Tuesday, January 30, entered history as one of Kenya’s political watershed moments. Events of the day will be studied for years long after we are all gone. The aftermath will inevitably shape Kenya’s future in many ways than we can imagine today. The day was an eye-opener on why we need a candid conversation as a country and an urgent need to nurture our nascent democracy. Time for fence-sitting or burying our heads in the sand is over.
At the crack of dawn, you could almost feel the anxiety, the expectation and the tension. The atmosphere was heavily pregnant across the country. Kenyans from all walks of life were apprehensive of what National Supper Alliance (NASA) oath-taking at Uhuru Park in Nairobi would bring forth. The previous day, police had vowed that no ceremony would take place at the historic grounds.
A gigantic confrontation was in the offing besides numerous questions of what would follow the coronation of NASA leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. Who would administer the oath? Where would be the seat of power? What form would be the instruments of power? What would be the impact? Would there be bloodshed? How would the Jubilee government respond? How would business be affected? Would the international community ostracize Opposition leaders for engaging in an illegality? The clouds of uncertainty hang over the nation like at no other time in our history.
As the sea of humanity swelled at Uhuru Park, I saw thousands of young men and women seeking some closure of sorts. They wanted an end to a prolonged process that had promised so much, but delivered very little. The 2017 elections were not only protracted but also hurt many people in different ways. Jubilee supporters thought their victory was derailed by the Supreme Court verdict, while NASA followers felt they were denied the ultimate prize by a partisan referee.
Therefore, not even the threat of police high-handedness, teargas and violence would deter thousands of NASA foot soldiers from Raila’s oath-taking. They wanted their leader crowned come rain or shine. Still, I could sense a people seeking new inspiration and hope for a better future. They wanted their mojo back in the breaking job of building the nation. Majority of those who talked to the media said they want job opportunities, access to affordable healthcare, improved education and a sense of pride as Kenyans.
This message must be delivered to our leaders. If we do not do what we are required collectively, Kenya is sitting on a ticking time bomb. It could explode anytime and the triggers are many, including that Tuesday oath. Both Jubilee and NASA leaders must deliberately seek answers to the pent up fury among millions of jobless youths and their readiness to put their lives at grave risk while agitating for their rights. Why are so many youths feeling so hopeless? How can we inspire them?
If I were President Kenyatta, I would include Hope to his Big Four Agenda and come up with the Big Five. Besides manufacturing, affordable housing, universal healthcare and food security, a social twist in the form of instilling hope among the youth, could help cool down negative energy. There is a lot of good happening in our country, but a narrative of hope has been stifled by quarrelsome politicians. How do we get out of this hole and inspire a whole generation?
Lastly, while the shutdown of three main television stations successfully dented live coverage of the NASA event, the prolonged switch-off is an affront to media freedom. The Fourth Estate, I would like to believe, is an honest chronicler of events as they unfold. It is not a co-conspirator or a discipline master to determine what is right or wrong. The media helps us speak with ourselves because if we do not, the alternative will be worse. We will be courting anarchy if we don’t talk.
- The writer is Revise Editor at The Standard, Weekend Editions. [email protected]