I would like to focus on the probable causes of the post election violence that took place in our beloved country in 2007/2008. The aim is that we remind ourselves what happened prior to the election that created so much rage so that we can avoid a repeat of the same. The announcement of the election results was only the straw that broke the camel’s back and, in my view, violence would have erupted regardless of the winner.
For many months before that election, all of us, including religious leaders, were looking at the situation in Kenya with our colored lenses. Lenses which were colored by our perception of the other people or by the perceived injustice carried against us depending on our social or ethnic backgrounds.
We were waiting for our leaders to act in a certain way against their opponents in order to release us from our anguish and anger. We had become emotional prisoners of one another. Regardless of our education or religion we secretly wanted blood and destruction. I met someone who seemingly couldn’t eat since the crises started because of the way he felt about the situation and the tribe that had caused it.
What we had refused to take is personal responsibility. We did not appreciate the fact that true healing starts first with us. Our release from anger, then and even in the coming elections, is not with the other person, or a sermon on the pulpit. It is with us. We must take responsibility of our emotions and feelings towards the other people. This is the only way we can build a civilized society. That time and without saying it, people were looking for revenge and justice. It is said that “when you take the route of revenge, you then must dig two graves” because you also become a victim.
We, at that time, wanted to find personal freedom by disempowering the other person so that we could regain our self-esteem and happiness. But that was wrong. The correct way of disempowering the ‘other person’ is by first forgiving him/her in order to realize true peace that will enable you to rationally evaluate the cause of the current events and factually deal with it.
Dr. Myles Munroe, in his book ‘The Burden of Freedom’ notes that many third world nations have never known what real freedom is. We want social, political and economic freedom but we do not want the responsibility that comes with it. For years, we hated the Asians for their prosperity; we even beat them and destroyed their property when we got a chance to. But we remained poor. However over the last 15 years since 2002, we have taken responsibility, we have developed our business skills. We have now competed with them in the spare parts business; we have invaded the city shops with our exhibitions stands. We have even followed them into the industrial area and started manufacturing. We do not hate or beat them; we must compete with them in a free enterprise and beat them at their own game. In short, we have taken responsibility and claimed our freedom from hate and economic sabotage.
Forgiving the other person almost sounds cowardly, or weak, or a retreat. But it is the first step towards greatness, it is the path that made Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela great, yet in this perceived weakness, they brought lasting freedom to their masses. Laurence Sterne once said that “only the brave know how to forgive … A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature”.
Our character must be bigger than the issue before hand, the election and it’s results. We should take responsibility and deal with the issue but preserve the peace at any cost. What is a world without our opponent? We are all co-dependent on one another. In our different forms (flair of one community, humor of another, entrepreneurial skills of another, etc.), we constitute the beauty of Kenya. It is these distinct different cultures that visitors admire about Kenya and hence the reason they want to come back again and again.
In 2007/2008 we looked foolish in the eyes of the world as we lynched one another and torched our country in the name of anger. We entertained the west in their cozy living rooms as we chased our brothers with pangas (machetes) and destroyed property. We brought color to their evenings as they enjoyed the boredom that comes with tranquil and peace. After all, this was better than watching wrestling. This was real-time TV as Africans torched their country and mutilated one another. It was true what they have always believed; the African might actually never find civility.
In the coming election, and subsequent elections thereafter, each of us should make a choice not to be angry with the ‘other tribe’, to accommodate one another regardless of our ethnic background. We must decide to give room to our political leaders to compete, without allowing ourselves to hate, maim or kill our immediate neighbors on behalf or the leaders, just because they feel aggrieved. Each of us should endeavor to forgive those who have harmed us. We should search where we are unjust to the other person so that we can correct. Nevertheless, we must all rise above the hate regardless of the facts and search for the greater common good.
God bless Kenya and God bless Kenyans