For the sake of Kiambaa victims, implement Agenda Four
Last week, the High Court in Nakuru acquitted the ‘Kiambaa Four’, the men accused of torching the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, near Eldoret. Next Thursday, May 14, the 14 unburied, unidentified victims of this monumental tragedy will be buried in a mass grave at the site of what used to be the KAG church. An inter-denominational prayer service will be held at the site on Tuesday, May 12.
The acquittals and planned burial bring one issue to the fore: Justice continues to be elusive for victims of post-election violence and their relatives. While the acquitted suspects savour their hard-fought freedom, the Kiambaa victims and their kin continue to wallow in desperation. For them justice appears so distant, all they can see at the end of light is a tunnel.
The Kiambaa burial offers an opportunity for solemn reflection. Please commit your prayers to Hannah Njau, a physically challenged woman who perished in the fire alongside her wheelchair. Think of her two orphans who are pursuing degree courses at the University of Nairobi. Think of the children who died before they could pronounce the word "vote". Think of the men and women who died inside the church trying to save the women, children and elderly.
Next week’s event is not just about the burial of 14 martyrs. It is also a virtual burial of the 1,300 victims of the violence, many of whom were buried in a hurry, devoid of the dignity required by African traditions. It will also be a symbolic burial of our collective sins and iniquities, a chance for us to repent and re-discover ourselves as a nation and a people.
But perhaps the more scaring aspect is the realisation that Kiambaa can happen again. All the factors that contributed to this heinous crime are still as true today as they were on that fateful first day of 2008.
A cumulative culture of impunity, buoyed by an extreme lack of punitive consequences after the so-called ‘tribal clashes’ in the past elections will rear it’s ugly head one day. That day, unfortunately, will not be too distant in the future. That is why we all have to exert maximum pressure on the political class to stop waffling and pussy-footing over the implementation of Agenda Four.
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More precisely, unless the Waki Report’s recommendations are implemented, there is no guarantee that we can sustain the democracy project.
For the sake of the 14 men, women and children who will be buried in Kiambaa next week, we must demonstrate unequivocally that impunity is not tolerable in a country that pretends to wear the tag "civilised". The clear signal must be sent that no matter what the justification, murder is murder and crime is crime.
Unfortunately for us, a strange disease made the fabled long arms of the law to shrink. Agenda Four will stretch the terribly short arms of the law. The wheels of justice are stuck because they were deflated by decades of executive defilement. We need to pump up pressure in the wheels of justice: The device to use is Agenda Four.
As we head towards 2012, we must think seriously about the multi-partyism and democracy project. If anyone was planning on dilly-dallying, they need to attend the burials in Kiambaa next Tuesday. We wait with bated breath to see how Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo will steer the reform ship. But we must be ready to engage a plan ‘B’. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. As we have given the political class the freedom to carry out reforms on our behalf, we have to remain vigilant. Our plan ‘B’ may be costly, but depending on plan ‘A’ alone is even more costly.
If reforms fail, we must be ready to suspend multi-party democracy for at least ten years. If the price we have to pay to avoid another Kiambaa is banning political parties and adopting a Museveni-type movement, so be it.
After all, what we have today is still a movement. What we call parties are merely instruments of apportioning economic largesse among the elite.That elite can buy more time to enjoy their largesse. Or they can fast-track reforms and ensure, at the very least, blood shall not be spilt again.
The writer is the Secretary General at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
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