It takes two to forgive



Recently in one of our usual political conversations with my old man he brought up the thorny issue of post election violence perpetrators. To my surprise a man who I have known to be a strong believer pulled one on me and said it bare, "I can never forgive those guys." This was in reference to those who uprooted his kinsmen at the Rift Valley; his own sister was among the victims. The rage in his voice was unmistakable.

If we used my dad as a measure then you can say that we have quite some ground to cover on the road to national cohesion in the country.

Mention The Hague or a local tribunal and the victims of the skirmishes join in the chorus demanding justice for their atrocities. They too like my dad maintain those guys cannot just be forgiven or let free, they must pay.

On the other hand the accused will answer you that their victory was stolen and those behind it must precede them in the trials. This answer is in addition to the clamor to addressing the famous historical injustices, most of whom are about land. They have been overheard saying for peace to prevail their ‘stolen’ land must be returned.

Waki, Ocampo and Mutula Kilonzo have now become household names. It’s not surprising that even primary school children could remember this better than their geography assignment. Ask any pupil kid about The Hague or a tribunal and you will see the interest it generates.

While I appreciate the work done by Justice Phillip Waki and his team in evaluating the skirmishes and the good work of Kofi Annan, Mr Kilonzo and Luis Moreno Ocampo their efforts unless supported by a willing society will not lead us to the Canaan.

The Hague or local tribunal will try a few masterminds of the post election atrocities but one thing that is for sure neither of these courts will heal the wounded unity fabric of our nation.

I even take it further that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission that has of late gained support is not merely the answer. Bethuel Kiplagat (Chair of TJRC) and his team face the hard task of bringing us to confess and forgive our offenders. For the success of this process Kenyans must be willing to reconcile.

Fellow Kenyans the back and forth debate on the Hague/tribunal and the TJRC unless very soberly done is likely achieve only one thing, more division. Institutions are good and we must push that they are established but one sure thing is that Kenyans must be willing to confront the past, accept our mistakes and together agree the best way to seek redress.

There is this particular verse in the holy book that sets the minimum requirements of forgiveness. "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and acknowledge their sins and confess then I will forgive them……."

True forgiveness as illustrated here is two way. First the offender must be willing to come out, acknowledge his wrongs and seek forgiveness. On the other hand the aggrieved party must find the strength to look at their offender and overcome their inner self that wants their accusers to suffer like they did and forgive them.

For those who claim their land was taken away we must listen to them and seek who took their land. However two wrongs will never make a right. So for those who have regularly during elections maimed certain communities for their ‘stolen’ land they too must be brought to account.

Many times I have been offended and during most of these times I have longed to either snub my offenders or pretend they don’t exist, talk back at them or worse still wished very bad things would happen to them so they can pay for their offences. All this time however the rage remains with me and with it comes inner pain. One thing I must admit is that the heaviness in my heart is usually burdening. In my short time in this world I have also learnt to embrace the other side of the coin. I have come to appreciate the freedom I get when I let go my offenders and forgive them.

Fellow Kenyans its time we started the journey to reconciliation. We must be willing to boldly face each other confess to each other look at the atrocities and gain the strength to forgive and together join hands to build our country Kenya.

(Kagiri is a political reporter with Capital FM)

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