Saturday, January 05, 2008

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | At times like this, nations are forged - Binyavanga

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | At times like this, nations are forged:

What we are seeing is simple. The state as we know it has run out of steam. The winner-takes-all Westminster system we have cannot carry our aspirations. Even as blood is shed in Eldoret and Mombasa, Kenya's various ethnicities are now stranded in their own paranoia for lack of a viable national structure and process. We have known it for years. This is why a new constitution has been on the top of the list of political priorities for most Kenyans for 10 years and more.

We are 45 years old this year. Like many nations, this is our moment of truth. There is a way out of this - if both leaders act like statesmen, sit together and do what is necessary legally to have an interim power-sharing arrangement whose sole task is to create a structure that can carry us along into a new election, with a new or amended constitution that ensures that, whoever wins or loses, the whole country and all its minorities and interests are carried.

We are a strong economy in this continent. We have a well-trained army, and police force and civil service. We have some of the most competent technocrats in any developing country. We even have a lot of goodwill across ethnic and class lines, and if we act now, things will improve quickly. All the foreign correspondent stuff about "atavistic hatreds" and such is not true. For every place where there are things burning, there is a recent historical problem that has got to do with big political games, by big political leaders.

We all want peace, and all civil leaders should speak loudly to their own constituencies. Baying from across the bridge does not do much. Nations are forged through situations like this. Leaders are made. We have maybe been play-acting nationhood. Do we want a common state? Do we really want this? The time has come to decide.

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