How we Sanitize Violence, Al Shabaab, #ManderaBusAttack and Other Things

StopTheViolenceWe live in a world that glorifies war and weaponry. I cannot tell you how much I sometimes read on the details of nuclear arsenals and their delivery systems. I suppose I’m not the only curious person alive. The nature of politics that goes into war-dialogues and war-making, and the amount of coverage given to war situations, easily supersedes any other human activity. We take pleasure in violent sports and marvel at machines that can cause the ultimate destruction. The movies we watch defy our relentless talks on peace, love, and compassion. We have accepted that humans are violent and self-destructing entities.

We are proud consumers of violence, and it can be argued that we have over-consumed violence and become largely desensitized by it. Of course we have sociological and psychological explanations to these aspects, we have political and economic undercurrents, and and have expanded our receptivity to new brands of violence, whether its cops on the streets, rebels and bandits, violent religious fundamentalists, government exterminations, race-inspired violence, domestic violence… you can add more brands to this list. But to be consumed, it has to be sanitized. We model violence into acceptable categories so that we can comfortably live with violence and continue enjoying the benefits of these brands. As a brands, beheadings are grossest and drone attacks are copacetic.

In the aftermath of the Post-Election Violence in 2008, I dutifully studied the photos taken and compiled by Boniface Mwangi to get a real picture of the depravity that we had sunk into. Such photos are important because they de-localize our understandings, sort of nationalize or globalize it and give it a more expanded and arguably objective interpretive lens. Over the past two years, there has been too much violence in public spaces, linked to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism and youth gangs in slums – added to the police brutality and disappearances that have become part of Kenya’s culture. Yet I also know that since I have accessed most of these images through the internet, much of the population are shielded from the psychologically-imbalancing nature of these graphic depictions.   Which brings me to the question, can people take a firm position in fighting for safety, security, and peace in public spaces if they knew what actually happens (what has been happening)? But such a question can also be too simplistic. We know of scenes of mob justice and thief-burning and police gunning down of thugs in Nairobi. Whether such scenes have deterred criminality is contestable.

But I’m more concerned with the kind of violence that pervades the whole society at the same time and the fears it can create, or the courage it can create to make things a little right. I’m concerned with terrorist violence and ethno-political violence such as the 2007/2008 PEV. What do you think if a majority of Kenyans knew the extent of violence some regions of this country has been exposed to? Would there be a change in the divisive nature of our politics if we had a memorial for 2007/2008 PEV victims, something akin to the Rwanda case? Would we learn the cost of political violence of such a memorial was a constant reminder of the risks our nation faces during each election? And on Al Shabaab and Al Shabaab sympathizers, do you think there can be a change in how we perceive them and deal with the security situation if the graphic images of their massacres were accessible to many? So many questions. On a personal level, images and narratives have not won me over to their side, rather it has created the exact opposite, of detest and distaste, and agitation for the government to honestly and firmly deal with the security situation in Kenya. But I’m also worried that such images are becoming too common in our public space and it will not take long before we accept it as the status quo. Al Shabaab violence has become a new brand of violence that we consume from the comforts of our living rooms. We have added it to the list of Kenyan violences.

Unfortunately, what is consumed by a majority of Kenyans is the sanitized version. For example, on the #ManderaBusAttack, what many have consumed is not the expanded, brain-flowing, utterly disgusting version on Reddit. The Geneva Conventions have made wars neat and tidy. There are no desecrated corpses on the screen. These are no gory massacres. The violencing that war is, has been relegated to medieval history books. We have sanitized killing, made it presentable and safe enough to cheer. Statistics have replaced our interpretations of scale. A million people were killed. 20, 000 were massacred. 50. 10. 5. 1. Simple. Numbers help us to make justifications for appropriateness of violence.

So 22 killed in Kapedo. Hundreds in Baragoi. 28 in Mandera. Da. Da. Da. Simple numbers. If there is anger, it is measured. We are careful enough not to soil our political positions. We don’t want talks of incompetence. We don’t want talks of negligence. We don’t want talks of impunity. We are not angry enough because it is not us. Would we rise up against the government and demand accountability if we were angry enough? Would we deny Al Shabaab sympathizers a voice if we were angry enough? Would be flush out Al Shabaab’s within our midst, hiding in our houses, if we were angry enough? Even more important, would we talk against the uses of violence to achieve political objectives if we were angry enough?

