Last year, Kenya had one of the most remarkably peaceful pre-election periods. With marked reduction in hate speech and the violence it causes.
The conversation steered clear of tribalism and focused on issues that mattered to Kenyans. We debated economics, economic models, social welfare and taxes.
Kenya, it seemed had turned a new leaf; a less violent and sober and issue-based leaf.
Fast forward a mere nine months later and the country is in the throes of cessation talk, maandamano, conflicts in Parliament, and worst of all tribal profiling of professionals, especially teachers being refused from being deployed in parts of the country for being, simply, the wrong tribe.
It is unbelievable how quickly we have descended into a state of non-violence but surely not at peace or at ease. Political party squabbles have not made things any better, putting erstwhile allies into such bitter rivalry that one wonders whether they ever knew each other.
The tribalism, bitterness and constant squabbles have made us all wonder whether we remember what our political party names even mean.
Kenya Kwanza means put Kenya first, thus the united consolidated Kenya is first.
The Azimio One Kenya Alliance in its own name speaks of one Kenya. As such one is left to wonder where talk of cessation comes from? Isn’t Kenya one and should we not put Kenya Kwanza?
The promises of elections cannot be ignored. Both sides promised us heaven: Instant reprieve from pressure and the ravage of Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict.
We all know, and understand well that Kenya (and the world) is facing unprecedented challenges that we all need to hold together to overcome.
But promises unkept have led us to broken hearts, lost and agitated souls, disappointed and angry.
We as a nation are therefore no longer at ease! The question we must ask ourselves is how then do we move forward and how do we resolve the issues that affect us all and bridge the gaps between us?
First we must hastily stop the issues of us versus them.
There is no region of Kenya that is for one tribe or one political party the same way that there is no price of unga for one and another for the other.
We are in this together, one people under God; facing same problems and carrying the same hopes for ourselves and our children.
We must recognise that we are more the same than we are different and if so then it is better to cohere than fight.
Kenya cannot approach the future with divided lenses and irreconcilable postures. We must, posthaste, learn to work together or we will all drown together.
Look carefully at the US, from whom we drew many of our democratic and constitutional norms. Recently, they faced an existential crisis: how to raise the debt ceiling in a bipartisan way.
Now make no mistake the bile and difference in opinion between the left and the right has never been more stark. The overturning of Roe versus Wade, the woke politics and the much touted trumpian right has divided America just as much as the issues of slavery did ages ago.
Despite everything, the USA rose, agreed to a bipartisan Bill that raised the debt ceiling while giving a little to the left and a little to the right: that is democracy.
Can Kenya do that? Yes we can, we have ears and mouths, two ears to hear and one mouth to talk.
So let us hear twice for every once we speak, then we will make progress. We need to expand the talks, make Kenya a talking nation, where different sides are constantly talking to each other.
So that we can find solutions for the real problems we all face, together as one.
My fellow Kenyans, Kenya is not a lost cause, not by a long shot. I believe in Kenya as many of you do, so let’s talk, let’s find middle ground: Let’s have One Kenya that puts Kenya Kwanza.
-The writer is Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC)