It’s not clear Kenyans really meant ‘never again’

Thursday October 19 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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The concept of ‘forgive and forget’ as proposed and even practised by the founding fathers of this Republic ,including but not limited to the Kapenguria Six, is currently not very well accepted by anthropologists and many other professions.

A people being able to tell their story is an important part of shaping the meaning they give to experiences, and structuring their thought processes.

Many times, the resulting narratives influence the way people behave, which in the Kenyan situation, provides certain challenges.

People only remember the story that suits them, not the one that may suit someone else, or even both sides. There is little effort to acknowledge that each coin has a flipside. As such, narratives on both sides of the political divide need to change.

As Clarence Thomas, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court ably put it, government cannot make us equal; it can only recognise, respect and protect us as equal before the law.

Justice, therefore, is issue-based. The idea that Kenyans walk around with a narrative of “no justice, no peace” needs to change to “What specific issue do we need justice on?”

Closely associated with this is how government ought to protect citizens equally before the law. In Kenya, it seems only the rich and famous enjoy protection under the law. The saying myonge hana haki (the poor person has no justice) is fast becoming a reality.

SOME DIGNITY

Even children, who are supposed to enjoy special protection under the law, from caregivers and the security forces, cannot be guaranteed it any longer.

Children being injured or killed during protests is completely unacceptable, and the fact that there are Kenyans who will try to explain the unexplainable does not help our national narratives.

As if Kenyans losing their lives in the ongoing protests is not bad enough, there are people who feel they must post pictures of dead bodies on every available medium or WhatsApp group. Why does anybody need to post a picture of a dead person, whose name they do not know and whose face they did not know in life? What narrative are they creating?

Are they thinking of the families of these people and even perchance the possibility of affording the dead some dignity? It just serves to create a morbid narrative that helps neither the living nor the dead.

One would think that we learned our lesson in 2007 and 2008. Life is sacred. No Kenyan should have to die in election-related violence, whether from ethnic hostilities or police brutality.

Kenyans had said ‘never again’. Now it turns out that was just a slogan that sounded good to the ears. Blaming the police all the time is not a solution.

CREATING INTOLERANCE

There are pictures of Kenyans who take to the streets with crude weapons and even teargas canisters. These are law breakers who should be dealt with accordingly, I can already hear a chorus of “Arrest them!”

Well, if we create situations where police feel that they must protect their own lives on the street, we cannot predetermine what happens next. It’s just that bad or good, take your pick. We seems to completely underestimate the effects of fear.

Associated with non-peaceful demonstrations is the matter of unemployment. Don Bosco founded the Salesian Brothers, an order of the Catholic Church, with the aim of creating an education system for the poor.

He stated that the principle trap of evil for the youth is idleness. Kenya must deal with unemployment to resolve some of the signals emanating from politicians to the public.

Last but not least, choose your narrative, choose it wisely and stop hating those who choose different. Let those who want to pray do so, let those who want to demonstrate do so, let those who choose to support either side of the political divide do so.

When you hate those make different choices from yours, you are creating intolerance. That is just ugly.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa