The tree of peace needs the rain
of ethnic harmony
Story by KOIGI WA WAMWERE
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
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
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’.