Moderate majority must defeat ethnic hawks
By KARIM ANJARWALLA
Kenya is being held captive by two groups of people. Those whose primary objective was to rig the presidential elections — call them the ethnic riggers — and those who inflame ethnic hatred and cause death, destruction and displacement — call them the ethnic warriors.
The ethnic riggers do not believe that the Kenyan people have a right to freely and fairly elect their own leaders. They believe that the Kenyan people are inherently too stupid to do so. Crucially, they also believe that their own interests may not be best served by the results of a free and fair election.
Ethnic riggers were to be found on both sides of the political divide. However, the ethnic riggers who favoured President Mwai Kibaki were obviously more successful and creative than the ethnic riggers who favoured Raila Odinga.
The ethnic warriors on the other hand believe that killing and maiming people and destroying Kenyans’ property because these Kenyans belong to the “other tribe” is a valid method of enhancing their negotiating position in the current political dispute.
The ethnic riggers and the ethnic warriors and their accomplices hold our futures to ransom. They use the language of war. They seek to exploit ethnic fault lines. In doing so, they seek to radicalise the moderate majority of Kenyans. Their vision of Kenya is blinded by gross ethnic prejudice. Kenya, to them, is nothing more than a conglomeration of tribes inherently opposed to each other.
The concept of being “Kenyan” is alien to them, because their sense of Kenya is linked to geographical boundaries and nothing more. So, ruling Kenya is a ticket for tribal domination. Indeed, for them a Kenya without the other “tribes” would be a much improved Kenya.
It is this malign vision of Kenya that threatens our stable and democratic existence and derails our economic advancement. Consider this lunacy. The ethnic riggers justify their action on a number of spurious grounds including that, had the party backed by the ethnic warriors won the presidential election, the ethnic riggers’ tribe would have been subjected to the death and destruction that has in fact been unleashed.
The ethnic warriors counter this by the argument that they knew the election was to be rigged so their campaign of terror was their only method of responding to premeditated electoral fraud.
So, one lunacy feeds another and before we know it, Kenya is drawn into a cycle of bloodshed. But let this much be clear — the violence visited by Kenyan upon Kenyan following the presidential election is but a mere foretaste of our propensity and capacity for unspeakable crimes against humanity.
If we do not reject the politics of the riggers and the warriors, if we do not embrace democracy — which, with all its faults, is surely the system of governance with the least faults — and if we do not deal with the long-standing and underlying ethnic tensions that divide Kenya, Kenyans will pay a high price.
BUT LET US RETURN TO THE IMMEDIATE cause of our current predicament. To suggest that the recent presidential elections were anything but deeply flawed would be akin to suggesting that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. There is now a virtual consensus amongst observers, international and local, and other disinterested parties that the elections were a travesty.
All circumstantial evidence also points to the fact that the will of the Kenyan people was not reflected in the result of the election. This is not necessarily to say that President Kibaki was in fact the loser and Raila Odinga the winner, although it may be that this was in fact the outcome. Who should have won is not, in fact, the point. The real issue is that far too many Kenyans do not consider the result credible.
We are told by those on the government benches that there is a method of dealing with electoral disputes. We are told that Raila Odinga should launch an election petition and hope that the judiciary delivers justice. Of course, this may be theoretically correct. However, this riposte is nothing more than a partisan and self-serving rejoinder to a serious national crisis that calls for much more than political jousts.
OUR COURTS DO NOT COMMAND OUR REspect, nor should they. Our courts are not the US Supreme Court, which, whether you agree with some of its rulings or not over the years, carries immense institutional credibility. Both before and after the first Kibaki administration’s “radical surgery,” our courts have been bedevilled by corruption, ineptitude and delay. Any result they deliver will lack legitimacy and it is legitimacy that any president must have if he is to be recognised as the duly elected president of Kenya.
It is inconceivable that a Kenyan court would unseat a sitting president. The record of the Kenyan courts in taking on the executive is notable only for its failings. So the government knows that in suggesting that the ODM resort to court, they are virtually guaranteeing a victory for President Kibaki with a threadbare cloak of judicial legitimacy. But how much further will such a judicial victory take us? Will an election petition assist the process of healing and reconciliation? Hardly. Yet if our politicians really do care about Kenya, this should be their focus.
