Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why we must seek peace even if it is inconvenient

By Muthoni Thang’wa

America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, once said: "If I had to choose between righteousness and peace, I would choose righteousness."

Clearly this is a preferred position by politicians to date given the current political impasse over the controversial tally of the just concluded presidential election. While politicians have chosen to claim their own righteousness, ordinary citizens have lost their livelihoods as property is destroyed. The most vulnerable have been maimed, assaulted and displaced, and every crook in the country is running amok in the name of seeking justice.

What the children injured so far have to do with a presidential candidate remains a mystery to the logical mind.

There is no doubt that the country is entitled to a President that the majority chose. Should this not be the person declared winner, it translates to an abuse of freedom and justice. However, there is no excuse for seeking ‘justice’ in ways that infringe and abuse the freedom of others.

The situation is made more complex by an Electoral Commission that sings ‘Hallelujah’ today and utters a war cry tomorrow, a complete abuse of the duty and responsibility vested in them by their contractual agreement with Kenyans.

Our responsibility ended at the ballot box when we cast our vote. The rest was up to the constitutionally created offices to complete. Now they tell us that a baby was born, but they have no idea if it was alive or stillborn, no idea what gender it was and no idea who the parents were.

Someone should have listened to Mr Samuel Kivuitu when he told Kenyans that he is an old man who does not need a job, in regard to the renewal of his contract as the Electoral Commission chairman. A man who feels that he does not need a job will not do the job even if he is tied to a seat all hours.

Many are tempted to state that the violence we are currently seeing has little to do with the just concluded presidential election. We all now understand better why nations like South Africa had a truth and reconciliation commission: It would take a really angry person to burn children and grandmothers in a church in the wee hours of the morning.

Psychologists insist that this kind of anger is not occasioned by a single event such as the presidential election, but rather it has been simmering just under the surface waiting of the right excuse. The rest of us are left wondering if there is such a thing as communal rage.

The politicians on both side of the political divide should realise that most political strategies need public will to execute.

Such strategies will have meaning to no one but themselves if more Kenyans continue to be displaced and if in the end majority of the votes whose numbers are being argued across the impasse end up as internally displaced persons or worse as refugees.

Should Kenyans continue to call leaders, people who feel they must get into power or must stay in power at what ever price!

While the hooligans will meet with Police Commissioner Maj-Gen Hussein Ali’s kiboko, and the wealthy and affluent sit in the comfort of their fortresses trying to decipher what the current status implies for investment, ordinary mwananchi spend all their time maneuvering their way around the flames while the country is on fire, trying so hard to maintain some sense of normalcy and most of all clinging to dear life.

American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King stated that the true measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.

As a patriotic Kenyan, play your role during this time that we all need to put a tight lease on our emotions and actions. Desist from stealing that carpet from a shop that hooligans have broken into, or finally getting into that pair of Bata shoes that you did not afford in the last Christmas, or destroying that business that your neighbour has put all his time and money building in the last so long.

Don’t go on the streets chanting that you want peace while leaving a trail of fire and destruction in your wake and then rushing to the nearest church to offer prayers for peace, by day while returning to torch the hapless occupants by night. In giving your neighbour their peace, therein will you find your own peace.

It will be that neighbour who will answer your call on distress in the night and help you put the pieces together when peace is brokered at the high table and bread is served with crumbs that will not get to you. If Kenyans had to choose between righteousness and peace at this time, I’m sure they would choose peace.

The writer is a curator at the Karen Blixen Museum


No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page