Sunday, March 31, 2013

Diversity challenges Kenya's social fabric: Kenyans flood Social Media with negative ethnicity whilst praying all day!

Kenyatta presented as prince from above
how voters create dictators 
The people pray. They elevate their princes but put down their women. They sing praises to one but stink on other ethnic groups. Is democracy party to non-reason?

Justice Albie Sachs gave a keynote address in the 39th ALA Congress, 2013 which I was happy and lucky to attend in Charleston South Carolina. This is an important Association of African Literature meeting and many scholars and writers make all the necessary efforts to attend it. including saving all year round. 

In his wonderful keynote address Jugde Albie as he said he likes people calling him, talked about his life and commitment to justice. He talked about soft vengeance a topic of reconciliation that goes beyond legal fixes and deep into the heart. 

It was marvellous to hear him. Many people from different cultures and backgrounds were moved to hear him. He stirs deep into the conscience for those who are wronged and how to overcome the hurt with compassion as well as make the person gently see what they did to another as he did to the man who planted a bomb that left this judge with one hand.

And I keep asking myself, where is this softness in my country Kenya when it comes to our relations as people of diverse ethnicity? Why is religion seeming to fail to introduce this? It is a question I asked Judge Albie. He has worked in Kenya in recent months. He is from South Africa. 

He has worked in Kenya with cleaning up the judiciary. Somehow after his keynote address the first question asked pointed to African democracies and the problems face them now, seeing gains made recently being lost. The clawing  back of these successes is due to political greed. 

I had my own question which was not about negative ethnicity but about religion and the role it can play when manipulated to blind a people rather than enlighten them to their own liberation. For we are a people in need of creating god to worship and to take a little more opium of the unsettled if not the poor. We are happy to create our idols and are already cultivating dictators because we suffer if we do not depend on our own esteem and that of our neighbour. Look where we can take an elected person pictorially and know that he is being called the chosen Prince.
Kenyans from one region have already canonised their president!

About democracy in Africa Judge Albie was very optimistic. He credited the people of Kenya for instance in sticking together even when some people wanted to cause a hatred along religious lines and for this he mentioned Islam and Christianity. The people reject this division in practice. He said. He explained more things and told of how Kenya has made great progress in the direction of having a new constitution since 2010. 

He remarked that South Africans thought they took long to usher in a new constitution in six years but that he was amazed at Kenya's close to 20 years of struggling to do the same and finally getting there. The whole exercise was for reform purposes. But on March 4th Kenya became the first country to vote in indictees of the ICC to the highest offices in the country.

Judge Albie answered the question on religion in a very fine manner. He emphasised the love and respect we ought to have for each others' consciences. I guess that is the way of a great judge and of a magnanimous mind. 

He said we should try out best not to fight over the god issues for then it gets very complex. We did not go into the tribal matters for thus they have to be named having become so naked in Kenya. And these relate too to religion in history for missionaries of some churches only preached as directed by government only to certain peoples. 

Kenya was born on a very racially divided bed. Ethnicity was stoked by the British too and  the 1884 conference did partition Africa against the grain of the population so that you have Bantu people and the Nilotes and others spread in different nations, but this is not the entire problem. Actually diversity should be a plus when managed, but this is not what religious people nor politicians do with it. 

However, having noted that there was a time in the 70s and 80s when it was not our immediate problem one worries why when it has gone up it has also meant the increase of insecurity. And yes, the fights are not along religious lines but then why does religion fail to glue such prayerful people. For indeed Judge Albie said of all a nations he knew well, Kenya was the most prayerful. What do prayers mean in a country where practically everyone is lined up with their own? How deep is the soul? But to that later.

Judge Albie is happy with the clean up of the Kenyan Judiciary and spoke about how the people of Kenya are delighted with the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga and have much hope in him. This has been largely true. Even though some people have not liked the CJ. 

Maybe some people who did not like him before the 30th of March when he delivered a ruling that held that Kenya's election of 2013 was free and fair and that the two elect were elected fairly now love him more. Maybe some who loved him feel lost. He was their beacon of hope. And they felt that the election was stolen from the reformer and given to the status quo. Perhaps others have not changed knowing that with six judges in the Bench and the win having to come from 4:2, the thing is not a one man game. The judgement was unanimous. 

Some people point out that Constitution 2010 gives too short a time for the filing and the study of a proper case of this nature. Others say 7 judges would be best. In any case, the details of the judgement were not read and after the country had waited in heightening and then absolute anxiety for a week, the judgment came in three minutes.

