I am Esther Obachi, a librarian working at the College of Architecture, University of Nairobi library. I have a 1st degree in Library and Information Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Gender and Devepment Studies. I am the current National Secretary of the Kenya Association of Library and Information Professionals (KLA).
I maintain the Housing and human habitat page of this site.
Praying for peace in Kenya
Kenyans have been going through hard times since December 30th 2007. The announcement of the presidential election results were disputed in the most wantonly violence that I have ever witnessed in the country. Kenya -"The Island of peace" as it is often known, turned into a killing field where people who had lived together for years turned against each other like wounded lionesses! Properties were destroyed and communication made impossible by various players who reacted in various ways. The losers barricaded roads from various places while the government stopped live broadcasting. Movement was minimal. Demonstrations went on in various parts of the country and hampered all kinds of business transactions. There were shortages of almost all essential commodities at various parts of the country as people continued protesting. However, the situation is improving and we hope that the jetting in of international mediators will help Kenya to resolve the political stalement. Kenyans agreed that on 25th Jan. 2008 will be a national day of prayer. It is my prayer that Kenyans will be true to themselves and repent before they can pray. We have all sinned by hating, killing, supporting killers, lying, stealing, pretending, alienating others and grabbing. Therefore, I urge Kenyans to pray honestly that God heals our land. Let there be love and not pretence. Let there be peace and harmony among the citizens. Let there be real peace. Peace that only God can offer. Peace that surpasses all understanding. PEACE. Kenyans be honest in your prayer so as to let God have His way
My views about the Political situation in Kenya and the way forward
The December 2007 elections were carried out peacefully by Kenyans. There was a mood of of change in the air as giants from the previous government were felled. The Kibaki gorvernment had opened up the stage for openness and freedom of expression that gave Kenyan people encouragement for even a better Kenya. There was hope that Kenya was headed for a better democracy.
This encouraged more young people into the political arena. For the first time, Kenya saw many independent youths come to parliament, not because they came from rich backgrounds, like it is often the case, but because they were determined to bring change to the government. Many expected the election process to be carried out smoothly as it had been in the previous one.
Rumors of pre-marked stolen presidential votes were openly aired in the local media where vehicles were featured carrying ballot boxes to unknown destinations. Kenyans kept vigil and took nothing to chance as the election date approached.
The election day was the most peaceful of them all as people woke up early to vote and retired to their houses to watch or listen to the election process through different media.
No one expected the election process to turn out the way it did. Everyone thought that the Kenyan democracy had matured enough to stop any kind of rigging. This had been seen as true when every suspicious move by the would be riggers was thwarted by the media that kept vigil. No incident was reported on the election day. Kenyans were determined to have this process completed peacefully so as to give them a chance to move on with their usual activities. The International Observers were impressed by the calmness by which Kenyans voted. Everything was as expected.
Soon-after, provisional results started pouring into media houses and were aired live. The parliamentary results indicated shock as giants were felled by political non-starters. The first senior government official to go was the former Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs, who was defeated by a young lawyer who had never ventured into politics before. Many other bigwigs followed suite. There was excitement among the electorate as their five years wait had finally come to an end and they were now making their voices heard through the ballot box. The few who managed to survive the elections had prooved to the electorate that they could be trusted and that they valued them (electorate) and their views. The Presidential results were also being relayed into the media houses and Raila Odingo was leading by an average of 500,000 votes.
Then we started seeing unusual delays in the releasing of results from some areas. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Mr. Samuel Kivuitu expressed his fears that something was amiss because the returning officers from these areas were not reachable and that they had even switched off their cellphones. However, he assured Kenyans that all would be well. The electorates` anxiety turned into excitement and later into anger as the delay continued without any explanation. The electorate demanded that the results be availed. The ECK chairman joked about the delay saying that if the results were being delayed because they were being "cooked", then he would not accept them.
Then the inevitable happened. The presidential provisional results that had been aired earlier started changing and the media started giving different presidential results. This is when all hell broke lose and the anxious electorate took to the streets even before the results were released.
Later, the ECK chairman was forced to release the presidential election results that he himself agrees were not properly tallied. President Kibaki had won the elections! The chairman, Mr. Kivuitu claims that he was under a lot of pressure from president Kibaki�s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Kalonzo Muzioka�s Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) party to announce the results. (Kalonzo has since been appointed the Vice President).
President Kibaki was sworn in as president of Kenya for the next five years in a low key ceremony at Ttate House in less than 20 minutes after he was pronounced winner of the 2007 general election.
What followed can be described as shocking. There were protests in five of the six provinces that Raila had won. This saw Kenya lose billions of shillings in destruction of properties within a span of hours. Roads were blocked as vehicles were stoned and burnt with or without occupants. Shops were looted and burnt. There also were wanton and senseless killings of innocent Kenyans who had committed no crime whatsoever. Ethnicity ripened in minutes and hate and fear was in the air like never before. Neighbors from different ethnic groups who had lived harmoniously for years became instant enemies. Innocent children and women were killed. If you came from a different ethnic background and you were caught in another ethnic environment at the time, you were a target for killing! There was fear among the weak and helpless as their properties were destroyed as they watched. A single statement from a single man turned Kenya into a killing field.
Later on the government banned live broadcasts. This was the worst that could happen. This meant that one could not know what was going on anywhere in the country. Kenyans started tuning onto foreign electronic media for news about their own country. Lack of information led to the creation of Propagandist SMSs that enhanced fear and animosity. Fear was inevitable as no one new what to believe and what not to believe. Mistrust was everywhere.
The opposition, led by Raila Odinga announced for a protest meeting at Uhuru Park. They later called it off after it was declared illegal. They called for another one and gave a 3 days notice to the police as required by the law but that was also canceled and termed as illegal. Uhuru park was cordoned off by human security personnel who are there to date.
