Although some Kenyan politicians have condemned peace and prayer meetings in the regions worst hit by post election violence in 2007/8, the same leaders have failed to realise that healing the nation is not an easy task and cannot be fostered by ghosts but human beings.
Critics believe that such gatherings are diversionary and smack of attempts to evade the International Criminal Court (ICC), rather than help foster peace, unity and tranquillity in the volatile Rift Valley which bore the greatest brunt of election related hostilities.
The ongoing meetings are the brainchild of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto. Both are presidential aspirants and face crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
The voluntary return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their farms in parts of the region is one of the amazing consequences of the ongoing peace/prayer meetings amongst communities that were once perceived to be enemies. The Rift Valley was rocked by post election violence in a magnitude never witnessed in election history and only dialogue initiated by leaders can restore confidence and eliminate lingering suspicions in society.
The emerging scenario where communities are now coalescing together should, in my view, be encouraged at any cost by peace loving Kenyans. The coming together of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin communities heralded a peaceful election in 2002 and can be recalled at any time when the two communities were in disagreement, violence marred election campaigns.
The Kikuyu and Kalenjin voted as a bloc under KANU in a peaceful election in 2002 to succeed Moi although President Kibaki emerged triumphant over the preferred Uhuru Kenyatta. Should the same trend continue, the 2012 elections will be peaceful – thanks in part to the ongoing dialogue and joint public rallies.
Perennial conflicts and rivalries amongst communities seeking top political office has worked to reverse not only the national unity but also economic strides. Cyclic electoral violence has blighted democratic gains painfully achieved over the years.
Since the clamour for competitive politics communities have coalesced and fiercely supported aspirants from their backyards to wrestle power from successive governments at a heavy human and economic cost, worst of them all during the last general elections. The 1992, 1997 and 2007 general elections saw heavy chaos pitying Kalenjins and Kikuyus in Rift Valley as they competed for power.
Today, the country is months away from another general election billed to be one of the most expensive and competitive in the country’s history.
The forthcoming elections is the biggest ever in the world as Kenyans will be electing six candidates for different positions right from the president to the ward representative to the County Assembly. The contest will under the new constitution usher in semi autonomous governments known as Counties.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) being the body mandated to foster cohesion must seize this opportunity to reconcile communities at war. NCIC must now facilitate such peace forums for people to engage whether in Rift Valley or any other part of the country. NCIC should take the lead in such meetings so as to guide the deliberations as to ensure proper healing despite communities competing for leadership in the coming elections.
Further, Kenyans must be able to see these forms of political unity as an opportunity to address various salient issues afflicting society such as unemployment, insecurity, illegal groupings and terror groups.
Outlawed splinter groups like the Mombasa Republican Council and the al-Qaeda linked Al Shabaab must be dealt with decisively to avoid a spill over of their heinous activities into the next general elections.
All those charged with the leadership of this country must now rise to the occasion realizing how illegal groupings can be dangerous to the country’s peace.
Situation where the outlawed regional organisations can be allowed to rear its ugly head as was the case recently with MRC in Malindi where a mock election was disrupted must have been a wakeup call to security personnel.
We must demand that the government resolves outstanding national problems ahead of elections to avoid a recurrence of violence.
The biggest threat to Kenya as we head to elections will not be tribal groupings such as Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (GEMA) or the Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu Association (KAMATUSA) but illegal and separatist groupings. Each community has a right to meet and associate with others whether in the field of politics or economy.
Every effort must be made to nip their activities in the bud or we risk more insecurity in the near future.
The writer is a member of parliament for Cherangany constituency. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org