We are experts in whitewashing the dark reality of violence. In some cases, religion helps us to justify violence. We sanctify violence when we pray to God to “bless our troops” as they go to war. Other religions such as Islam have edicts justifying war against those perceived as infidels. In these, we become righteous perpetrators and consumers of violence. Sanitization not only desensitizes us, but it also prevents us from acting on violence in our communities. Look at how we are desensitized to act. I have always been a proponent not showing graphic photos, images, etc to the public or sanitizing them. There are very good and humane reasons that support that argument. Lately I have been thinking of exceptions. Rather than the standard sanitizing, we need to find ways of using these images, not to instill and propagate fear, but to inspire the courage to act in Kenya. The history of the modern world is replete with examples of how some images of violence has been used to create a new path of change and understanding. We need to find a new way of using these information-images to induce anger for change, to implant a new way of interpreting images of violence in our public spaces, and strongly act against the perpetrators of such violences.

Lets continue talking. Lets continue acting.

 ***

[Today, November 25th, is the International End Violence Against Women Day. From today to the December 10th – the International Human Rights Day, you are called upon to stand up for women and human rights. During these 16 days of activism and conversations, we would like to know your clear stand on gender based violence.]

Can science solve all the problems in the world?

can science solve all problems_granddebate

In the 21st century, the word ‘science’ means ‘solutions’. Given that today is the World Science Day for Peace and Development, this platform offers us a chance share our ideas for a better world and reiterate, once more, that science is solutions for all the world’s material problems. Over the centuries, science has transmuted from being a sacred discipline accessible only to a select few to become a way of life. Every single day, individuals, consciously or unconsciously, rely on established scientific principles to make individual, family, community, national, and global decisions. The world would never have achieved the current state of technological advancement without scientific thought. Science is the furnace where ideas are smelt, purified, and modelled into useful tools.

This is not a vacuous praise of science. Name any major problem confronting the world today. Ignorance, disease, illiteracy, climate change and global warming … name them. All these problems will only be solved by science. If there is any problem in the world that is worth solving and which affects the entire population irrespective of race, creed, religion or gender – you can be sure that scientific solutions are what should be exploited. Ignorance far from being a question of choice is a consequence of poor dissemination of knowledge. A reconfiguration of such a system to enhance information flow is a partial solution. Diseases have been afflicting humanity since the dawn of time. Science has been the reason behind increasing life expectancy, reducing child mortality rates, reducing malaria or HIV/AIDS prevalence etc.

Let us talk about some of these solutions in depth. Let us begin with climate change and global warming. Far from the controversy about its causes – anthropogenic or otherwise, the reality of climate change is with us in Africa. Over the past few years we have lived through changes in climatic patterns and not all these changes have been pleasant. We need to generate scientific solutions that range from reducing the use of fossil fuels to adapting to changing climatic systems. You can be sure that engineers are at the forefront in developing fuel efficient transport systems as well as how we can transform our offices to conserve energy. There are currently hundreds, if not thousands, of green technologies in the market. We need to be informed and adopt these tools and practices to reduce our carbon footprint. Mother earth sobs for our attention.

Our education systems are stale and have stopped doing what they were created to do. It is not strange to converse with graduates with annoyingly little information between their ears. Students are pursuing Masters Degrees not for the content that such a course offers but for the certificate so that they are well placed for the next promotion. You have PhD students who cannot conceptualize and create solutions for their own communities. This sleepy-head attitude towards intellectual advancement is a boil that has festered for far too long. It has begun seeping into our systems and before long all educated Africans will be unable to offer any solutions to the continent. Education reforms will have to align its objectives with the demands of a re-emerging Africa.