So, while our politicians are quick to criticise interfering “foreigners” (especially the British), it is notable that they clone the “winner-take-all” Westminster type political system, entirely unsuitable for Kenya’s needs.
As our politicians posture and beat the drum, the country bleeds. As Kenyans waited expectantly for the arrival of President John Kufuor as a “mediator,” we were told that he was in fact flying all the way from Ghana for a “cup of tea.” Apart from being deeply insulting to President Kufuor who I am sure is perfectly happy with the tea he drinks in Ghana, it made Kenyans wonder whether the very real problems we face were in fact being taken seriously.
Consider also the statement that the leading African statesmen who visited Kenya — former president Joachim Chissano and Benjamin Mkapa and Kenneth Kaunda — had not been “invited,” suggesting of course that they were not really welcome at all.
This flippancy only exacerbates the problem, it sharpens ethnic fault lines, it radicalises the moderate majority on all sides of the argument. But of course, that is what the hawks, the ethnic riggers and the ethnic warriors want. They want us to give up on rational argument.
Kenyans must reject this and recapture the common ground. But what should the common ground be?
(i) That the presidential election results were deeply flawed;
(ii) That too many Kenyans feel disenfranchised as a consequence;
(iii) That Kenya is afflicted by deepseated ethnic tensions linked principally to poverty and a sense of marginalisation, which must be dealt with;
(iv) That the post-election feelings of disenfranchisement can only worsen the ethnic tensions;
(v) That the post-election violence is abhorrent and must be stopped;
(vi) That the ethnic warriors and the ethnic riggers must be brought to justice;
(vii) That every step must be taken to return those displaced to their homes, to help them rebuild their lives and compensate them for their loss of property;
(viii) That a government be constituted that is broad based and inclusive;
(ix) That steps be taken to restore legitimacy to the position of the president in the eyes of the majority of Kenyans, whether through new elections after an agreed period of time or through a new and different constitutional dispensation. In any event, if a new election is to be called, President Kibaki, if he so wishes, should be allowed to run again and the constitution be amended on a one-off basis to permit this.
SEEKING AN END TO THE CURRENT VIOlence, while laudable and necessary, is not an end in itself. An absence of war is not equivalent to the establishment of peace. For Kenya to be at peace with itself, justice and inclusiveness must be the cornerstones of our national regeneration. But are our politicians capable of sensible dialogue on matters of such grave importance? Their performance to date, their apparent lust for power, their resort to ethnicity, would suggest that they are not.
Sadly, it appears that our political ranks are not populated by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Ahmed Kathrada and the other great South African freedom fighters, who were capable of rising above themselves, who recognised a defining moment and who discarded recrimination, ethnicity and racial prejudice. Had they not done so, how different the future of South Africa would have been.
Look at how different the Kenya of January, 2008 is from the Kenya of December, 2007. So, how then do we move the debate to the common ground and fashion a government that represents the moderate majority?
FIRSTLY, ALL KENYANS, IRRESPECTIVE of who they voted for, should embrace the common ground and reject ethnic stereotypes. In our clubs, our churches, our mosques, our temples, we must firmly but peacefully organise ourselves to demand the recognition of the common ground. We must insist that the sabre-rattling and posturing and partisan politicking stop. In short, we must ensure that the moderate majority is heard.
Second, we must embrace and invite leaders, particularly African leaders, of international standing who are ready and willing to help us, to do so and insist that our leaders also welcome them and allow them to assist in the delicate political negotiations that must take place.
We must be less arrogant, not shy to ask for help, to learn from the experience of others and to seek counsel. It does not diminish us as a people, insult our intelligence or belittle our institutions. Most importantly and this will be most difficult of all, we must begin to create the nation state called Kenya from the tribal conglomeration that currently goes by that name. This will be no easy task and will take many years, since we will need to confront many of our own demons and ditch many of our “hard-wired” prejudices, but in this will be our salvation as a nation and our development as a people.
Next entry: Kibaki, an Imposition of the West, Says Rawlings