Sunday, May 18, 2008



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Times

NATIONAL politics has in the recent past been dominated by festivities as politicians retreat to their home-turfs to celebrate victories with their constituents. These so called homecomings are welcome, but we take this early opportunity to point out that they may threaten national unity and social cohesion if there are not handled cautiously. The gatherings which have been dubbed either thanksgiving or homecoming ceremonies can provide the political class with effective platforms for preaching unity and harmonious co-existence among various communities.

They can also be exploited to reconcile groups that went for each others necks during the post-election violence and ensure effective resettlement of internal refugees. However, the political overtones that have characterized these homecomings that have been held in the last two weeks have shown that the social gatherings if not checked can threaten the National Peace Accord, which saved the nation from the brink of collapse.

In all the festivals that have been held so far, Kenyans have been treated to more of political showmanship by leaders who instead of preaching peace are busy scheming how to win President Mwai Kibaki’s succession battle. They have provided our opportunistic politicians to start ethnic galvanisation for the 2012 poll. It is no wonder that most of the speeches are deftly delivered in local languages. The leaders seem to have forgotten that the country is still bleeding from post-election violence that shattered the very foundation of our nationhood and left more than 1000people killed and over 300,000 internally displaced.

Several families are still holed up in camps across the country as the Government makes efforts to return them home and what is needed at the moment is assurance from the political elite in areas where they were rooted that they are welcome back. But when the same leaders have begun tearing at each other in public and promising political fireworks come the 2012 General Election, one can only conclude that lessons learnt from the disputed presidential polls in 2007 are yet to sink.

The ceremonies could have provided a better opportunity from members of the Grand Coalition Government, a product of the peace accord, to demonstrate to ordinary Kenyans that they are united by sharing the podium to preach peace, love and unity among all. We expected ODM and PNU members to attend each other’s homecomings and prove to the country that they are committed to uniting the country and returning it to the path of progress after the signing of the peace deal and subsequent formation of the Grand Coalition Government.

We need to see Rift Valley politicians allied to ODM visiting Central Province to celebrate with their PNU counterparts just to show Kenyans of Kikuyu descent who were uprooted from Kalenjin dominated areas that they are welcome back. But if the leaders retreat to their ethnic and regional cocoons to counter onslaught from there rivals, their rhetoric on peace fades fast and the seed of ethnic and political polarization germinates fast.

The country is faced with myriads of challenges arising from last year’s disputed polls and these cannot be solved in an atmosphere of mistrust, chest-thumping and grandstanding that the political leaders continue to display at the public rallies. If the politicians believe they have a cause to celebrate in the aftermath of the skirmishes, let the fetes be platforms for mending the nation’s social fabric which was shattered by violence. We have just begun treading the path to economic, political and social reconstruction and care must be taken not to endanger the processes that will restore our focus to the original vision of our founding fathers.