News 2008


Honouring Kenya through sacrifices

Business Daily

Written by Ochieng' Oreyo

February 13, 2008: You have heard that how one deals with a difficult situation could either break them or hoist them to the hall of fame. The same goes for communication.

The best way to do it is to listen more than talk. Sadly, man and woman, most times, do the reverse “to prove a point,” indeed “to tell them a piece of my mind.”

We have on our soil a great man, the citizen of the world, Dr Kofi Annan, who until recently, was the United Nations Secretary- General. Mr Annan is here, in the company of other world notables, to help Kenya find her feet again after she slipped immediately after the December elections.

You would want to believe that Mr Annan is talking well, especially in his role as the chief mediator in a duel pitting the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement , the latter saying its presidential victory was snatched.

After he landed in Nairobi and toured trouble spots, Mr Annan asked both sides to be ready to make “hard choices.” This line of thought is chained together with its twin wisdom of “making sacrifices” and the hard-to-understand, but mercurial gem of “seeing the big picture.”

There could be other better ways of healing Kenya, but the foregoing are worth a try. Inspirational writer, Dr Vincent Norman Peale, puts it thus: “Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.”

I am asking President Mwai Kibaki and ODM’s Raila Odinga and their lieutenants, particularly those present on the mediation and dialogue podium, whether they are ready - for the sake of Kenya - to make “masterly retreat” and seeing the whole world shout “Hip hip Hurray!”

The two teams so far are on the road to achieving victory by accepting to join the mediation talks, fully aware that “our team is right.” A pat on the back to the PNU and ODM teams. After accepting to join the useful talks, they should not remain on the ivory tower by clinging to “we won fairly” and “our victory was stolen” arguments.

Why? Because these are the matters of dispute and by sacrificing to join the talks, they were on a journey to make even harder choices of explaining to their parties why they may have to give a chip - only a chip - off their shares.

As aptly as they have been identified, the teams are in dialogue, which process, some wise people have said, should not be feared and should not be done in fear. One of the worst fears is that after the talks, one team may feel “beaten” by deciding to give and take.

As Dr Peale said, retreating masterly is itself a victory, and unbeknown to many, such a win is for Kenya, not PNU, not ODM. As it is, when Kenya wins, these political parties and their supporters win big.

Perhaps with the unexpected visitation of chaos, unrest, turmoil - name it - an honest negotiation would help the country graduate from the winner-takes-it-all situation to sharing victory as Kenyans. Away from the leaders helping with negotiation, the voter needs to take, as Christendom says, the step of faith, of hope, of positive thinking.

It happens, but it is not desirable, that as the negotiation talks go on, someone could be so pessimistic and waiting for Mr Annan and team to announce their “We failed” message to go back to start fighting again.

God forbid. This is the time to encourage the negotiators and rally behind them, telling them they would not be allowed to come out until the fair position is arrived at. I am saying the quitting spirit should not be a possible result; that is why it is ‘statesmanly’ to hear some leaders affirm the talks would not fail. Just as the world looked at Kenya as the beacon of hope, the results of the talks should provide a template to guide dialogue on future political disputes elsewhere, or better, this be the last such duel in Africa.

Making sacrifices would dismantle the myth that political differences (in Africa) are an aerie scene, they would take ages to resolve and heal from. This is the time to disappoint people waiting for war after the talks and instead prove to the world that Kenyans are thoughtful and listen to voices of reason.