The award-winning poet Eve Merriam died on the year my age-group was clearing university and specifically for me, the final class duel with Literature.
The feminist author known to have authored one of the most banned pieces, The Inner City Mother Goose, left us with among others, the timeless dream: “I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?”
Today in Kenya, the dream of every Kenyan adult should be like Merriam’s but with the clarification that in our case, it is the absence of political war. Yes, that you dream there will be a time when Kenya will have phased out our political wars, which are traditionally peppered by tribal alliancing or coalescing.
But dreams can be elusive and you cannot plan which one to have tonight, and even when they happen, they are only as sweet and surreal for the time it lasts, unless of course it is a nightmare you are having. Which brings me to the musical aspect of me, specifically the all-time great Les Miserable hit, I dreamt a dream.
For those who may have missed the lyrics of the song that hoisted the unknown 2009 Britain X-factor contender Susan Boyle to celebrity and legendary status, here are my best stanzas:
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
As they turn your dreams to shame
We are on the realm of dreams today for one good reason. As a country, we are coming out of a tense and violent season that many feared was the preclude to next year’s election. The certainty of this to me sprung from the operating table as doctors in Kisumu raced to remove a bullet from Jeremy Otieno only aged four in Kisumu. Elsewhere in the same town, at least 21 people were nursing bullet wounds. A photographer even captured a picture showing serried ranks of soldiers armed like they were told Al-Shabaab were on the prowl in Kisumu and next to them, was the body of a protestor mowed down by a police bullet.
Well, those of the view that they were looters and deserved death forget two things; first that demos are part of political expression even in the civilised world and often, result in looting and destruction. What needs attention is the source of the grievance and the deployment of police civility, not crudity.
Secondly, human life is just that, if you allow the police to devalue it, then it will be a common prescription for every problem the State faces, and no one will be safe. See, after the 2007-2008 Post-Election Violence where over 450 Kenyans were killed by police, the number of extra-judicial killings dropped.
The dream of a peaceful and one Kenya seemed to come alive again when after the lull and shuttling by foreign envoys and religious leaders (again in the election violence season) between President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto on the one hand, and Raila Odinga and his fellow Cord co-principals on the other, Mr Kenyatta announced a joint committee of MPs to spearhead reforms of the IEBC. That dream had nearly come to fruition a week earlier when Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto invited Mr Odinga and his team to State House but then what came out of the talks they had, later stunned everyone because two versions of truths emerged; Mr Kenyatta’s and Mr Ruto’s and Mr Odinga’s and Moses Wetangula’s.
Well, today I don’t want to spoil your dreams but take note of several issues. The first is that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have tactfully narrowed down the scope of the team to be formed exclusively to IEBC. Secondly, the views of Kenyans will be sought and so, it may just be like the George Saitoti-led Committee on multi-partysm in late 1990s that led to the repeal of the infamous Section 2A and ushered in multi-party politics. Thirdly, because Mr Ruto had let the cat out of the bag that Mr Odinga had picked Senator Johnstone Muthama, to mark him, Jubilee had sent in Moses Kuria.
On the other hand, Mr Odinga is probably caught up between the devil and the blue deep sea because whereas public opinion has it that this is the ‘dialogue’ he sought, on the other hand, the team has to work within the given framework and so it is not necessarily a process guided by Mr Kenyatta and him.
But let us just say that this is a bad dream and when we wake up, the two statesmen would not be playing a game of chess with us as the pawns, and that they will have opened up to each other and decided to work for Kenyans, not for themselves with us taking sides.