Grandstanding won't allow us to gain mutual understanding

With the residues of the electoral disputes still hanging over our heads, Kenyans entered into the Christmas season with a high sense of fear and anxiety. The prospect of a major political confrontation on Jamhuri Day only made matters worse.

There is every indication that many left the capital city and other potential hot spots for safer territories. It was therefore a great sigh of relief when NASA called off their planned swearing in ceremony, in favour of national dialogue. To this end we want to appreciate the NASA leadership for making a sober judgement in spite of the immense pressure that was definitely piled upon them by their ardent supporters.

From some of the reactions and responses, both publicly and in social media, it is clear that there are those who felt and still feel very strongly that the ceremony should have proceeded, irrespective of the possible consequences.

But, like the late Prof George Saitoti once said, there comes a time when the interests of the nation far outweigh the interests of the individual. Such national interests can only be preserved when we each subordinate our own desires, and sacrifice our passions for the collective good. Nothing is gained, indeed much is lost, when we act purely on the impulse of the moment and in total disregard to current realities. Thus, the NASA team acted in prudence in giving constructive dialogue a chance.

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It is equally heartening that the President has publicly stated that he is willing to facilitate a national conversation on matters that would safeguard the national welfare. In his Jamhuri Day speech, the President called on all Kenyans to pursue peace and unity as the engine that will propel the country forward.

While elaborating on one of his “Big Four,” he emphasized that political stability and harmonious relations are a bedrock in boosting national industry. We cannot agree more. Whenever there has been the slightest breach of the peace, the national economy has suffered significantly. In conversations with those in the business sector, they all agreed that the electoral activities in last several months have had adverse effects on the economy.

It is therefore in the interest of all of us to not just preach peace but also robustly engage in setting up structures and systems that foster peaceful coexistence among the peoples of this nation. This offer by the President and the good gesture by the NASA team must be seized as a Kairos moment for resolving any outstanding issues and setting a strong foundation for a more prosperous Kenya.

Lack of trust

This notwithstanding, there are key actors from across the political divide that need to be brought up to speed with the positive mood that seems to be setting into the nation. Such people, and especially leaders from opposite sides, need to appreciate the necessity of a national conversation. It does appear that there are hardliners on either side who cannot countenance a mutually agreed path to national cohesion and unity.

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Such attitudes are, in most cases, born out of strong suspicions and an acute lack of trust. As happens within political environment, there is a lot of second-guessing what the other party may be up to. This does not bode well for a nation that has several times come to the brink of the precipice. Interestingly, however, such negative perceptions can only be addressed within the context of structured conversations – a fitting consideration during this Christmas season.

Christmas is all about God stooping down towards humankind to bring healing and salvation. The Apostle Paul puts it dramatically when he tells the Philippians that even though Jesus was very God of very God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, He made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Thus, the high and majestic God became Immanuel God with us. It is this kind of spirit and attitude that will ultimately serve to build our nation. The grandstanding and brinkmanship that we have sometimes observed among our leaders, is not of God and cannot lead us to the point of mutual understanding. To the contrary, the spirit of Christmas is of humility – a willingness to suffer wrong.

That is why we continue to plead with our leaders to reach out and build bridges across the political gorges. It is only in so doing that we can eventually realise the Kenyan dream.

-The writer is the Presiding Bishop at CITAM. [email protected]

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