It is time for Kenyans to make difficult but necessary sacrifices

A woman with a sufuria on her head outside a Kilifi court during the height of Azimio la Umoja protests in 2023. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

To paraphrase the Good Book, the kingdom of political serenity suffers violence and the violent shall take it by force.

The new camaraderie between the leading protagonists of the 2022 elections is the best confirmation that there is nothing personal in politics; it is all about interests.

As such, we must hold ourselves to much higher ideals than power for power’s sake. We must deliberately place the people at the centre of our politics if we intend to have a country. Time has come to strenuously jettison politics that is oblivious to the human cost of the decisions that political actors make.

While the armistice is genuinely a welcome political development, we must in the same breath interrogate the cost at which it was achieved and see if there were any better alternatives. Pundits are yet to agree on which is more solemn: The right to demonstrate or only the right to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed. While the latter conjures the legitimate expectation that it will include all the ingredients of the former, most demonstrations witnessed after presidential elections since 2007 have been anything but peaceful.

As a result, every presidential election has become a time to manufacture new widows and orphans. Since mostly young men are mobilised to the streets, the resultant confrontations have always left peace-loving Kenyans and friends of Kenya on the edge of their seats. Looting of businesses in a fashion that borders on thuggery becomes the new normal which undermines the integrity of the forces that are demonstrating. This has always left the law enforcement agencies between the devil and the deep sea. Vandals take charge of streets and entire towns, and fatalities are usually high.

This must come to an end. The violent who shall inherit the kingdom of political serenity must midwife it in the here and now. When I speak of the violent, I don’t mean those who use physical force with intention to hurt, damage or kill. I mean those with mental clarity, the best intentions for this country and the political sophistication to skillfully navigate the political landmines and deploy the powers of the State as the finest tool of collective social progression.

As Parliament fast-tracks the legislative changes to anchor the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report, which was supposedly the sailor’s guide that brought us to these shores of political sobriety, let us not turn a blind eye to individuals who were maimed or killed in the course of political confrontations last year. We should compensate the victims, including those brutalised after the 2017 polls.

A formal apology and acknowledgement from the principals that vicious street battles after elections are an imprudent political tactic would go a long way in reawakening the conscience of the people and give a boost to peaceful settlement to any outstanding political impasse after elections. Genuine settlement is only found on the table of dialogue.

All these should help us forge a national community. For far too long, we have been trapped by our historical past. It’s a garb that we must now discard. We must commence nation building that is premised on authentic national identities that serve as locus of loyalty that trumps attachment to family, tribe, region or ethnic group. I believe, cleverer power politics can help us achieve this.

This great country has been held back unjustifiably by small politics. BBI and Nadco reports are much ado about nothing. The real answer to this country is in that infamous MoU of 2003. It’s in the Bomas constitutional draft. We all know this but have played Russian roulette with the lives of so many and for so long.

May this moment make our leaders and the citizens summon the courage to make difficult but necessary sacrifices so that we can build a better country, knowing, in the words of John F Kennedy, “God’s work on Earth must truly be our own’’.

-Mr. Kidi is the Convenor of Inter-parties’ Youth forum. [email protected]