Saturday, December 6, 2008



DECEMBER 6, 2008

It was former American Secretary of State and 1973 Nobel Peace laureate Mr Henry Kissinger who said: "The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been."

The message dovetails with Kenya’s current circumstances, as she heals and seeks to unite, following the killer wave of post-election violence. It resonates across a nation struggling to get its footing.

It is a lesson for leaders who this festive time last year were preaching national unity, ethos of democracy, politics of economic revival and development. They emphasised virtues of servant leadership, honest labour, unity of purpose, peace and love.

But the sad events that led to a bungled election, excesses of a pliant and inept leadership, as well as weak-kneed technocrats and recalcitrant politicians, have continued to weigh heavily on the conscience of the nation.

On December 30, the calm and tranquil that we often take for granted burst like a bubble, contrary to our expectation of a peaceful contest and settlement thereafter. In came turmoil and maddening violence. More than 1,100 people died, 400 of them under a hail of police bullets.

This is the month to take stock of the burden of political greed, disregard for our institutions of governance, and abuse of the law we all claim to submit to. It starts this week, the process for the nation to audit its recovery process, for it did not just start and end with political settlement in February, and subsequent sharing of power, albeit with so much distrust and false starts.

It will be the moment not just to give momentum to implementation of recommendations made by the two respected men of letters – South Africa’s retired judge Justice Johann Kriegler on the pitfalls of the 2007 election and his verdict it was a farce and impossible to tell who won.

People’s voices

There is also Justice Philip Waki’s recommendations on the leaders who could have organised and financed the violence that, apart from its harvest of unwarranted killings, led to waves of displacement and dispossession, whose victims we have not even fully resettled.

This is the month to take stock and draw wisdom from Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the US: "The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people." Kenyans have shown they are resilient and want to move on. The coalition is holding and moving on. The past haunts but a promising future beckons.

The gap of disagreement among coalition partners has narrowed, and the wheels on which it rides, no longer cringe and sear the heart.

Our leaders seem to be learning from the adage handed us by French author Andre Maurois: "The most important quality in a leader is that of being acknowledged as such." For leadership is a call to duty and responsibility.

This is the season to learn how dangerous selfish political decisions can fail a nation. It is also the month to count our gains and heal our relationships, even as we punish the perpetrators of violence, knowing too well other crimes were committed under the cover and authority of office and delusion of power.

December 30, the daylights went out on Kenya, is in the horizon. The date shall always be a ghastly reminder of where we have been, and a lesson on why leaders should forever strive to get us from where we have been to where we have not been.