Let us talk about diseases. Look at cancer which is currently one of the living causes of mortality today in the world. With increasing diagnosis of cancer cases, multimodal therapy remains the only reliable option in cancer treatment in addition to other treatments following surgical removal of cancerous cells. Owing to the limitations of the current cancer drugs, scientists are working on hundreds of other solutions including how biodegradable polymers can be used to enhance drug delivery. Adult stem cells have shown significant success in treating juvenile diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Hemopoietic stem cells hold promises in the treatments of autoimmune diseases, directing cancer therapy as well as generating tolerance physiological conditions for solid organ transplants. The current advancements in proteomics and gene therapy may eventually widen the scope of the clinical application of hematopoietic adult stem cell studies.

What about stem cell research? Just a few years ago, Mr. Steve Rigazio was a normal, happy young man operating his business with the enthusiasm and ambition so common among young successful entrepreneurs. Now he forms the statistics of people diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease; a devastating disease that affects the spinal cord nerve cells, causing muscles to wither and die off quickly. Just like everybody else diagnosed with this condition, the doctors gave him 18 months of life. Two years after diagnosis Steve is still alive and his doctors are baffled. No need to mention he quit his job and even though the disease is ravaging his body, his mind is contact. His vibrancy is a stark contrast to his gradual deterioration unto death.

Just in the same neighbourhood in which Steve lives are two beautiful girls; twelve years of age struggling with juvenile diabetes since they were barely four years old. With thousands of pricks on their skins, life is completely unbearable. Miles away is Anne; a twenty three year old young woman buoyed down with Alzheimer’s. Steve, Anne, the twins and millions more are suffering from these genetic degenerative diseases have been forced to watch their approaching deaths with utter hopelessness. Yet hidden in this hopelessness is the understanding that despite the moral, ethical and political undertones, stem cell research may offer these individuals the only remaining hope for a meaningful life. It is only through an appreciation of the scientific technique that diagnosis, treatment, and management of millions of diseases has recently improved. The consequence is that currently there are millions of pharmacologic agents under development and which will offer reprieve to millions.

Because of poor investments in scientific development in Africa, we have become importers of solutions than creators of them. African systems of thought are intellectually dominated. While the importation of ideas is not wrong, our little or non-participation in the generation of global knowledge makes it very difficult to efficiently integrate new technologies in our systems. We lag behind in the adoption of scientifically proven solutions to common problems in agriculture, industry, and health.

Is there a solution? Are there ways in which Africans can increase the adoption of these techniques? Yes. There are many situations where technology has been used in disaster management and conflict resolution. Here in Kenya, Ushahidi developed disaster management Apps – a Ping app that works in both smartphones and feature phones and can be used to locate and respond to disasters. ICT adoption is changing fortunes in the continent. For example, Kenya has been touted as one of the leading countries in the world as far as the adoption of mobile commerce solutions, with a recent TNS Mobile Life survey showing that 73% of the 30 million mobile subscribers currently use their handsets to pay for products and services compared to just 15% worldwide. This is due to a large number of M-Pesa, Airtel Money, Orange Money and yuCash subscribers using their mobile phones in money transfer and banking services. These ICT developments are not only in Kenya but other countries as well, particularly South Africa and Nigeria where there are new developments and announcements happening on a daily basis.

Last month Lee Mwiti wrote an incisive article in the African Review. He asked: Is Africa’s breakneck growth all smoke and mirrors? This was in response to the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative that seems to suggest that double-digit economic growth is commonplace around the continent, with six of the ten fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The truth is that Africa is poised for take-off. This is not a pipe dream. I’m an African and I believe there are millions of young Africans like me who not only have great hopes for the continent but will be willing to exert themselves in realizing the African dream.

While part-dreaming, part-working towards achieving these dreams, it would be insincere to avoid touching on the role of politics development in Africa. Post-independent Africa has been a desert for traveller looking for successful political stories. The independence leaders squandered the chance to position the continent on a sustainable growth trajectory. There have been pockets of promising leadership that is rich in vision and commitment, but there are a few, if any, countries that have maintained a healthy platform for a long time. Political successions in Africa have not been savoury events. From coups, juntas, to stolen elections and broken promises for change have lived with African countries since they were hurriedly sculpted and injected with Westphalian attitudes. The political history of post-independence Africa is a weary wave with uneven troughs and crests.

