Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deadly roots of violence in Kenya and ways out of it

It is not time to take things lightly in Afrika, in Kenya or anywhere. We are all reaping the bitter fruits of having with us people who feel they have nothing to lose if there is violence and others who want to hold onto non- reformist ways all the time. I focus mainly on Kenya but the voice of Veronique from Mali on BBC explaining why she works with militias will always ring in my mind. For one, she sounds so innocent as she says why she is in the militia group that is supported by Al Queda in a report on August 28 2012. "I am here for the love of our country. I want to help our brodas, modas and sisters in the north..." She and her colleagues say they do not care if they die because their blood has already been shed in that of their sisters and mothers have died before. This is clearly radical and fundamentalist but here we are. This is what is beleaguering nations already fraught with challenges of many types. That is and was very much the language of some militia groups in Kenya and they were not working with Al Queda.
 Are we unable to read the signs of the times for Kenya?


Temperatures are high in Kenya. Mombasa is not at peace for the second day running. My skin creeps when I see scenes in Mombasa that so remind me of the violence of Dec 2007. That is not all. Last week Tana River area was hit by hard violence. Kenya has a General Election coming up in March 2013. Unfortunately, Elections normally mean more violence. I think we need to be prudent and brace ourselves for tougher times. There has been too much tension in different parts of Kenya for a number of socio-politico reasons. The onset of peace and a peaceful election will depend on if we as ordinary Kenyans, we as politicians, we as leaders at different levels and including in the family will be ready and willing to renounce violence. To shame it in all its forms.

To refuse to take bribes and not to joke about taking money from politicians. They steal our dignity.  You see, we must say not to violence even when we are genuinely angry and have many reasons to be so. A gift of humor is a good thing to have but it seems to me that the times we are going through hardly give us space for a laugh. Those who have a big voice in the media must act as in times of an emergency because we saw that Kenya can burn. Those who have a voice should help the ordinary people detangle taking money from politicians and politics. They should lead Kenyans in no tribal politics. But will they? I found this article saddening but then our president Kibaki was never a reformist. http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Kibakis+money+talk+leaves+peace+meet+in+stitches/-/1064/1488552/-/a5tqvi/-/index.html
He has tried to pass a few things against the law, such as the nomination of county bosses and also the nomination of the Commission that should reform police in Kenya.

It has become normal to hear reports of violence. What with the recent grenades thrown in Nairobi and Garissa as Al Shabaab hit back for Kenya's incursion into Somalia to finish this terror groups? Things are getting thick. Every now and then you can expect headlines of death caused by political differences. I wonder about our country. The bell keeps ringing in me that the last extreme violence was in the year 2007 after an election in which Kibaki the president disagreed with Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister today on a vote tally. Today the relationship between the two leaders in a government of coalition for the sake of peace is far from reconciliatory.
So often is the worry about violence on our minds that some leaders keep saying that there will be a peaceful election in 2013, and yet from a distance, one gets the view that they are praying for the aversion of what they can already see. I too wish no one will shed blood because of the General Election in March 2013, but we have to say that blood is already being shed. If there will be no machetes out during the General Election, we shall all be glad but because there is so much violence now, we have to acknowledge that violence is becoming part of our culture. Here are some reported incidents of violence.

On 22nd August 52 people were killed in revenge for land disagreement. These were 31 women, 6 men and the rest were youth and children. Now this is horrendous. http://reliefweb.int/report/kenya/52-killed-tana-clashes What does the killing of women, so many of them and children tell you about the situation? It tells me that there is deep planning and anger. Planning to find the unprotected women on their own and kill them.Revenge and anger over resources.

In August, a man was going on tour with his book which has political content and in three places, Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa he was met with crude violence. He had to be rescued by police. The book he sells has been at the centre of much attention. It purports to whistle blow about corruption in Kenya and to particularly address his former employer who sacked him without due procedure. The author has said he vowed to "spill the beans" I am not discussing content and names but it is alarming that so many people were of the view that there was nothing wrong with beating up the writer when he stood up to speak, because he is going against a politician that they like. It was impossible to get some people to see that violating the law and taking it into own hands is wrong and physical violence out of place when it comes to differences in  opinions.  Baying for someone's blood has become common and right. Some people even asked us, human rights activists not to defend freedom of expression in this case and to join in and shout, "destroy him! destroy him!" They are still angry that we have not. You can see it on facebook.

