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Is Kenya a bleeding nation?

By Zachariah Chiliswa | December 17th 2013

By Zachariah Chiliswa

Kenya: The Kenyan people, it might appear, have turned on those freely expressing their thoughts by being critical of public processes. The public discourse seems contained in a language of bitterness designed to muzzle and suppress open society.

Those who seek to emasculate, oppress and intimidate seem determined to cut short the grand march to a strong sense of nationhood.  We are a nation divided, refusing to march together into the future. But, why?

Perhaps the answers lie in the heavy burden of an atrocious past, which successive political leaderships have not been keen to acknowledge and help the Kenyan nation to conquer.

The Kenyan future seems locked up in the past, despite gains made in some sectors of society. This past is imprisoned in the botched process of governance, which occassioned the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). 

As a nation, we are not ready to come to terms with the contents of the TJRC report as all efforts are being made to make it disappear.

The public anger and growing intolerance towards those who disagree with our political positions, and the complicity of the political class, is causing cracks to form in our nationhood,  some of which have already started to show.    

The optimism that once characterised the Kenyan nation appears to have been trampled on.  We cannot create a shared future, dignified citizenry, a nation that values integrity and social justice if those in leadership stoke intolerance and ethnic bigotry.

Some African leaders seem determined to trap their nations in warped, anti-colonial rhetoric, never mind their own brutal predatory and looting political culture.

Building a stable nation requires that those in power walk firmly in the path of justice of social institutions, forthrightness, peace and goodwill. It is a national catastrophe when State institutions are being used to protect the powerful and privileged in society.

Community egoism

The public anger and belligerence of the political leadership seems to be setting the Kenyan nation up for social decline. We seem to be happy to fry the Kenyan nation in individual and community egoism.

The egoism of ‘otherness’ as Canadian author, Bernard Lonergan observes, skews the process to produce advantages for one social group or class to the disadvantage of the others.

When sections of the citizenry perceive themselves excluded from national processes, we run the risk of being a nation of self-glory, that inevitably provides a marketplace for opinions and doctrines that justify our public decisions regardless of their segregating effects, at the same time finding logic to explain the misfortunes of those deprived by the skewed social structure.

Successive political leaders in Kenya have not been brave enough to handle the effects of the cruelty of previous regimes. The determination by the current political class to silence the TJRC process turns a blind eye to the value of human dignity and is disrespectful to those who have been brutalised by past regimes.

They have had no interest in giving Kenyans the time and space to collectively tell their story of dehumanisation, imprisonment, torture and dispossession. It is a story that will easily be buried by our insatiable greed for power and wealth.

It might seem that we are cowardly as a nation. We lack the courage to face the monstrous past. So we either choose to be co-opted into oppressive systems or to be indifferent to the plight of those who have been stripped of their dignity.

Why do we choose to be chained to the perpetrators and their long-held policies of dispossession and oppression? Why does the politcal class have such a hold on the collective destiny of this great nation?

Even as we celebrated our 50th   anniversary, many of us conveniently paid no attention to the story of our past. To the men and women who still grieve for loved ones who were never allowed to see the future we rejoice in today.

Instead, we want to resist the probing voices that seek to draw us from the abyss of our national amnesia. We conveniently avoid the clamour for justice and the memories of the cold journey past regimes took the nation through. And yet, how else will we understand why and how they did it?  Instead, we welcome State-sanctioned terror and the suppression of free expression and integration. 

Kenya at 50 appears to be in support of insidious silence and conspiracy against those outspoken and critical of our public processes!

The writer is is Programmes Co-ordinator at the Jesuit Hakimani Centre.

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