By Edward Indakwa
Last week, National Cohesion and Integration Commission Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia announced the appointment of distinguished Kenyans as peace ambassadors ahead of the General Election.
It was an admirable list. They don’t come any better than musician Eric Wainaina, Industrialist Manu Chandaria, legendary athletic champion Paul Tergat and religious leaders Canon Peter Karanja, Bishop Cornelius Korir and Sheikh Abdi Mohammed.
There was even iron man turned peace crusader Gen (rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo and media personality Julie Gichuru among others.
And yet I fear this team will be ineffective, and not for lack of passion. They are the right people for the wrong job. To understand this, you have to be a teacher.
Let me explain. Prior to the 2007 General Election, peace crusaders spent days extolling Kenyans to be peaceful. When violence erupted, religious leaders, the media and musicians led by my old schoolmate Pete Odera sung themselves hoarse, pleading for peace.
Unfortunately, they were preaching to the converted. The people instigating and unleashing violence were not listening to their pleas on radio, television and in places of worship.
They were hissing and snarling at press conferences, blocking highways, raping women, burning houses and slitting people’s throats.
I like Bishop Korir but I’m not sure I want him facing off a crazed mob hell bent on disemboweling a pregnant woman because she hails from the wrong tribe. That is a job I would entrust to a man with a firm jaw and a piece of polished metal tucked in his belt – a man in the mould of retired Army General Ibrahim Hussein Ali or Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police Jonathan Kipkurui Koskei.
Remember when Superintendent Joseph Nthenge of the GSU was negotiating with violent protesters in Nairobi, it is no coincidence that he had an automatic weapon slung on his shoulder.
As the sages said, amani haipatikati ila kwa ncha ya upanga – it takes a pointed sword to enforce peace.
The other people I would entrust with campaigning for peace are reformed criminals – sort of sending a thief to catch a thief, a poacher to catch another.
It’s a trick teachers employ all the time – appointing the perpetual latecomer a timekeeper, muting the noisemaker by making him class prefect and disarming the class bully by making him protector-in-chief.
If Dr Kibunjia, therefore, wants peace ambassadors who will do the job perfectly, he should recruit warmongers – who killed innocent people in 2008.
Because people who burn houses and slash cows only listen to their own, only the masters of the dogs of war can stand their charges down, not teary and prayerful peace ambassadors waving white handkerchiefs.