Thursday, January 24

A Land of Wounded People

I’m back to my 8 to whenever the work is done gig which means that, most of the time, I am preoccupied with any number of things.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It is a good thing because, at least some of the time, I’m distracted by things other than the crisis in Kenya. Deadlines and reports and operating plans and bills to be paid at the end of the month have a way of distracting one. (And yet, in an odd sort of way, I see even my bills as a blessing now. They indicate to me that I have a roof over my head and access to basic amenities.)

But it is a bad thing because not keeping up with the news breeds in me a false sense of calm.

The truth is, there are still a good number of trouble spots all over this country. People are fleeing for their lives from Kipkelion, Molo and Kuresoi where the carnage persists. There was a news item on NTV tonight about a mob of stick-wielding youth attacking the Bata Shoe factory in Limuru demanding that people from particular ethnic communities be surrendered to them.

In Nairobi’s low-income eastlands estates, Huruma, Dandora and Kariobangi North, gory killings are reported every night. On KTN, the camera sweeps cautiously over the lower body of a man who was beheaded in Kariobangi North. There’s a critical mass of evidence to support the persistent rumours that ethnic based militia that have reigned terror on Kenyans in the past have been revived, in particular Mungiki and Taliban. It is they that are now reigning terror on the residents of these densely populated estates each in their turn.

At best our security forces are overwhelmed with the task at hand. At worst, they are culpable in at least some of the trouble spots. Mostly, they are on edge, in control, but barely.

David Makali of the Media Institute, speaking at a press conference called by editors to address the government’s ban on live coverage, claims that there’s “a virtual breakdown of the rule of law on a scale never witnessed before.” I’m very afraid that we’ve let our “inner monster” out of its cage and that now that it’s out, we do not have an appreciation of how very difficult it will be to round it back in again.

A political solution is only the beginning of the road to healing. We have deep social wounds that will need tending to. We may effectively have scarred the conscience of a generation. Can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, put us back together again?

There was a feature on NTV news this evening called Voices of Children.

Anne is fourteen years old and she’s from Eldoret. She has nightmares every night. As she was fleeing from her home with her family, she saw a mob slashing an old woman and her grandchild to death. She cannot get this image out of her head.

John is sixteen. He saw his father hacked to death by his neighbour. His life was spared because he was a friend to the neighbour’s son, but he had to flee for his life nonetheless.

What is most striking about many of the stories that you hear is the common refrain: “It is people we know. It is people we lived with.”

It is true, what many have argued: this is not so much an ethnic as a class war. It is, in the end, a battle between the haves and the have-nots. But, we cannot deny that it has had ethnic manifestations. The scars born of this displaced aggression are evident all over this nation. In the end, none of us is exempt. We are all the victims. We are all the perpetrators.

But, credit where credit is due: twice this week, first in his address in Kisumu and then when he spoke at the Ligi Ndogo grounds, Raila appealed to his supporters not to attack their neighbours, explaining that, this is not a fight about ethnicity, it is a fight for justice.

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