One wishes that science could solve the world’s political problems; that politicians would rely on accurate analyses to make public policy decisions. But science plays second fiddle to politics because politicians are gods. The era when politicians could make personal sacrifices for the good of the society is gone; neither are they willing to defer current benefits for the longer term. Public policy is not being pursued for the long term welfare of the country. Kenyan and Nigerian Members of Parliament are examples of what happens when the pursuit of excesses and bulging bellies become a personal achievement, a national asset.

While politicians, even from the world’s greatest hegemony – the United States of America, routinely ignore scientific evidence when making policy decisions on such important issues such as healthcare, energy policy, climate change and global warming; we cannot resist the temptation to prod them. We need politicians to pass laws that increase funding to public research institutes. Whether it is HIV/AIDS, malaria, conflict resolution mechanisms, peace dialogue or democratization efforts – the lack of literacy of many politicians on these key challenges negatively influences their ability to debate intelligently and prioritize allocations of resources. Universities and other public research institutions continue to suffer from inadequate funding because they are placed at the bottom of the priority ladder.

In essence, there has never been a time in modern African history that the issue of leaders and the quality of leadership has been more important. The need for African leaders that have the competence to comprehend threats, the challenges, and opportunities of globalization, the imperatives of democratization and good governance, and the vision of a preferred future and capacity to realize it, is urgent. The African society at the present time awaits the emergence of a new generation of leaders who embody good governance as a cardinal value in every sphere of the society. Africa demands new leaders and a style of leadership that is competent, honest, visionary, and committed. Such a crop of leadership will appreciate the fact that science lies at the very core of growth and development.
In the same way, scientists also need to be flexible when conceptualizing solutions to global problems. Luckily, there is a new field of study around the block. It is called development engineering – a new interdisciplinary field of research that encompasses theoretical subjects as well as applied science. One of the objectives of this new strand of thinking is to tackle challenges that often block the delivery of more equitable development in a dynamic and interconnected world.

Most of the complex challenges currently affecting Africa could be solved if researchers develop culturally sensitive models that not only re-emphasize established scientific techniques but create powerful combinations of skillsets that can engender the rise of new solutions to old problems. Having accessed a wide range of research studies across many disciplines, I can state with a high level of certainty that our main weakness lies in translating research data into practice. But this is not an African problem. Bridging the theory-practice gap is a global problem. However, interdisciplinary thinking, as an approach, is more likely to democratize science and align research with market needs and the real needs of the millions of populations in Africa that continue to suffer afflictions that have been eradicated in the developed world.

Richard Oduor

Richard is a Biomedical Science & Technology graduate from Egerton University Kenya. He works and lives in Nairobi, Kenya. Richard aspires to be a multidisciplinary thinker and pursues threads from different disciplines in a bid to link them into one huge overarching framework of everything. He is also a poet and a budding short story writer/novelist. Richard also runs a blog called The Grand Debate.

The Commentary was first published in Write Paragraphs for the World Science Day for Peace and Development Commemoration.

Diaries of the Living Dead #1

His life was a wire. A rusted coil heaped on the outskirts of Sigwembe village market. Rusted and twisted, no different from the humdrum life of muffled voices. The village had stopped talking, stopped farming, stopped dancing. And even though worms wriggled out of decaying sons discarded on the narrow footpaths, mothers had stopped mourning. Fathers sat on the broad Makhamia lutea leaves spread on earth. They had stopped talking about burials. Let the earth drink their blood. Let the brown earth swallow their sons.

Joseph leaned on waist-length thrushes that formed a hedge around his hut. It was early morning. The sun’s smile was that of a genial father, and with every widening of the mouth, blades of grass lost moisture to thirsty air. He lowered his trousers and squatted to give back to the earth what he had borrowed. Ants circled his heels and edged closer to have a bite. One bite, two bites, three bites, four bites – rapacious ants! Done, he pulled up his trousers and whistled, walking towards St. Mary Our Lady Catholic Parish.

The war had swindled the village out of young men. Farms lay in idle wait for strong arms to break the top skin. Cultivated farms are more receptive to raindrops. Cultivated farms hate runoff. Joseph knew it was just two weeks to planting time but he had lost interest in farming. He was not a poor man but certainly not rich by city standards. He would survive with whatever was in store, or he would scavenge.

