Tuesday, January 01, 2008

This is Our Country

Kenyan opinion, analysis and debate - Walking into the New Year

The world's eyes are on Kenya as we usher in the New Year, perched on the edge of an abyss beyond which we could plunge into darkness and death.

With the riots and mayhem of the last few days there is for all of us a sense of loss and little to celebrate considering the cloud of fear hanging over the country. Many of our brothers and sisters are in mourning for those lives we have lost. Our disagreements are threatening to erode many of the important strides we have made.

The campaign period and Election Day were outstanding examples of true democracy in action, but there is no denying that events in the post-election period have accentuated some differences between us, and that many of us are deeply disappointed at the outcome of the process. We do not write here to deny this reality, or to pretend that there are not urgent issues that need resolution. We find however that in spite of the differences, there is a common history and core values that unite us as Kenyans, values which must bring us together to preserve our country in this time of its most urgent need.

We are today light years removed from Kenya's triumphant extraction from foreign rule, a period in which our lives were controlled by foreign powers, from the hospitals we were born in, to the reserves we were packed into, the schools we were allowed to attend and the jobs we were restricted to. A few years before that birth, we had already taken ownership of our new nation. When in 1960 Tom Mboya stood before a crowd of 20,000 at City Stadium and asked our parents and grandparents "Whose Kenya is it?" they all answered in unison "Ours!"

It was indeed theirs then, and we now have possession of it. Yet we too are but custodians of this country for our progeny. It is a fragile asset that must be tended with the utmost care. Tom Mboya and Bildad Kaggia delivered to us one nation, with our ethnicities as secondary identities. They did not let their tribal affiliations stand in the way of their politics, and we must now ask ourselves what we can do to nurture this young nation, to bring its people together, and ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to leave a better Kenya for our children and their children.

As are most modern countries, our Kenya is a big tent, made up of a myriad of ethnicities, religions and political persuasions. In order that we may succeed as a family we must accept that there will be times when views other than our own will prevail, and that even in our triumph we are charged with ensuring that the rights of minorities and the weak are upheld across the country. No matter how difficult things appear now, we must seek assurance from our history that we can find a negotiated solution. Conciliation has been extracted from much more intractable situations but this asks of us hope, patience, a commitment to dialogue and a willingness to trust each other and work together to a common prosperity.

There rests with each one of us in these times, in the midst of the confusion and fear, a responsibility to think three steps ahead of our every action. We must consider the effect of every text message we send, every rumour we help spread, every confrontation we get into and every perception we help to create. We have as Kenyans, been blessed with a calm and prosperity that has been the envy of many of our neighbours. Even through our worst moments, we have proved resilient and ultimately come out triumphant, and along with us our unity, our diversity and our country. This has been a year of prejudice, and of loss, but it may also be the year that Kenya makes good on the promise of its constitution to serve and protect. It could, if we made it so, the beginning of a promising journey of. After all, who are we without each other?

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I say, Amen.

From kenyaimagine.com

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