NAIROBI, Kenya, March 1 – The picture of President Mwai Kibaki shaking hands with Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the former United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Anan looked on was on the cover of nearly every newspaper on February 29, 2008; a day after the former political rivals made peace for the greater good of Kenya.
“Five years on, we remember that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed the peace accord on this particular day,” the Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Abass Gullet says shouting over the music.
It’s February 28, 2013; exactly five years since the peace accord that put an end to the violence that erupted following the contested 2007 General Elections was signed.
The nation is now only three days away from another General Election and Kenya Red Cross together with the Kenyan music fraternity and other partners put together a peace rally at Uhuru Park in a bid to ensure the violence that followed the last polls is not repeated.
“We responded to the emergency in 2007/2008. We’ve done that over the years and we understand the pain and suffering of the ordinary Kenyan and that’s why we choose peace as opposed to violence,” Gullet explains.
The famous playwright, William Shakespeare, once said, “If music be the food of love; play on,” and so in cognisance of this generally held view the peace message is packaged in song.
As singer-songwriter Eric Wainaina belts out Kenya’s National Anthem he places particular emphasis on the last three lines of the first stanza, “May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty, plenty be found within our borders.”
“Kenya is bigger than any political party and bigger than any political candidate because the problems in Kenya are so vast whether it’s education or healthcare,” Wainaina reiterates on getting off the stage.
NARC-Kenya’s presidential candidate Martha Karua and her running mate Francis Lotodo also take to the stage in a show of unity with the peace ambassadors.
“We seem to be taking peace for granted. We are committing as leaders and doing the opposite. It’s important as leaders we keep on reinforcing the message. I’m aware of flare-ups in Mandera this morning so we need not only to commit to peace verbally but in actions,” Karua says as she leaves Uhuru Park.
The performances continue but after all the singing and dancing is done, Gullet hopes the peace message will have hit home and Uhuru Park will never again be declared out of bounds because violence erupted over a disputed general election.
“The Judiciary is working well, the police is being reformed. There may have been problems in the past but they are being addressed; we have a new constitution. As Kenya Red Cross if called upon we will respond but we don’t want to go there.”