A week down with the flu helped me self-reflect as Kenya prepared for the Afraha Prayer Rally. In my reflections I realised that I am a product of the 2007 PEV.
The 2007 PEV affected me in such a fundamental way I cannot even remember how Kenya was socio-politically, before 27th December 2007. My political memory starts on that morning as I voted in Nyeri Town before driving my dad to Mweiga where he had registered in support of a cousin who was running for MP in Kieni. After that all I remember is the anxious wait, especially when Raila Odinga was leading; the exhilaration when Mwai Kibaki took the lead; and the excitement when Kibaki was declared the winner; and then madness.
I remember the picture of that little baby being thrown back into the fire at Kiambaa Church; dead bodies in morgues across the country; lorry-loads of shocked Kenyans leaving places they had called home for decades; hordes of marauding machete-wielding youth lined up against hard-eyed security agents in towns as others with bows and arrows scouted hillsides in the villages. The camps of devastated families camping in police stations and other public grounds huddled together in fear, of other Kenyans.
I remember the fear I felt; the helplessness, the anger… and the hate.
I am a product of those emotions. They led me into meetings to fundraise to help ‘our people’ in Rift Valley. They led to a fall-out with our community elders and formation of KikuyusforChange. They led to my search for the ‘why’ of such madness through inter-ethnic forums across the country; in Machakos, Eldoret, Garissa, Teso, Kakamega, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kisumu, Nairobi, Narok, Nyeri and several other places. Along the way the fear, helplessness, anger and hate mixed up with confusion.
Then Ocampo gave me something to focus my emotions on; something to hate – the Ocampo Six.
In 2011 when attempts were made to pull out of the ICC because of these six Kenyans I was so mad that, without a care for myself I became the face of a petition to stop this pull-out. Some 1.4 million Kenyans, who most probably felt the same combination of emotions I felt signed the petition, in six weeks. A few months later when supporters of the Ocampo Six tried to present the first Hague appearance as a triumphant victory these same feelings drove me to help put together a PEV Victims Vigil at Uhuru Park where we showed pictures of victims of the PEV to remind Kenyans why the Ocampo Six were at the Hague. This same anger led me to work with ‘the enemy’ as I rebelled against being herded into ethnic baskets to protect people from the ICC.
By the grace of God I broke free of my fear, anger and hate. However I see these emotions reflected in the eyes of thousands of Kenyans daily especially in civil society, sections of the media and some of our national leaders. Today 2007 is no longer just a bad experience in our past; it has also become what defines how Kenyans relate with each other. The 2007 experience has also become an existential threat to our future as a nation.
This is the reality that Uhuru and Ruto must face up to as they seek to fulfil what I see as a divine responsibility; to take Kenya to that point where what happened in 2007 is a thing of the past. It will require humility and wisdom; and a lot of prayer.
Afraha was a good beginning.
(Wambugu is Director of Change Associates, a Political Affairs Consultancy)