I sometimes feel like there is not a lot new to say. Usually, someone else has already said everything I could say far better than I could. Along those lines, I found this opinion article from Observer (Uganda) quite poignant.
While managers in the flower industry were anxious to get roses to Europe for Valentine’s Day, thousands of their displaced workers were worried about security, food and basic medicine. Such are the paradoxes in Kenya at present.
Efforts are being made to alleviate the humanitarian problem; whatever is done will always be inadequate. Even if conditions in the camps are bearable, and security is guaranteed, the anguish of losing everything, with the future as one big question mark is hard to bear.
. . .
Life in the slums is still horrible. Neighbourhoods have become balkanised, and residents live and sleep in fear. Revenge killings, and rape, even of little girls, are common, and will worsen if there is no acceptable agreement. Healing initiatives have sprung up, however, in churches and communities, and Kenyans are being brought together in new ways. But relationships and the ease of interaction will suffer and take time to re-gather their previous momentum and warmth.
Commentators have likened Kenya to Somalia and Rwanda; it corresponds to neither. Apart from obvious similarities, no machine-gun jeeps patrol the central streets of Nairobi; there has been no major, lengthy breakdown of law and order. Nor has there been a radio hate-campaign like the one broadcast for months by the Mille Collines radio in Rwanda, and the unremitting targeted slaughter for one hundred days.
Life for the majority of Kenyans has been business as usual, apart from a few days: offices, shops and most schools have opened. Transport has been normal in parts less affected. Basic human rights are still in place; media operate without hindrance.
Rwanda and Somalia were neglected, out of lack of political will of the super-powers. Kenya is strategic; they were not. Many interested parties, within the country and outside, will make sure that Kenya works.
The UN Security Council has warned that the Kenyan peace talks had better succeed, or else economic sanctions and military action could follow.
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The moment a Kenyan walks into a chief’s office, police station or government facility to ask for some service, he is recognisable as a Kikuyu, Kamba, Luhya, Luo or Kalenjin. The moment he opens his mouth, there is no more doubt. He will then be asked to produce his national ID card, which bears his name and where he was born and lives at present, location and sub-location! He will also recognise the ethnic group of the official dealing with him. Like it or not, ethnicity pervades everywhere.
It is therefore easy for politicians to capitalise on petty grievances and differences to divide people, and this has happened too often. Whatever comes out of the talks, leaders must understand the ethnic chessboard is now different; and in future the average Kenyan will have to be more careful in alluding to people of other ethnic groups and their ways, if the peace is to be kept.