It is deeply disheartening that some regions in Kenya are experiencing bouts of insecurity and fear, so close to the 2013 general election.
These incidences have in the past been blamed on the polls as was the case in 1992, 1997 and 2008. As the finger pointing continues, the bigger picture of Kenya is getting soiled and distorted. The image that has taken so much effort, peace campaigns, investment delegations abroad and reassurances to tourists and foreign investors since 2009 is at risk… again!
The country is watching with trepidation as Pokomo and Orma communities fight in the Tana Delta. Search for pasture and water has been blamed for the friction but it has also emerged that politics as a catalyst to the clashes cannot be ruled out. The perennial cattle rustling escapades between the Pokot and Turkana follow closely.
The coast based Mombasa Republican Council touched a raw nerve in its affront to the government, with calls for Secession urging its members to disown Kenya. This brings back nightmarish memories of the Diani, Kwale clashes in 2001/2002. More recent is the ongoing riots in Mombasa following the brutal killing of Aboud Rogo. Now seemingly turned into a religious conflict, the coastal city has not known peace for the last few days.
A report published in June 2011 by Joel D. Barkan of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Africa Program says that, “the 2012 elections are the most conspicuous potential trigger of conflict in the near term, asserting that shifting ethnic coalitions are already introducing uncertainty.”
He further says that: “A successful election would solidify the gains of the previous years but a contested election outcome cannot be ruled out.”
This same position is variously held by international market analysts, tour operators, foreign investors and risk assessors. Needless to say, investment decisions are heavily influenced by the views of these researchers.
Can we ever convince the international community that Kenya can hold elections without violence? Is this Kenya’s proverbial Achilles heel..?
Country branding experts aver that a good country brand is a valuable asset whose equity can be exchanged for tangible and intangible gain such as investment, reputation, respect and political influence. Kenya prides herself as the gateway to the East African region, the commercial hub, the economic powerhouse and now more assertively the stabilising political force in the region.
There is urgent need for Kenyans to look at the great things this country is known for. There are huge gains to be made if all citizens big and small worked together for the common good. We stand to lose collectively whether poor or rich, if we do not close ranks and fix the problems that undermine social cohesion.
Kenya’s image and reputation must be jealously guarded and nurtured for the sake of the citizens now and as inheritance to future generations.
Kivindyo is the Communication Director at the Brand Kenya Board.