Friday, January 18, 2008

The Kenya Crisis: An afro Headache

On Tuesday 15th January 2007 I asked one of my editors whether I could do a cartoon on the Kenya Crisis, his response was a clear no; in his words, " I wont touch Kenya with a 15 meter pole". It seems as though he wants to be cautious with the hot issue. He doesn't stand alone either, conspicuous, is the lesser than caustic responses from the usually vocal American Government, The European Union, and the African leadership (Both Civil and Political). They all seem to be playing the crisis down while the people of Kenya are being maimed. Reminiscent of the delays in mitigating the Rwanda and Burundi genocide.

Kenya is a great country, Whenever I hear the word 'Harambe' a word in Swahili which means to me sharing and caring I think of Kenya, where I heard it first. My visits there before the current baffling crisis where always comfortable as its similarity with Zambia where striking. Multi-cultural with no trace of intolerance, people of mixed class walking side by side with no apparent tensions. Utopian, but non the less this was always the general sense. Today, in the media, we observe tribal violence, people maiming each other, the Police using live ammunition on civilians, political leaders giving no guidance and almost a non existent idea of what civil Society is doing at least in the press. The country is melting down from where am looking and there seems to be no end in sight.

The problem presents itself as Political, but simmering away below the surface, Economic injustice, tribal discontent and social frustrations have reared their ugliness through the violence we are seeing. Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki are the two elephants battling it out from their leather couches with no regard it seems for the suffering grass. The SABC reports that 250,000 Kenyans are displaced, 1000 people have died due to ethnic violence since the disputed elections two weeks ago and the Country has lost 3% of its GDP. Numbers, numbers representing innocent civilians, children, injuries and shortages in hospitals.

Am reminded of a meeting of the Africa Social Forum Council I attended back in January 2006 at the Polycentric World Social forum in Bamako Mali. Halfway into the meeting, a comrade from Kenya raised a point of order against the leadership of the Social Forum process within Kenya who where also present at the meeting and bidding to host the 2007 World Social Forum. He accused them of coming from the same tribe and leading the process along tribal lines. Of course this caught the pan African meeting by surprise and the argument of tribe seemed trivial and out of context, he was unilaterally dismissed as the meeting went on to other topics on the agenda without giving him a response. Much Later the World Social Forum took place in Kenya successfully in January 2007 with participation of delegates from all over the world.

Eerily today, January 2008 I observe on France 24 TV news, maimed bodies of Kenyans all in the name of Tribe and Politics the other way round or both.

Even worse, is the loud silence from members of the Civil Society Networks I'm subscribed to. In the past, very keen to comment on the wide range of issues on the list serves, they seem to have gone silent on the issues in Kenya itself. I would personally be more comfortable with news from these comrades than the news am seeing on the Television. It worries me as I begin to imagine possible scenarios; are they in danger, do they belong to the 'wrong' tribal groups, what are the implications on the status of women and children, is the situation not as bad as it is being portrayed in the media, why are they not updating the networks?

Information is power, powerful too is the power of the collective good. The way we have come together as Africans to overcome mutual problems is the same way we can quell the fires of Kenya. I believe that the networks have the power to speak out against the many Injustices that are present in many African states and like in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi can break out anywhere in African communities, with no warning. I wonder at the contingency measures being put in place by other African states to prevent these occurrences within their borders and the possible implications on Human Rights.


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