3 March 2016

Kenya's Ballot Scars

In this week's press round up, we focus on a Kenyan who still bears the scars of the 2007/08 PEV - physical and otherwise - and why the impulse of distrust among PEV victims still persists in Kenya.

Last Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of the signing of the power-sharing agreement by PNU's Mwai Kibaki and ODM's Raila Odinga that created the grand coalition government in February 2008. Signed in the wake of the spams of violence that rocked Kenya, the "national accord" - as it became known - brought an end to a painful chapter in Kenya's history.

The anniversary of the signing of the accord prompted much soul-searching in the Kenyan press this week. Leading the "look at this unruly mess we made" introspection has been KTN, a local broadcaster that is part of the Standard Media Group. Starting on Monday, the station has aired 15 minute-long segments titled "Ballot Scars" during its prime time news bulletins focusing on differing aspects of the 2007/08 PEV.

Going by the swift judgment of the internet, Monday's "Ballot Scars" piece was the most poignant. It featured Bernard Ndege, a man who lost his two wives and nine young children when they were surrounded by a mob and burnt to death inside their family home during the PEV. Let that sink in: he lost eleven members of his family in one day. Bernard managed to escape the inferno, but to this day he bears the scars of his close call with death. He's still so badly disfigured that children in his village on the shores of Lake Victoria, where he now lives, run away when they see him.

Bernard lost 9 children and 2 wives at the height of the post election violence in 2008 @lindahoguttu #BallotScars pic.twitter.com/Ha9xd07BXP

-- ktn (@KTNKenya) February 29, 2016

After the story aired, there wasn't a dry eye in the Kenyan Twittersphere.

Bernard Ndege's story by #KTN's @LindaOguttu should be aired over & over again lest we forget 2008 #PEV. And make politicians watch it too

-- Richard Wanjohi™ (@RWanjohi) February 29, 2016

#ballotscars I have watched Bernard Ndege's on ktn and its really touching. He is a genuine IDP. He lost 11 kinsmen at ago at Naivasha

-- benard Indeke (@indexero) February 29, 2016

#BallotScars sad!!sad

No one ever mentions Bernard Ndege who lost all his family in Naivasha.

-- Robert Papsie (@Robertpapsie) February 29, 2016

There are plenty more heartfelt reactions where those came from. But you get the point. Ndege's story has touched a nerve with Kenyans because they see in his sad tale what happens when a nation allows its base instincts to take over. But you'd be mistaken for thinking that the outpouring of sympathy for Ndege was universal. In a country where PEV-victim-doubting and ICC-bashing has almost become a national sport, uncharitable reactions are to be expected.

Yes, there's a segment of the Kenyan population that is so conspiracy-minded that their first instinct is to disbelieve PEV victims and their ordeal. From this same soil of conspiracy and mistrust have sprung the loopy history revisions that see the ICC cases solely through the lens of neocolonialism. Such revisions are even getting play in Kenya's paper of record, The Daily Nation. That's how far we have fallen.

At this rate, there'll come a time when the prevailing national account will be that the PEV never even happened. That it was all a figment of our imagination. Like the children in his village, we will run away at the sight of Bernard Ndege. Only we won't have an excuse, other than stubborn and willful ignorance.


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