This is an article encouraging Kenyans to focus on our unity and come out of the referendum exercise a united people.
The die is cast. The date is 4th August 2010. Yet again, this great nation is going to be on the spotlight just under 32 months since we held the election that soiled our reputation, threatened our co-existence, tore the national fabric and brought to fore the deep routed ethnic vice that has for a long time defined our society.
As I think and meditate on the state of Kenya at the moment, the referendum campaigns that are going on, the tension that is allegedly growing in certain parts of the country, the war of words among the political class, the division that has erupted in the church, many people are almost being pushed to despair about what will become of our country post referendum.
I have deliberately decided not to follow the path of despair; I want to address myself to key issues that have defined Kenya all along. I look at the past, and the present happenings in this land and I am convinced and persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt that our date with destiny on the fourth day of August is a blessing rather than a pain.
As we prepare to face-off at the referendum, I would like to remind all Kenyans from all walks of life that, the face-off is not about YES and NO, neither is it about the so called reformists and non-reformists, it is not even about the government and the Christian religious fraternity (read the church leaders, NOT the church). It is all about our togetherness, our unity, our oneness, what defines us in toto as Kenya against the forces which try to divide us along ethnic lines.
The question is, are we able to tolerate divergent views? Are we a people who listen to the people we dislike and appreciate them even if we don’t agree with them? Are we able to arise above petty politics, ethnicity, intolerance and emerge as a united nation? Who are we? What defines Kenya? These questions are the ones each and every Kenyan of goodwill should be asking himself or herself.
As we prepare to make a date with destiny on that Wednesday, we need to re-think and re-look at things or circumstances which have always defined us as one nation, and made us proud to be Kenyan. I will take us back to several circumstances and moments regardless of whether they were painful or joyous moments that went a great deal to enhance the thickness of our national fabric, rejuvenated our oneness as a nation and strengthened our unity and resolve to always be together.
Rewind back to 7th August 1998. That morning which is written in our history as a day when we lost many in the terrorist bomb attack, when the Ufundi house was brought tumbling down with people inside and the co-operative house was shattered. Every Kenyan remembers that day with sorrow and sadness. I know someone who lost a relative, a friend, a colleague and some who lost eyesights, limbs, and other organs of their bodies which to date has remained a mark as if to remind them of that dark Friday. I remember seeing from the television screens, everybody rushing to rescue someone. Major rescue efforts were mounted by every Kenyan who was proximal to the scene where the blasts occurred. At that time it did not matter our status, ethnicity took a back seat, our political beliefs and ideologies never mattered. What mattered was that we are all Kenyans and we came out in large numbers, carrying the injured, giving our cars to ferry them to the nearest hospitals, scavenging through the rubbles to rescue those who were trapped. Some even cut short their journeys to help at the scene. Our Kenyanness was revealed that day. That we are a people who are one and united in crisis and in grief.
The second is during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games at Beijing in China. This was just eight months after the catastrophic post election crisis. We saw Kenya conquer the world through our talented athletes. When a Kenyan won gold, we were all excited, without caring where that athlete came from. We did not care about their ethnicity. We all knew that they were Kenyan and that enhanced our brotherhood. Many Kenyans would shed tears of joy as they listened to our national anthem being played in the stadiums to the entire world and watching our great athletes being honored. I personally on one occasion shed tears when I saw our own Samwel Wanjiru entering the stadium winning the first Olympic gold medal for Kenya in Men’s Marathon. I sat watching and deep within me, I felt proud to be Kenyan and to have been born in this great nation. Our unity was displayed across the country as people jammed media houses with calls to congratulate our team.
The third major circumstance that I want to mention that revealed our Kenyanness was during the tussle with our neighbouring country, Uganda about the dispute over Migingo Island. Statements were attributed the President of Uganda directed at one of the communities in Kenya. Kenya woke up annoyed at what many considered an insult to our nation. It did not matter that the statements were directed at one community only. Kenyans could not take it, and I could hear people says ‘ you insult one of our communities, you have insulted the entire nation.’ This was profound, Kenyans were ready to defend their brothers regardless of their community. One member of parliament made some statements which have remained a mark of Kenyanhood in my heart. He said; ‘go and tell him (the president of the neighbouring country), even if Migingo is just an acre, it belongs to Kenya, even if it is only a rock, it belongs to Kenya, even if everyone who lives there was mad, it still belongs to Kenya and we shall defend it to the last man!’.
Pen and paper may not allow me to give more examples of how we have demonstrated our unity, our Kenyanness, our, oneness as a nation and our patriotism.
I want to urge fellow Kenyans, that the referendum is just one such circumstance. It is supposed to bring us together, to cement our oneness, to show that even though we may have different ideas, political standings and affiliations and are of different ethnic backgrounds, we are still Kenyans at the end of it all. Those circumstances, crises and events, that have happened in the past and defined our unity, came and passed, yet Kenya remains. Even the referendum will pass but Kenya will still remain and we shall still remain Kenyans.
Let us all go through the campaigns and indeed the referendum with pride as Kenyans. Let’s maintain our unity, let’s remember the words of our national anthem “…may we (Kenyans) dwell in unity, peace and liberty…”. I end by quoting from the holy bible …A kingdom divided against itself shall not stand and echo one management guru who once said; “ take our resources, our money, our talents, and even our copyrights but leave me with our organization and in four years, we will be back on our feet.”
Let us all arise and shame the prophets of doom by exercising our democratic right to vote peacefully and remind all that our Kenyanness, our unity, our oneness is more bigger and greater than than the names, the communities and the places where we come from.
God bless Kenya.