Joseph remembered the days before the ethnic clashes began. Days when the land of forests was a haven of laughter! He recalled the evening banters around liquor pregnant pots. The mornings when birds stood in line and joined in dawn chorus to wake lazy households. Now birds no longer sing because there is no village to wake. The war had gulped all the schools. It had spit fire to grass thatched huts. He remembered how smoke had conquered the skies and brought darkness to the village at midday. Not even the sun’s rays could kiss the brown earth. And the melee and cries of devastation! Not even the wind dared to carry the secret to Tulo village – an hour’s walk away.

He was happy to be alive. No. He was lucky to be alive. He would have been gone too. The few who remained after the war were ensnared by the military units that were deployed to bring back sanity to the land of forests, a move that went with the sanity of the village. Tears became a common sight in young girls’ cheeks and mothers hid their agony behind a flurry of activity. Every time the sight of Jungle Green-Black Khaki sagging on huge soldier boots flew into their memories – they cried one more time, soundlessly.

But the war had taught Joseph a lesson. The war had taught him that human life is no different from that of an ant. But ants were more intelligent – more brotherly. Life, he surmised, was a cesspit of smaller deaths.

The church bells started ringing. Joseph’s feet flattened the long grass lining the footpaths. He kicked mud off his akala on the stone steps and passed the heavy wooden doors of the church. The church was half-dark. Fibreglass corrugated sheets shot rectangles of light to the fraying floor. An extremely delicate sonorous symphony pierced the silence to welcome the Priest.

Father John Ward opened his eyes and automatically counted the few derelicts in the congregation. He kissed the crucifix out of habit and growled:

“In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” He made the symbol of the cross, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

“The Lord be with you.” Faint voices emerged from the semi-darkness.

He was the only Servant of God in the expansive ruin. The green land that had once been under the fangs of a rebel outfit now lay bare. Not even the yell of hungry children punctuated weaverbird chatters. Father John knew that most of the men who came to the mid-morning mass were living alone, as hermits, in the middle of the forest. He knew one or two of them at a personal level, or better who they had been before the war. War changes men. Women never came to the church. They sought God within the quiet agony of their leaking roofs.

“Brothers and Sisters, lets us acknowledge our sins, that we may prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

There was a brief pause, deliberate and meditative, and then charged by sips of introspection, the congregation wailed:

“I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, and I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God”

Father John’s voice screamed in the intervening silence.

“Have mercy on us O Lord.”

“For we have sinned against you. Show us, O Lord your mercy.” They screamed back.

“Kyrie, eleison” … “Kyrie, eleison”

“Christe, eleison” … “Christe, eleison”

Their tongues followed the Father’s tongue.

***

Richard Oduor

The Story Continues on Wednesday Next week (12th June, 2013)

Raila Odinga: Speech at the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) National Delegates Conference

This is the speech of the current Prime Minister of Kenya after being endorsed by delegates to be the party’s flag bearer in Marth 4th elections.

 

***

ODINGAOnce again, I am both humbled and overjoyed to be here with you today as the leader of our great political party, ODM. Chungwa!

 

Today,  we  remember  how  buoyed  with  hope  we  were  at  this  time  in  2007,  when  we  as  a party knew we were about to take over the leadership of this country.

 

All the blessings and good intentions of our ODM manifesto lay, as they do today, brimming over in our basket, ready to be delivered to the people.

 

But sadly it was not to be. We were denied our victory, and denied our opportunity to make a real difference to this country.

Now, however, we have another chance.

 

And I want to reassure everyone, here at Kasarani, in Kenya and around the world, that this election will be free, fair and peaceful. In fact, I want to ask that all presidential contenders come  together  in  a  strong  show  of  unity  and  resolve,  to  reassure  Kenyans  that  we  are  all unequivocally committed to a free, fair and peaceful election.

Ladies and gentlemen –

My purpose here today is to tell you a little about my far-reaching plans for the future of this beautiful country of ours.

 

Today, I want us, as a party, to make a social contract with everyone in this country – that we will deliver democracy, the rule of law, prosperity, unity, inclusiveness and equality.