Then on 27th August Sheikh Abdou Rogo was assassinated in Mombasa. Violence broke out immediately. It is still going on. It has taken a religious angle. Sheikh is said to be listed by the USA and the UN as a terrorist. Saying that his killing shocked me drew the wrath of some. That he was 'target' I wrote, meant to them that blame was being apportioned to a specific party, the government. What was obviously said is that if out of four people in a car he is the only one who was eliminated, then of course he was targetted. It looks like we have come to a point where reasoning is out of question. One is expected to cheer ho and ha and off we go and beat and kill. This does not augur well for us. The violence has not abated in Mombasa for a long time. It has actually got to this: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Policeman+dies+in+Kisauni+grenade+attack/-/1064/1488860/-/r7mamo/-/index.html

At the beginning of August, precisely on August 2 2012, a little girl and friend of mine who suffers cerebral palsy was raped. Her mother found the rapist in the house. Her limbs are broken. She took up the case with the local chief. It should have been the police. The Chief set the man free. The law against rape/defilement of minors can go to a life sentence. But here again, violence sits on like a mountain on the weak.

In 2007 December we in Kenya and the world at large were shocked by the deaths of 1 333 persons and the displacement of 500 000 others. Most of us agree that we would not like to see a similar pattern. Most people thinking about violence in Kenya since 2007 and before, as far back as 1992, think violence linked to elections.

I see of late is that even as Kofi Annan urges that reforms be implemented so that the next General Election in march 2013 be peaceful, even as the world donors give 3.2 billion dollars and the EU urges that the elections be peaceful, even as some politicians keep on saying all is well and will be well, the dark truth is that the violence is already in place. Violence has not abated in Kenya in a long time it is the Election we are waiting for and not all our hopes are pegged on it.  The implementation of the new constitution is a challenge but the judiciary with the leadership of Chief Justice Mutunga is looking up. At least one arm of government is reforming but your guess is a as good as mine, some are out to see that the Chief Justice does not succeeed. It is all in recently headlines. So, with a sigh we have to say that in Kenya, the bullets are always in place but not the ballots. Look at the problems facing the Independent Electoral Commission. We have to try and stop this violence and revere the judiciary before the Election. We must remember it was the missing arm when there was a fight over votes and the killings started. The country needs peace for progress to happen and for the judiciary to deepen its work. We shall lack that peace if some like the group of conservatives working in Central province and in the country do not realise that this time we must all be our sisters and brothers keepers and that means ditching politicians from our own ethnic communities if they are violent or unjust. Taking hate speech to court. Monitoring our local language as euphemisms are used to communicate hatred for other ethnic groups and being bold enough to say, stop it! Criticising ourselves without fear and letting opinions be hear.  We need peace so as to carry on digging into our culture to see how we can uproot that which is leading us on a collision course all the time. We need peace for us to see how politicians create situations for us to go against ourselves and refuse to, and stand together even when we do not speak the same languages.

Inequality in a country, a big rift between those who have and those who do not have is a deadly foundation for any nation. Not to be able to enjoy or explore neither eduction nor life because one comes from a background of disadvantage and challenges is a blight on generations to come. Education, health and work are all supposed to be available to all the citizens of a nation in equal measure. It is true that there has to be competition and that a welfare society can also produce individuals who look like they are indifferent to everything, but this is better than a violent nation. A nation steeped in cut throat competition where it is only the rich who enjoy security, education, health and every kind of amenity.

It is quite clear that people begin to see differences more markedly when the economy is poor and when to get a loaf of bread takes to much energy that by the time it is in the hand, one's nerves are breaking with pain. I look at Kenya keenly and I see that violence can be said to be increasingly visible not only when people are killed but also when people begin to stop sleeping thinking of what they will eat on the next day. No one is excusing rape but the law is not followed when people are so hungry. I have seen an older woman with disability raped and when I went to visit her parents to see how I could help them, they were peaceful and offered me a place to sit and they talked. Aferwards I heard that they took money from the Chief to whom the case was reported again and not the police instead of justice. There are many cases like this that go unreported.

It is when resources are poorly managed and the rich who also often happen to be the politicians grab everything for those who think like them and those who support with them which includes their families most of the times.Greed is a main cause. Simple greed. J M Kariuki, assassinated in Kenya on March 2 1975, died because of constantly saying that if Kenyatta and his cronies kept on grabbing land the way they were doing, we would be exactly where we are now. Poor people will be so many and they will see enemies in one another because they lack what to eat. I see that more than ever now, our language which includes most of the times tribe matters more than ever. That people are so divided along tribal lines because this is how resources are shared that actually the lines are clearly drawn for battle. And there is more to it. The lack of acknowledging of the International Criminal Court's process which has named Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, politicians; Francis Muthaura and Joshua Sang a radio journalist as suspects. Uhuru Kenyatta still insists that he is the country's next president. And it is not only him who thinks so. He has the support of many in Kenya and most notably, of the rich ruling class.

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