I pray for peace and also for justice

Friday October 27 2017

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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I had a meeting I was running extremely late for in town on Monday.

After apologies were duly offered and the meeting was done, we fell into conversation, about politics – of course.

You can't help but fall into conversation about politics, almost whether you like it or not. A simple "How are you?" becomes "Business is bad", which becomes, "Because of the economy/government/elections".

We can't help but delve into the killings we see on television. We can't help but wonder what the President's next uncaring statement will be, something to the tune of he doesn't know what to do either.

We can't help but notice that even though the opposition is supposedly decrying the violence, none of them are actually on the front lines of the protests, stopping it, or offering a solution that isn't clothed in their own self-seeking ambitions.

It's impossible for me, and many other Kenyans not to not talk politics.

INHERITED PROBLEMS

Granted, some people have opted out of said conversations – which feels a lot like speaking from a position of privilege.

You are quite lucky if you have the option to not speak about politics that directly affects you, aren't you, because it doesn't really affect you.

Not enough for you to want justice – just peace. Just to go back to what was there before – a calm country with deep, inherited problems that will flare up again as soon as a tribal decision comes up next.

But I can understand that decision because the politics in this country are quite simply exhausting. The combination of fake news, violence and ignorance becomes a Molotov cocktail for prime misunderstandings and a defeatist them-against-us attitude. I get it.

I, actually, am one of those who is tired of speaking about politics, but in such precarious times, it feels like these conversations must be had.

INNOCENT PROTESTERS

There are triggers everywhere to these conversations. One such trigger was a conversation that I had with someone at the meeting.

He said the police should be using live bullets on protesters because they are being violent, and quite honestly, this baffled and frightened me.

That Kenyans think that using live bullets on innocent protesters or bystanders baffles me. One may say that protocol is being followed, but what protocol is present when a 70-year-old lady is shot? What threat could she possibly have presented?

Why are nursery schools and tertiary institutions targeted in an obscenely violent manner? Why was Boniface Mwangi shot in the chest at close range with a tear gas canister – an act that, just the other day, led to the death of another innocent?

How is it that leaving your house to buy ice cream is suddenly a crime punishable by death – like robbery with violence, or treason?

WEAK APOLOGY

Of course, there is a history to this violation and context to this acceptance of it. We've been letting police get away with murdering people for decades.

First it was the colonial police which we had nothing to do with and could do nothing about. Then it moved on to police who have the same skin colour as we do, still killing more Kenyans, whether by directives from above a la Nyayo House or trigger-happy unhappy men in uniform.

Either way – they've BEEN doing this. Depending on where you live, unfortunately, the numbers will be higher or lower.

Eastlands tends to see a lot of these police shootings (or murders, because that's what they are). Once in a while they venture into other neighbourhoods – like the thug who was shot in the middle of Kimathi Street and people applauded, or the son of one of Kenya's top businessmen, who got a weak apology in exchange for the life of his child.

So you see, the context is that we have already been letting the police do this to Kenyans and they know exactly what they are doing and how to get away with it.

If the news is anything to go by, they remain just as confident as the mass murderers in the pre-colonial era today.

BRIBERY QUOTAS

What this companion of mine forgot during the meeting is that the police have their role, and executions is not one of them.

The police are supposed to be there to protect and serve the people. You know the motto of the Kenya Police Service – Utumishi kwa Wote, and the motto of the National Police Service, Service with Dignity.

In recent years, it has become the inverse – they use everyone to reach their goals and bribery quotas for the week. It's unfortunate, but it's true. I don't know a lot of people who feel protected when police are around.

We cannot once again let the police extend their mandate to being the judge and the jury, having public executions on open streets.

It's a new level that is unprecedented, that Kenya is not ready for – because then Kenyans will start to think that this is normal.

DEEPEST HELLS

If there are protesters who are looting, arrest them. The police are the ones with the guns and the tear gas canisters – if anyone should feel threatened, it should be us and the little babies they keep mistakenly shooting.

If anyone should be in control and able to neutralise a situation, from their training, it should be the police. All Kenyans have a right to a fair trial and this should be the case – no pun intended – with every criminal that the police come across.

Otherwise what, then, is the point of a judiciary? What is the point of the provision that Kenyan constitution outlines that dictates one is innocent until proven guilty?

So no. They shouldn't be beating up protesters who have nothing to do with looting, or shooting tear gas canisters directly at the chests of Kenyans who have Kenya's best interests at heart.

As one of these teargas recipients, I know exactly how it feels, how disheartening it can be, when all you were doing was singing and then all you see are fumes.

I pray for peace in this country, but I also pray for justice. I pray that those who take innocent lives wilfully burn in the deepest hells, whether in this life or the next. And I pray that Kenya never gets to a point where killing Kenyans in cold blood on a street becomes a more commonplace occurrence.

As it is, we are already teetering towards a path of no return.

Twitter: @AbigailArunga