Sunday, December 16, 2012

Amani Kibera: Tribalism is retrogressive, patriotism is wisdom

Amani Kibera: Simple wisdom wins our smile 

Amani Kibera (AK) is working for peace in a slum area. The library has become a movement for peace. Artists united against tribalism is a great project of AK. 
We love to drive in peace. Always room for all, Ubuntu!

In a non-conventional format, I intersperse my interview questions in my feature on Amani Kibera. I spoke to BO who manages Amani Kibera. I am PI. I use narrator to continue commentary. This is experimental mixing. And I do not hide that am partisan in loving peace and freedom.
Amani Kibera serves democracy to Kenyans for Kenya  
Narrator:
Political personalities hog the banner headlines in Kenyan newspapers almost every day. The people make themselves felt, seen and heard in many ways. Out of Kibera slums in Nairobi a huge spirit of peace and victory may well fill Kenya, our beloved nation this new election on 4 March 2013.  
                                                       
PI: Who are you BO? I know you are a volunteer for Amani Kibera but what else do you do for a living?                                       

B: I am one of the co-founders of AK and we all work for AK as volunteers. For a living I work with the Humanist Center of Kenya as the deputy director. Humanist Center of Kenya is an NGO that provides educational sponsorships to needy children from vulnerable backgrounds in Kenyan slums and rural areas.                                                                          
P: It was good to be with you on Skype and one of those unexpected things that happen to us from far away. I am inspired. Let me just ask you a few questions as would like to publish it on my website. I am doing this first but we keep talking so do not think am in haste not to hear you.
B: We aim at delivering to the people of Kibera a symbol of unity, one that each and every person will identify with and participate in building. That is the Amani Kibera Library and Resource Center.


Narrator

Social media, banners of old,  text messaging for mobilising and simple village greetings. Often simple is best. AK may look small their style compared to the big lavish styles of the politician, but in African folklore it is often a small animal that outsmarts the big ones. Kenyans must win peace now  and on March 4, 2013. We cannot harvest violence as politicians triumph in their ways.  And all peace is related, therefore the issues of Somali refugees being sent away to the North camp, Dadaab must be resolved. Somalis are Kenyans were it not for the borders Europe made in Africa. The issue of Al Shabaab needs a better approach. The Kenyan social fabric is fragile and we do not need bombs and grenades anywhere. We must find a peaceful way out. 
Artists united against tribalism



                                        PI:
How do you feel AK reaches Kenyans with regard to our daily problems of bread, education, health and tribalism?
                                        BO:

We empower people especially the young with knowledge by provision of library services, talent and leadership development through value based sports. We also involve the youth in income and learning generating activities that empower them economically. AK is also strongly involved in advocacy work.
From our projects the youth have better opportunities for employment opportunities hence improving their livelihoods and peace-full coexistence.
Narrator:
I am sure it is the small efforts that people have made to connect after the violence we experienced in politics that will hold Kenya together. It was people who saw how hard it is to organise peace during violent times that are more prepared to work even harder for peace. For in this case too prevention is much better than a cure. See how they long for peace. African culture is one of peace in many places. 
https://www.facebook.com/amani.kibera?fref=ts We need to put politics in its place. It cannot be more than our unity, our love, our soul. We are challenged but we know that our ancestors spoke peace. And we are not the only people of mrembe, or peace.  AK began to work before the General Election of 2007.  Tribal animosity was whipped up and enmity began to be tangible everywhere. Yet Africa has many shrines of peace. Justice is a guarantee of peace.

Recently at Chief Albert Luthuli´s home, which is a museum, I listened to an ancestor (on audio tape) speaking peace for Africa. he said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech: 

"This is an honor not only for South Africa but for the whole of the continent of Africa, this continent, Mother Africa! To all its people, whatever their race, colour or creed might be...It is an honour for the peace-loving people of the entire world and an encouragement for us all to redouble our efforts in this struggle for peace and friendship."  


I am peace!
A library is a place of peace. In Africa there are messages of peace everywhere. And words of inspiration such as the late Prof. Wangari Maathai´s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT98uQ74X1c

We need to listen to other things beyond political rhetoric and of course to VOTE! That must be our little task even though some of us abroad have been sidelined. There is no political will for that. But we must find more voices for strong and effective culture and talk about them more, fearlessly.

Our culture. Ubuntu. Utu. are based on the effect persons have on persons when we are open to one another. This is ironically Africa´s gift. You do not find it all over. We must make it ours. 

I was reading somewhere that Africa must hold this that peace will be ours if we listen to our soul. An article by Robin- Edward Poulton and Djely Karifa Samoura elaborates on that. The two remind us that African ways of peacemaking are appropriate for all including Muslims and Christians. Yes, I , know Mali is threatened by rebels too. The people working for peace must not cease to organise. People against peace are fewer than those for it but they work in overdrive whilst we sit back. Amani Kibera is awake.

Amani Kibera told me that at the time they organised more than 
10 000 peace ambassadors. For now, no big politician can boast of having done that. Most people feel and fear the opposite has happened. In any case even those indicted for the last atrocious violence are still thumping their chests about leading Kenya. None of them have prayed the people for forgiveness. Not one.

