News 2008


The tree of peace needs the rain of ethnic harmony

Daily Nation


10. Mai 2008

IF THERE’S ONE LESSON I LEARNT during my days in detention, it was that when hopes fail, it is safer to err on the side of caution than euphoric optimism. Then when wishes don’t happen, I don’t suffer heart failure.

Today, lots of people are celebrating peace and I, like them, want peace but I want to be cautious. Peace is not born a full-grown tree with ripe fruits for us to eat right away. Peace is a seed we plant, water and nurture until it is fully grown.

When independence came on December 12, 1963, I, like many millions, was euphoric, thinking its fruits would be ripe and ready for me to eat the following morning. It was not to be and to this day, many still wait for the fruits of independence.

This notwithstanding, the elite, having agreed on a formula to share power and barring only our failure to jump some unavoidable hurdles ahead, we have already started on the road to peace.

OURS HAVING BEEN A STRUGGLE for power and resources by, of, and for the ethnic elite who have now agreed on how to share power, peace should follow.

Second, when our communities fought over election results, it was to ensure their sons and daughters had a place in Government which they now have. They may now live peacefully with others. However, Mr Raila Odinga has hinted that some of his followers have criticised him for compromising too much, as others have criticised President Kibaki.

Certainly among the Kikuyu, many are ill at ease. They claim, the grand coalition cast their electoral victory into doubt. President Kibaki gave away too much of “their” presidency. They feel less protected than others. They don’t feel their internally displaced persons will be resettled when the first lot has yet to be settled, and some elite are still preaching majimbo.

They feel unsafe with Mr Odinga who they see as a Trojan Horse that will easily overwhelm Kibaki in the grand coalition. For peace to prevail, these misconceptions and more must be sorted out.

Mr Odinga and President Kibaki must reassure those who fear and even hate them that they will govern for the good of all. When people fear, leaders should reassure, not dismiss them.

The continuing scramble for powerful positions in the grand coalition by ethnic elite will easily destabilise peace. All ethnic violence should cease immediately. All ethnic militias should be disarmed and disbanded. All communities should be reconciled to co-exist as Kenyans.

All internally displaced persons should be escorted back to their homes, lands and jobs. All calls for majimbo must cease to allow the resettlement of internally displaced persons.

All perpetrators of ethnic violence should be prosecuted, as impunity will permit ethnic violence to erupt again.

The whole truth about elections should be unearthed and never forgotten, for the country to learn from. Kenyans must know which leader has shared power fraudulently.

Kenyans must remember that this is not the first time we have had a grand coalition. Narc was one and it failed, not just because the Memorandum of Understanding was not enshrined in law, but also because ethnic fears, suspicions and arrogance undermined everything.

For the new coalition to work, while its entrenchment in the law is right, the country should ensure it is not subverted by ethnic politics, ideology and suspicions. For the coalition to hold, Kenyans will need to deal ruthlessly with ethnic hate speeches and other forms of negative ethnicity.

WITHOUT DOUBT, THE TREE OF peace needs the rain of ethnic harmony and democracy to grow. The asphyxiating drought of negative ethnicity can only nip it in the bud.

For our badly-damaged forest of democracy to yield rain, however, we shall need to replant in it mustard and mugumo seedlings whose cover will allow people to put aside ethnic suspicions.

We shall have to accept leaders from other communities; in the absence of official opposition, offer opposition from outside Parliament; outlaw ethnic discrimination; accept defeat in elections; punish those who kill neighbours that vote differently; and detribalise the presidency, premiership and ministries by ensuring they serve all equally, and create democratic institutions whose only purpose will be to enhance liberty, equality and brotherhood of all Kenyans.


Mr Wamwere, former Subukia MP, is the author of ‘Negative Ethnicity: from bias to genocide’.