By Editorial team
Words attributed to German pastor Martin Niemöller during the rise of the Nazis ring a familiar tune today.
Hear him: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
When some Kenyan voters felt aggrieved that the governance structures were tilted in favour of a select minority, communication was distorted and neighbour turned on neighbour. We called it “Post-Election Violence.” It took sustained diplomacy from the world community to silence the drums of war.
The now oft-quoted classic example of Rwanda started in much the same way and left over a million dead. “Genocide” it was termed.
The Nazis rattled the rhetoric against any and all businesses they did not own and left six million dead in their wake. “Holocaust” we named it. Nearer home, South Africans protested against the invasion of their ‘rightful’ jobs and businesses and whacked Zimbabwean, Mozambican and Somali immigrants. It was Christened “xenophobia”.
The lethal mix of political interference, mismanagement of resources, skewed development, capacity constraints and diminishing resources has seen communities turn on each other with deadly consequences, the world over. With hindsight, Kenyans have completely overhauled their Constitution to guarantee certain freedoms, criminalise hate speech and free resources to the grassroots.
Rwanda used special courts called Gacaca; South Africa deployed a truth and reconciliation formula, while the victors dragged Germany through the Nuremberg Trials.
Though examples abound through various times in our history, it is shocking when leaflets surface threatening the lives of Chinese traders in Nairobi and other leaflets are peppered over some coastal counties demanding expulsion of “non-natives”. Hate speech thrives and we practice politics of exclusion.
Who will speak out against the zoning ‘accepted’ in the single-party state system? Who will challenge ethnic chauvinists that ruled our neighbourhoods in 2008? Who?