On friday the 11th of January 2007 Raila called for a three days mass action throughout the country starting from Wednesday 16th Jan. 2007. This would involve peaceful protest by the electorate. The government outlawed the demonstrations and sent security forces to thwart them. The government claims that Kenyans can not have peaceful demonstrations because they are often hijacked by criminals who loot and destroy properties. The government also claims that the political temperatures in the country are still too high to accommodate any demonstration. This has led to defiant demonstrations that has led to more killings. This time from the government security forces who have been using live ammunitions to repulse the demonstrators.
Therefore, the government has since banned any political meeting until the situation comes back to normal. Meanwhile innocent Kenyans are being killed in all provinces of the country except Central, Eastern and North Eastern provinces.
The ban on live broadcasting is still in force compounded with the ban on any political rallies, Kenya has gone back to the colonial times when freedom of expression meant breaking the law. Read "Never be Silent" by Durrani Shiraz
Currently, Kenya is experiencing a lot of fear, mistrust among individuals and apprehension on a lot of issues. Nothing is predictable anymore. Any statement from a person you suspect supported your opponent is politicized.
The election of the speaker was an ego testing activity where each of the two leaders wanted to show the other that he is the winner. I say so because the speaker is supposed to be non- partisan. Therefore, if taken literally, none of them is to benefit from his election.
Kibaki has insisted that he freely and fairly won the December 2007 elections while Raila claims that the elections were stolen and that Kibaki must step down and allow for a re-run of the presidential elections if he has to win the confidence of the country. Although, according to me, this would be an exercise in futility as the after-election coalition of PNU and ODM-K plus all the other smaller parties will make it impossible for Raila to win in the re-run. It is also common sense that human beings are dynamic and the political environment has since changed after all that has happened. Kibaki is in office legally since he was sworn in as president, although with so much haste that even the national anthem was forgotten among other many procedures.
Observers agree that there were major flaws in the tallying of the presidential votes. Kibaki�s PNU party got 43 seats while Raila�s ODM Party got 99. Raila won in 6 provinces while Kibaki won in 2. There is need for the electorate to know the truth. Who really won these elections? If the chairman of the ECK, Mr. Kivuitu says that he does not know if Kibaki won the elections, then who should? The country is bleeding. Kenyans want their peace back. They are desperate. They also want the truth. It is only the truth that can set us free. Therefore, truth and justice must precede peace.
The controversy goes on and the common man continues to suffer. The international community has since sent high powered delegations to try and persuade the two leaders to negotiate and see if it is possible to establish an agreeable settlement to no avail. The government is so blinded by power while Raila�s group is blinded by anger. The country can not go on like this because the electorate are left in limbo and nothing can be assumed to be alright. All of us are calling for dialogue between the two protagonists but no one is giving them the content of the dialogue. Both sides have condemned the only most devastating issue at hand -violence and the destruction of property. Whether they mean it, is everyone�s doubt.
I have been talking to various people from various parts of Kenya and I have come to a conclusion that there are big and serious underlying anthropological and historical issues as to why the election results turned out the way they did. For example, there are some ethnic groups that believe that the country leadership can never come from certain ethnicities. These are stereotypes. If these issues are not addressed urgently and openly, then we shall only coat the surface while underneath stinks.
I get extremely perplexed when I talk to christians who profess salvation and pray that God brings peace to Kenya but do not want the truth to be told. This is very dangerous precedence for future democracy. This reminds me of the 2002 swearing in ceremony for President Kibaki where all Kenyans applauded him as he took his mandate. It was a memorable site. We need more of those. Not the sneaky, hasty and confused one like the one we saw at State House on the 30th of Dec. 2007.
What happened immediately after the announcement of Kibaki as President of Kenya brought a lot to light. 1). That Kenyans are not at peace with each other. They only tolerate each other. 2). There are historical injustices that were committed and need redress. This can only be done through truth and reconciliation. 3). Kenyans need to open up to each other and address stereotypes about each ethnic group in the country. This will educate our children who know nothing about them. 4). The inequitable distribution of resources between individuals and regions must be addressed urgently . 5). There are individuals in this country who must never be allowed to come near governance because of their track records. This can only be done by placing legal frameworks in place that will address this. 6). Our democracy as it is, is still shaky and can only be brought back on track by addressing the anomalies now and not later 7). Only a few of our leaders have principles, integrity and are selfless. I am referring to Kalonzo Musyoka who actually confessed that votes were stolen by all presidential candidates except himself and yet he went ahead and accepted a post in a government that he claimed had stolen votes!
At the moment, my biggest problem is the interference with the press freedom. Kenya established the Media Council which ought to be autonomous. I would want it to act as such. This is the time to get information as it is. This is the time we need analysts to come out and show the country the way forward. The banning of live broadcasts should be condemned by all. As information managers we must condemn this action by the government in the strongest terms possible.
People are agonizing not because they did not vote but because they voted! Children have been displaced and their education is at stake. Women have been raped and molested. All these must come to a stop. This can only be achieved by right information reaching the populace at the right time. Factual information is right information.
Kenyans have a right to own properties anywhere in this country. At least that is what the law says. They are also entitled to free movement and speech not forgetting the sanctity of life. All these have been trashed. People have been thrown out of their legally acquired land and their properties burned. Others have been slaughtered like chicken while others have been stopped from expressing themselves. Kenyans must learn to respect the law even if it is an ass.
I would urge all of us to genuinely pray that peace returns to our beautiful Kenya, not forgetting that calmness does not mean peace. Calm waters run deep. The deep anger and hatred that is embedded in people`s hearts cannot be seen because of social controls. It does not mean that it is not there. We need to simmer it through openness. Let us talk. Scream if you must. There is healing in both.