There was rejoicing for those who were happy with their team. The others went into shock. Some violence occurred at night. Most places in Kenya are under heavy security detail for fear of violence. It is not new to us we had it in 2007 and in other elections. Some people responded to this situation by immediately saying that they would never vote again. One tweet showed someone burning up their identity card. There is still a sense of disbelief for those who expected a different ruling but Supreme Court locuta causa finita. Finita? Well, this remains to be seen.

Everything is heavy, but I have children! 
We had foreseen the filing of a petition no matter which side won because the margin was going to be narrow. However in the final results there were glaring mistakes. 

The international observers had spoken before but who could have foreseen the sharing of an IPS of the Independent Electoral and Borders Commission, IEBC, with Kencall a private company in which one of the contesters apparently has shares? 

Was everything put into place to monitor this election? And the list of complaints and evidence long. The court case was televised live and could be watched from any part of the world by Kenyans and they did so even though they could not vote from the diaspora again because the IEBC said that was beyond its scope.

If facebook could bleed

There would have been rivers that would have reached all links in the world. Kenyans vented their anger on Social Media using the tool much less for what people in Cairo used it for in the Arab Spring. 

They turned against one another identifying their man of their ethnic group as some untouchable and spewing vitriol on the other camp. There were two camps and two main ethnic groups had themselves confounded on Social Media because each had a main man. The Kikuyu and the Luo. Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga respectively.

 Social media was laden with hate speech. It bore messages on the elections but also with very intrusive and base language. Reactions, hopes and dilemmas were everywhere. What was certain is you could tell who is going to praise which of the two strong candidates just by knowing from which region a name can be placed. Things got vicious and almost war-like on facebook. But some people said just as well the war was on facebook and not with crude weapons on the ground. But these forgot that on Social Media it is a certain class that sits to it all day. On the ground indeed some crude weapons did surface in Malindi and most tourists caught an early flight.

Kenyans were deeply angered by some of their own, as identified by names and hear let's call a spade a spade and say that Kikuyus who openly supported Raila Odinga had it quite rough. There is one who has posted death threats as he was seen to be a traitor. All this is a repeat of 2007. Why such deep hatred and why such forced strong love for a community? And yet these two candidates did get a few votes from enemy territory, but mainly from their own in the local diasporas there.

It has been gradual but very real now. Politics has helped gate Kenyans within their ethnic territories and this with fear. I think that even the voting pattern was influenced by the same. Look at the people who voted in Central part of the country and who teamed up mainly with the Rift Valley. The Kalenjin and the Kikuyu fought the worst in the 2007 violence. Now they have voted together. It is clear that they want to protect those whom they see to have protected them in 2007. But how was that protection? Was it legal?

 It is also clear then that they were voting so as to shield themselves from the woes of insecurity which they have been facing daily for instance in the face of Mungiki, a militia group mainly to be found in Central Province. They have felt that the elect two, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will know how to protect them as they did in 2007. That they will also know how to keep those youth who belong to these militia group down. It is protect me, I protect you from the ICC and we live happily ever after. Of course this team also had the backing of the incumbent and the State machinery. Have we voted to shield impunity?

If Raila Odinga garnered less votes, if that is proven, fine. But there is doubt and this problem is not going away. The country's Intelligence had better concentrate on what can give Kenya justice instead of hounding down bloggers. Raila has told the BBC that he has only accepted to honour his earlier word but that he is looking for away out. His supporters and indeed many people in the country are feeling his humiliation. Why? Well he was thoroughly demonised, his main pillars attacked and rendered almost helpless when it came to the race to State House. There is more intrigue about the candidate to win having to win and only win.

I have heard for myself what kind of names people call Raila Odinga in some places and so ugly was the situation that it was the only time in my life that I felt like never visiting a certain village even though I informed them that they were wrong. There is everything wrong with building such huge enmity. I have heard his name dragged into a Muslim pact and this by Christians. I have been given a letter out of a drawer by a priest of the Catholic church to see how compromised Raila Odinga is with the Muslims. I saw the letter and immediately almost burst out laughing and worried for our priest. The letter was pure propaganda and that was in 2008. But had done enough damage already. I have heard that he caused all the evils that happened in an election year.  So what about all this?

My main concern is for Kenya. No matter how much we pray, behind the scenes we are full of intrigues. Religious differences are exploited for power. Religion is used as a power base. I saw this in Rwanda. Much compromising. Ethnicity is ruling at all levels and again we saw this in Rwanda 1994. When all these things mix with politics to fade out reason, in a world full of wonderful diversity, suddenly, the stars fade. 

But just maybe we swing and swing until the Constitution begins to flower and we get our balance! But on the other hand, where power is involved, poetic thinking can fail. It is something to be afraid of that two persons, that two strong communities see as their power, have this chasm of hating communities between them.

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