Dear Kenyans,It is not worth dying for ‘Kenyatta’ or ‘Odinga’
In 2007 elections, I was pro-ODM (Orange Democratic Movement). I was not just pro the party but a die hard supporter too. I distributed branded ODM Tshirts in college and I openly participated in acts of evangelism for my party ODM. I believed in the course of the party. I believed that the country was going to be delivered from the hands of the ‘oppressors’ by the party that had organized itself so well including having a pentagon team drawn from each major part of the nation. The elections were bungled as has been proven by different commissions of inquiries that were set up after the mayhem that followed the election results.
In 2007, I was sure that my party (ODM) was going to win the presidential elections against the incumbent Mwai Kibaki. My party’s victory was guaranteed because after all, it was ‘one against 41’ tyranny of numbers concept. I didn’t care much about the repercussion of such a route. I had swallowed a lie that our community had been wronged. And by voting one man into the state house, we were going to write off the wrongs of the past. When the results started trickling in, I knew that we were winning.
But then a few days later, the scales started to tilt towards our opponent’s side. The nation was tense and it was clear that ODM was on the path of losing the elections. Emotions started to boil. Temperatures were rising. When the then Electoral Commission’s chairman, the late Kivuitu announced the results which declared Kibaki president, I was ready to join the war. The nation that we all loved descended into anarchy. Roads were blocked, houses burnt, looting and bloodbath were the order of the day. The local media was banned from airing any of the chaos that was going on in the country.
I happened to be in Kisumu during the post voting period. The journey back to the city was traumatizing. Passing through Kericho, Mau, Njoro, Nakuru, Naivasha and Limuru, and seeing the sea of displaced humanity and the destruction that had taken place simply broke my heart. I had come face to face with the horrors of political animosity. The mayhem that reckless politics had plunged us into was horrifying.
When I landed in the city, I went to visit a friend who was working at Masaba hospital. Victims of police brutality from Kibera who had bullet wounds were being brought to the hospital. I felt helpless and chained because I couldn’t do much to help out. I was traumatized and angry. A video surfaced of a police officer shooting an unarmed protestor in Kisumu. Our nation was now immersed in a civil war. A bible study I belonged to disintegrated because of ethnic animosity. Friendships that had been built for years collapsed. Revenge attacks happened. Churches were burnt with people in them. Forceful circumcision was carried out using crude weapons and women were gang raped.
A few years before the elections, Kenya had successfully managed to uproot KANU; a party that that had been in power for over two decades. Our nation was on the path of greatness. Kenyans won the elections overwhelmingly against KANU and we euphorically sang yote yawezekana bila Moi (Everything is possible without Moi) when Mwai Kibaki was given the reins of power before a mammoth crowd at Uhuru park. All Kenyans were united against a common enemy. It was a historical day. The plunder, political assassinations, torture chambers, marginalization, entrenched ethnicity among other ills that had clawed the nation were finally being broken off. We were the most optimistic nation in the world. But how did we generate into mayhem so fast?
A peace agreement was later signed between the two rival parties. After the dust had settled, over 1000 Kenyans were dead, over 500,000 displaced and property worth millions destroyed. But the political class was now toasting to a new coalition government that was going to share power. All the blood that was shed, a property that was destroyed and the many people who were traumatized were the price that was paid to enable the elite to continue ruling.
In hindsight, I can confidently say that I was a fool and most Kenyans were too. We fought a war that was not ours. We hated people we shouldn’t have hated. We supported those who didn’t deserve our support. The ones who took the arms and fought are not so different from the ones who took sides.
The season taught me very precious lessons:
Politics is a game
Forget about what they keep telling you. Forget about the manifestos that they give you. Because they know that a majority of voters do not necessarily vote for them because of what they stand for. The primary reason why politicians will never stop reminding you of where you come from during elections is because your division is what feeds their selfish agendas. Politics is a game. Whipping your emotions is part of it. Painting opponents as the devil work well for their overall agenda. Propaganda and name calling is purely part of the game and they don’t take it seriously. Why should you take it seriously yourself? Politicians don’t invest their emotions in what they say or the attacks that are thrown towards them. This is purely about games and nothing more therefore as a voter, treat it like that.
Politics is business
Why would any politician spend billions campaigning yet when they clinch the seat, their salaries cannot adequately compensate the amount spent? To politicians, the game of politics is their field of wheat. It is their cash cow. They make so much money that they can as well risk everything to clinch the seat. Their return on investment is guaranteed that they are willing to go to extreme lengths to win a political seat. Just know that to them, this is a business. They are the king and queens in the game of chess and you are the pawn. Me and you, the ordinary Kenyans who line up to vote just accomplish their goals. While participating in an election is a very important part of exercising one’s democratic right, it has also been used to enrich a few at the expense of the masses.
My appeal to Kenyans
It is not worth fighting because of any politician. It is not worth dying for any political party, candidate or dynasty. There is no need for hating your neighbor because a politician told you that they are your enemies. When all is said and done, we only have one nation. We are one people who are gifted and endowed with different skills and talents. There is no way you are going to put food on your table by hating your neighbor. Let us jealously guard our nation against parasites who wants us divided. There might be disputes arising from any political contest but we must entrust institutions mandated to handle such to continue doing so. We must vow never to take arms, kill, maim, destroy property or hate our neighbors because of politics.
To the political class
Shun divisive politics. Let each camp present their agenda for the nation. Whoever wins will be the leader of Kenya until the next election cycle. We only have one nation, if it is burnt down because of your selfish desires, where will over 40 million people move to? They don’t have private jets, relatives who live abroad, offshore accounts, emergency funds… etc. The rich have money and power, the poor only have Kenya.
Dannish Odongo works for Capital FM as a digital media strategist. He runs a blog on leadership and faith dannish.co.ke.