The Star (Nairobi)

25 January 2013

Kenya: Have We Learnt From 2007-08 Poll Violence?

opinion

Do we really require the threat of violence in order to appreciate peace?

Masashi Kishimoto, in his brilliant literary work, tells us of the villain, Nagato, who seeks to obtain a weapon of devastating destructive ability. His motivations for pursuing this very powerful weapon are however highly noble in that all he desires is the attainment of total peace. Nagato argues that people do not really appreciate peace until they experience the devastation that war brings about.

Thus, he plans to use the weapon on the people and as a result of the massive damage inflicted people will see the overwhelming despair of violence and will therefore choose the path of peace. However he also states that he realizes that people have short memories and that in a few short years, people will forget all about the devastation brought about by the previous conflict and will start hankering towards war once again.

Thus he regretfully acknowledges that he will be forced to use the weapon at regular intervals to impart on the people the importance of peace.

Looking at the events in the country, it is disturbing to consider the possibility that we may be the people that Masashi Kishimoto was describing.

After the devastation of the post-election violence we seemed to see and appreciate the value of peace. There were lots of initiatives to bring us together as our brother's keepers. There were trips by various groups of elders to visit each other and foster understanding between various communities. We said never again.

Fast forward to now. We still spew the same amount of bile towards each other as we did in 2007.

We still do the same tribal mathematics that in 2007 blinded us to the possibility of our favoured candidates even losing. The only difference is the disclaimers for peace we like to intersperse within our messages that are constructed out of pure venom.

A glance at our social networks shows that the people who theoretically should be educated, exposed to a more cosmopolitan environment and have a more enlightened world view espouse disgusting opinions.

The media carries one or two lines about keeping the peace, and then proceeds to fill the pages and airwaves with so-called political analysts implicitly telling us to back our tribal kingpins in order that our votes may count.

Do we really forget that fast? Do we need to be reminded at periodic intervals through the devastation brought about by violence, of the importance of peace?

We fail at democracy. Our elections always seem like mere tribal censuses. It's amazing just how easily we fracture into tribal groupings with a frighteningly perverse loathing for each other based on superficial stereotypes.

I am of the opinion that we have a wholly flawed group of politicians and therefore instead of elevating some to the levels of deities and demonizing others, we should just view them equally as a necessary evil.

Choosing one or the other should not be cause for the deep schisms between us, as it currently is. We should just view it as a civil right that we have to partake of every five years but which otherwise should not be cause for conflict.

If we get good leaders, well and good. If we get bad leaders, as usual, let's just get on with our lives and we'll try this again in five years.

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