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Toast to a merry Christmas and hope for a better future

By The Standard | December 25th 2017 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

A series of road accidents that claimed more than 140 lives at the beginning of this month dampened the Christmas mood that had started building up among Kenyans, who had grown weary of intense political campaigns and machinations.

Between August 8, when Kenyans went to the polls in the normal five-year cycle to elect their leaders, and November 28, when President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in, there was palpable gloom across the country as the tension occasioned by acrimonious campaigns threatened the very foundations on which our nationhood stands.

For the first time in our country’s history, a presidential election was nullified by the Supreme Court following a petition by the Opposition. That decision split the country down the middle, particularly because it was unprecedented.

Admittedly, not even the Opposition, which had filed the case, contemplated such a scenario. It was a decision that tested our democracy, institutions, and leaders’ fidelity to the rule of law and the Constitution.

Despite his initial reaction, which was to vilify the Supreme Court, history will judge President Kenyatta fairly for having risen to the occasion notwithstanding the difficult situation he found himself in.

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Peace was, however, shattered when a section of Kenyans took to the streets in demonstrations that largely turned chaotic and tragic. In the ensuing engagements between the police and demonstrators, innocent bystanders, including children, were killed by the police while others fell victim to civilian confrontations.

Were it not for political grandstanding between Jubilee and the National Super Alliance, if our leaders had come off their high horses and given dialogue a chance, perhaps the dead would be with us today. Sadly, they are not and their kin are heartbroken, making this Christmas like no other for them.

What the political posturing gave birth to, such as calls for secession and the threat by the Opposition to swear in Raila Odinga as the peoples’ president, does not augur well for the country.

And even as the Government threatens Raila with a treason charge should he make good his threat, it must acknowledge that there are underlying problems that cannot just be wished away.

The problems gnawing at the nation's fabric need urgent solutions that entail talking to one another in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Should there be any conflagration, neither Jubilee nor NASA will emerge the victor. It would be an understatement to say 2017 was a bad year; it was a really bad year.

High octane politicking that bordered on negativity and government policy (interest rate capping) precipitated an economic contraction that triggered massive job losses.

And whereas inflation was kept low, thanks to sufficient rains, economic growth projections have had to be revised downwards to below 5 per cent.

This year too, industrial disputes paralysed work in the public service.

In the early part of the year, doctors went on strike for more than 100 days. Later, nurses staged a strike that lasted almost six months.

The spirit of Christmas is that of peace, hope, and love. We remain hopeful of a better future, that the economy will grow, that the politicians will behave responsibly, that our family and friends will not let us down.

For those who profess Christianity (and there are many of them in the country) Jesus Christ exhorts us to forgive and forget and, ideally, turn the other cheek. So, despite everyday disappointments caused by leaders, politicians, spouses, parents, siblings, and friends, Christian teachings encourage us to be courageous and to let bygones be bygones.

Christmas sets in motion celebrations to usher in a new year with the hope that there will be new and better things.

That is what makes Christmas what it is. The Christmas cheer can be summarised thus: Be merciful. Be peaceful. Love one another as Christ loved us all.

Have a merry Christmas.

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