In October 2007, the lesson was learned by Amani Kibera and others. Amani Kibera will not sit on her laurels. Discussions on democracy, leadership courses, sports and entertainment has been taking place, all with the aim or reiterating how important it will be for Kenyan not to be divided by politicians. 

Amani Kibera is among the beautiful ones in action. Amani Kibera, which means Peace Kibera, has been strategically working for peace. 



Going back to our culture. In our stories, the hare beats the big elephants, the Big Five if you wish at everything - and just an aside, I remember one hilarious woman who told us in Zimbabwe never to forget we have the Big Sixth- the politician who almost scares the lion, the rhino, the hippo, the leopard and the Buffalo back in their lairs becoming the Greedy Sixth. They often use the law against us, the people. But now Kenya has a new constitution since 2010 August. The people gave it unto themselves! And a new Chief Justice, a better judiciary. Dr. Willy Mutunga, the Chief Justice visits slums sometimes.

PI:What kind of people do police arrest in Kibera and who are considered to be dangerous?     

BO: Most of the people who are arrested are young people since most of them are unemployed hence idle most of the time. Because of this, the levels of insecurity is growing each day as we have many young people graduating from colleges and high schools and are not absorbed anywhere.
Most of these young people are also easily used as hooligans by politicians to disrupt, instill fear or be violent to those opposing them.

Narrator:

What has been happening at AK? In the last five years, many people have been reading in the library after school. I had a Skype conference with Amani Kibera in 2011 when more than 60 youth sat doing their school homework. 

To appreciate a library completely in a slum area, one has to understand that when people live in shacks, doing homework is a hard. There is no space often. There is no table. There is little light and no silence for the rest in the house must do their other business. There is even more noise from outside the shack. The library I sat in for the Skype conference in was a have of peace in comparison. But now the elections in Kenya are nigh and Amani Kibera has been spilling with action. There has been many activities there and most of them posted on this Facebook page. 


 They hold a banner across a railway line "Ukabila ni ushenzi: Uzalendo ndio hekima": It means tribalism is retrogressive, stupid and not worth it and patriotism is wise. For indeed when it comes to crossing many of our bridges, it is not about an ethnic group anymore. It is about the tribe of the poor. And clearly the poor get into tribalism only because of corruption and nepotism at the top. They do not make tribalism, it is a result of poor leadership. The buck stops at the top.

Where we live, our shadows touch, our clothes touch, we are so close we cannot afford a fire of violence or any other. We are one.
But there are many problems of division in Kenya.
PI:Are there religious differences on the ground? Which are expressed negatively?

BO:Yes there are! The constitution making process was not well taken by the different religious groups around saying some of the items included to do go well with their religion. Alshabaab war in Somali is looked at by some Muslims as war against Islam.

PI:Is tribalism visible at other levels of our society or only politically?
BO:Generally there is negative ethnic based stereo typing within the society that politicians take advantage of especially during political campaigns to gain political mileage. After the post election violence, it is clear that most people would not like to invest in what they call passive as “home”. Most people feel comfortable investing or even living in places where they have many people from the same ethnic groups as themselves.

PI:What do you feel regarding this coming election?
Personally, I think these elections are highly likely to be very violent. The wounds of 2007 are not yet healed. Recent Political Party elections have been very aggressive and turned violent. The ICC process is not yet over and the politicians are using the process to divide people along ethnic lines. Little has been done to reconcile the people especially those who were thrown away from their homes. They are unable to go back to their property since they don’t trust the same people who killed their relatives and destroyed their property.

Narrator:
So cry, my beloved our country. But we hope to win peace still. What have the politicians done to help heal Kenya? Healing was not among the subjects touched by the presidential speech on 12 December a day on which in celebrating Kenyans independence which was won in 1963 many listen to the presidential speech. Neither was HIV/Aids for that matter nor the nurses on the latest strike were mentioned despite the fact that World Aids Day falls a some days before. Nurses were on strike. Doctors have been on strike several times in recent years. So have teachers. The questions rage. Is Kenya healing or has Kenya healed? If we are still healing, what is the quality of our healing? Who is doing what for justice and peace in Kenya? Who is working for future generations? 


Amani Kibera is open to support from all people.

PI:
I found out about Amani Kibera in Oslo through Elise, tell me how you met Elise? 


BO:
I met Elise through a Mercy, friend who works for the Haki Jamii and NGO working in human rights issues. Elise’s grand father wanted to support a football team and at this time we were also organizing our soccer tournament. So my friend Mercy introduced me to her and since them we have grown together with Amani Kibera as friends and supporters of our initiative.

1Do you see libraries as homes of peace?
Libraries are definitely homes for peace since they are essential information centers for the communities. They provide safe space for people especially the young to use their time creatively. Libraries accommodate people from different backgrounds in equal capacities who only know one thing in common while in it, to gain knowledge. In our library, we have discussion groups and each group contains boys and girls from different ethnic and religious backgrounds and they work together very well.

2  What about democracy?
For me Libraries are a perfect example of real democracy. At AK library we have discussion groups and each of the participants always have different view and opinions on every topic that they discuss. During these discussions, each person’s opinion is highly respected and taken into account until such a time that they will all agree on a common opinion. There have never been any cases of violence or abusive language used because one does not agree with your opinion.