As the World watches the current crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, we in Kenya feel a kinship to them. They are our brothers, not just because we are African; but because they now wear the same shoes we wore in our own post electoral period.
At the time, as Kenya was negotiating its own government of national unity, the PM was convinced that we needed to avoid heading the Ivory Coast direction. How ironical that their own elections had not been held, and that he is now leading the African Union team of negotiators sent to try and resolve the electoral stale mate there.
What I like about Kenya is our willingness to share our tough lessons. We have seen firsthand the results of uncompromising political stands, heightened emotional temperatures and how pride and negative influence have the potential to annihilate a country’s growth.
We know very well where the shoe pinches most, especially in trying to make an economic recovery, and we are telling the people of Cote d’Ivoire that they do not need to descend into chaos.
More importantly, I want to speak to the young people who are often used as conduits for accomplishing self interests. We saw it in Kenya in 2008, when young people who had known each other for a lifetime descended upon their friends with machetes and other crude weapons.
We saw it in the aftermath, when their families could not get food to eat because of the animosity. This is not what we would wish for you.
The truth is; your country does not in any way belong more to the politicians and less to you. It is your birthright and like a child must be nurtured today, to preserve its future.
Any attempts to incite you to violence should be considered very carefully. Ask yourself whether violence will right all the injustices that have no doubt culminated to this event. And if it cannot correct all the wrongs, then seek another way out.
The second truth is that any call to arms is never devoid of great sacrifice. Such a call often results in bloodshed, loss of life and loved ones, and more so a loss of the ability to generate income. As a country, you have laboured through a coup détat and a civil war not too long ago. So my words must resonate with the older generation.
However, young people often feel invincible and their tempers easily roused. What I want to remind you is that you will be placed on the frontline should you decide to take over power by force.
Any calls by a member of the cabinet to make you seize and drive the opposition out of their hiding places should not be taken lightly. Whereas you may believe in the cause, be sure that your generals are also willing to sacrifice as much as you are.
Ask yourself whether they are willing to join you on the frontline, or perhaps dedicate their own children and families to do so. If there is no evidence of that, be assured that you are just being used to do their dirty work.
To us as Kenyans, Cote d’Ivore is simply not just a West African country on the brink of civil war. No, you are much more. You are a symbol of the potential for Africa to excel.
When we think of you, we remember with fondness the cocoa and chocolate that we consume every day around the globe. Furthermore, we rally about you because you are one of the few countries that has represented Africa in the world cup severally. We see potential in the likes of Didier Drogba who have broken barriers by playing for international teams.
Ask yourself, what is your country without icons such as these? Isn’t Cote d’Ivoire important enough to be protected from disappearing into oblivion? Isn’t Cote d’Ivoire worthy of making a mark on the world map?
Then be slow to anger and let this message spread like bushfire. If your leaders refuse to listen to the voice of reason, do not carry their crosses for them. Carry your own as young people, and be the beacon for change in Africa; we can no longer continue to be known as the ‘Dark Continent’. We must be the change we desire in Africa.