NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Kenyans have been urged to remain peaceful throughout the electioneering period and forgive each other following the 2008 post election violence.
Graca Machel , wife to Nelson Mandela and member of the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities has called on Kenyans to forgive each other for the violence that followed the last general election.
The former first lady said that forgiveness is the only way for true justice and reconciliation to take place and to ensure the upcoming polls will be peaceful.
“We lost almost one million people in Mozambique. We had people we knew that they had committed atrocities against our people but the moment of truth came when we negotiated peace. We really had to accept that we’ll embrace…Kenyans have to take that courage.”
“Even in our African way we will wash your hands because your hands have got blood from both sides. We will wash your hands but we will embrace you as our children.”
Machel also called on the authorities to take stern action against hate speech to prevent a repeat of the 2007/2008 Post Election Violence (PEV).
The peace envoy expressed regret that her past warnings to the country’s leadership on the incitement of voters by politicians went unheeded.
“I did come to this country as a representative of the African Union for the African peer review. Having listened and having read and discussed with many many people, thousands actually, I left Kenya and I alerted you and I said you are a peaceful country but you have all the ingredients for an internal conflict.”
“I asked somebody to take a letter to President Kibaki because you were preparing for a referendum and there was a lot of hate speech. People would talk in English but when they switch to vernacular they would use hate speech.”
Machel was speaking at a prayer day organised by the Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation barely a month after Mandela was released from hospital.
“You know that in recent times I had family challenges but I felt that there was no family challenge that was big enough to prevent me to hold and to honour this imperative of duty because…they are issues of life and death.”
Mandela was admitted for a lung infection at the end of last year in what was one of the 94-year-old’s longest stays in hospital.
As a former Minister for Education and Culture in Mozambique (1975-1989) Machel called on women to change the way politics is played and dissuade the nation from voting along tribal lines.
“Women have to be engaged in politics and use their power to change the game of politics. We are not there to only add numbers.”