Crying for Kenya



I have met a number of Kenyans and two have been close friends. One of them, Mbithi, was a fellow colleague and student at my University in Canada back in the early 1990’s. He is an incredibly hardworking and focussed individual. He was there for a couple years alone but with single minded determination, he studied, worked and saved enough to bring his wife and daughter over for the last part of his studies. He is currently a lecturer and a medical researcher at a University in Kenya.

I met Edwin while taking part in a study tour and although we were only together for three weeks, we grew quite close. He is a cheerful, thoughtful and altogether pleasant individual. At that time, he was working on reducing corruption within the Kenyan government that was resulting in medical supplies intended for rural hospitals from being hijacked and stolen before reaching their intended destinations and helping the people in need. More recently, he has joined the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

In both these cases, I was struck by the quiet determination of these men to make Kenya a better country and a better place for their people…..for all Kenyans. I grieve with them over the recent civil unrest, violence and murder that has been occurring across Kenya after the last elections. I have not heard from either and can only hope and pray that they and their loved ones are safe and well.

Below are excerpts from an interview with renowned Kenyan novelist and playwright, Ngugi wa Thiong’o with the BBC.

“The picture of men and women burnt down in a church where they had gone for refuge still haunts my mind. A child running away from the fire was caught and hurled back into the flames.

One of the few survivors was quoted as saying: “But they knew me; we were neighbours. I thought Peter was a friend – a good neighbour. How could Peter do this to me?”

I had heard the same puzzled cry from Bosnia. I had heard the same cry from Iraq. I had heard the same, same words from Rwanda: “We were neighbours; we’d married into each other. How could this happen?”

And now I hear the same cry from Eldoret North in my beloved Kenya. For me this burning of men, women and children in a church is a defining single instant of the current political impasse in Kenya.

And this must be separated from accusations and counter-accusations of rigged elections by the contending parties.

Rigged elections is one thing – it can be righted by any mutually agreed political measures – but ethnic cleansing is another matter altogether.

What is disturbing is that this instant seems to have been part of a co-ordinated programme with similar acts occurring in several other places at about the same time against ordinary members of the same community.

Ordinary people do not wake up one morning and suddenly decide to kill their neighbours.

Ethnic cleansing is often instigated by the political elite of one community against another community. It is premeditated – often an order from political warlords.

Or it may be the outcome of an elitist ideology of demonising and isolating another community.

Either way the aim is to drive members of the targeted community from the region.

Frantz Fanon, the intellectual visionary of the Third World, had long ago warned us of the dangers of the ideology of regionalism preached by an elite whose money can buy them safe residence in any part of a country.

A single instance of premeditated ethnic cleansing can lead to an unstoppable cycle of vendettas – a poor-on-poor violence – while those who tele-guided them to war through the ideology of hate and demonisation are clinking glasses in middle-class peace at cocktail parties with the elite or the supposed enemy community.

This crime should be investigated by the United Nations.

If it is found that a political organisation has run a campaign on a programme that consciously seeks to isolate another community as a community, then they ought to be held fully accountable for the consequences of their ideology and actions.

It is often easier to blame a government when it is involved in massacres. This is as it should be.

A government must always be held to higher standards, for its very legitimacy lies in its capacity to ensure peace and security for all communities.

But what about if such a massacre is inspired by a programme of an opposition movement?

This ought to receive equally severe condemnation from all and sundry, for being in opposition does not give an organisation the right to run on an ideology of isolation and hate targeted at another community.”

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