News 2008


Hardliners are the real enemies of Kenya


Written by David Mataen

February 13, 2008

I hear strains of a new melody beginning.

In the streets of Nairobi life seems to have bounced back to normal. It is a long shot to think of what or who is really absent now. Street urchins are back to their unending routines of snatching women’s handbags; lunchtime preachers criticising whoever they fancy for helping put them out of business for so many weeks, consigning them to apocalyptic damnation; endless drama laced with comico-tragic strips rules the streets again right from matatu touts to street jesters and rabble-rousers. In short, the city is kicking again.

Crossing to the safe side of Uhuru Highway, you are met with pleasant quiet. Uhuru Park is serene and luscious green, totally shorn of life; barring GSU men who I suspect have made a permanent outpost belatedly perceiving it a vantage point from which to keep vigil on the entire city. On the other side is a huge house, draped in white and shawled by canopies of green and floral beauty.

It is quiet too. That is, besides the increasingly predictable morning and evening rumbles of elegant German limousines and thirsty Japanese jeeps. I am told there are talks going on there. I here they are advanced.

It seems to me they are really serious, the talks. The other day, at the mere announcement that they were beginning, the cloud of despondency and personnel annihilation suddenly vanished like the morning mist.

Roads in the Great Rift Valley were cleared and smouldering fires doused, Kibera snapped into pin-drop silence, Kisumu swung into ethereal calm.

And yes, the chairman of these talks must be a powerful man. Who would have thought that the lip-quivering, fire-spitting, devil-may-care, damn-the-consequences warlords would ever shut up?

It’s been two weeks, and that is blessed eternity in these days of angst. Even the supreme potentates cannot any more publicly lay claims to victory. All he had to do was demand that incendiary statements cease.

To be fair to humanity’s inane penchant to defy, some defiance feebly echoed far a field over the past weekend. But, nothing untoward as long as it’s not dignified with a response.

Whatever they are discussing must be far reaching, even though whispers hardly go beyond the confines of the four walls of that hallowed room in the white house by the park.

The other day, they came out jovial and gay. They casually said that they were making good progress. As a consequence, the stock market has been impossible to catch; it is on a tear due north and possibly beyond.

I overheard some IPO’s may now be coming too. The shilling has refused to be shoved around anymore, standing its ground and occasionally punching back.

I hear they need to get on a little longer. There’s talk of a political settlement imminent, and long term constitutional and social overhaul. Presumably the state of affairs only gets better going forward. It gets harried though, sometimes.

The chairman of the talks took a stroll in town the other day. People greeted him with fawning eagerness and effusive waves.

He gives them a sense of hope. They say he is their one (did I hear only?) hope now to lasting peace. People really need to get on with their lives; they say they’re tired of longing.

But you know careless whispers do the round, from time to time. On occasion calm and placid, out of left field the genie gets out of bottle.

People are guardedly optimistic that the silver-haired chairman of the talks will come through for them, but guarded that the warlords’ silence could be tactical retreat and recharge for a final lethal comeback.

People pray each day, that Almighty God save Kenya from the hardliners, her only real enemies.