpeketoni and Wajir have to be made incredibly carefully. They should be made with the aim of bringing Kenyans together and not dividing us further. They should be made with the aim of securing the lives of Kenyans and not creating an environment of hate and potential violence.
Kenyans also need to realize that as much as we put the people we did in power, as much as they are the ones who will create the laws and policies that guide us in our day-to-day living, they will not put food on our tables. We are the ones who suffer by fighting amongst ourselves because of leaders whose only concern is their own security and how much tax-payers money they will take to the bank. It’s time we united as one. As Kenyans regardless of our ethnicity. As citizens of this beautiful country. It is time to stop politicizing the deaths of our fellow Kenyans and work on making our country one that we can all be proud of.