 

In conjunction  with  our  coalition  partners,  we  will  fully  implement  the  Constitution  we fought so long and so hard to bring to fruition.

We will make devolution a reality, so that all of our country has the opportunity to develop equally.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

In  2007,  I  said  we  must  invest  heavily  in  three  things:  One,  Infrastructure!  Two,

Infrastructure! Three, Infrastructure!

 

We  have  seen  the  result  in  expanded  road-building,  accelerated  growth  through  ICT,  and successful irrigation projects in arid and semi-arid lands.

 

While  we  continue  with  this  work,  I  now  pledge  that  we  shall  again  invest  heavily  in  three things: One, Jobs! Two, Jobs! Three, Jobs!

Every one of the ills we suffer has its roots in POVERTY. At the very root of this poverty is the lack of jobs.

 

Most  of  our  young  people  do  not  have  jobs.  Yet  our  youths  have  been  educated  to  expect something more from life.

 

They expect to be gainfully employed.

They expect to have the opportunity for personal development, to make a decent living and to contribute something valuable to their communities.

Lack of jobs, as we have seen, leads to only one thing: social insecurity.

 

Social  insecurity  is  characterised  by  corruption,  poor  policing,  muggings,  extortions, insecurity,  cattle-rustling,  land  clashes,  poor  health  and  education,  strikes,  deficient  local production and lack of food sufficiency.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Don’t get me wrong. I am proud to be a Kenyan. No one could be more proud than I am when I represent our country, as I have been privileged to do on so many occasions.

 

And  every  time  I  am  out  there  representing  Kenya,  I  am  always  trying  to  learn  from  the

experience  of  others,  always  seeking  the  best  ways  of  building  sustainable  economic development, always planning how we can provide an environment where local and foreign investors are eager to work with us.

 

I have spoken many times about the Asian Tigers, those countries once at par with, or behind,

Kenya,  and  now  way  ahead  of  us.  My  plan  is  that  Kenya  becomes  the  African  Simba,  the

Lion of Africa, and sets the standard for the continent.

 

To do this, we must take a very different approach to our national life.

 

We  have  already  taken  huge  strides  towards  making  it  much  easier  to  do  business  in  our

country.

 

We have removed much of the red tape and bureaucracy that has made us so uncompetitive in

the past.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

As well as these major steps, we shall also concentrate in areas that make a more immediate difference to the life of each individual Kenyan.

Too often, we talk about annual percentage growth, GDP, rising or falling inflation, and other such exalted matters of finance.

Too rarely do we consider how little the ordinary Kenyan can feel of this.

 

We  must  begin  to  think  of  the  individual,  of  the  cost  of  living  TODAY,  of  having  enough food on the table TODAY, of being able to send the children to school THIS TERM, of being able to afford that URGENT hospital bill, of having a road nearby so that we can market the crop ripening in the field AT THIS MOMENT.

 

We cannot  always  wait  for  the  long-term  results  of  big  business,  so  we  must  back  up  these

plans with parallel projects to help people improve their lives NOW.

 

To this end, we have many ideas that are intended to revolutionise our national life.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Our  ODM  manifesto  is  a  carefully  thought-out,  comprehensive  programme  to  change  the direction of this nation.

 

In  preparing  for  job  creation,  for  example,  we  shall  reform  the  Kenya  Industrial  Estates  to

establish incubation centres in each county, so that people can acquire locally the skills they need to get jobs.

We shall focus education and training systems to be more responsive to industry’s needs.

We  shall  provide  funds  for  enterprise  development  among  marginalised  communities  and

disadvantaged groups, including those living with disabilities and the differently-abled.

 

In the Kenya we envisage, our youths will be our greatest asset.

We shall invest in business skills development among the youth and women, and then offer

grants – not loans – that will provide the start-up capital to establish viable livelihoods.

 

We shall give the youth the life-skills they need, so that they don’t fall into the trap of drugs

and alcohol and crime.

Women  are  at  the  core  of  Kenyan  life – yet  their  true  value as  builders  of  this  nation  has

never been acknowledged.

We  shall  sustain  the  march  towards  parity  and  equality  across  the  gender  divide  whose

foundation has been laid.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

All these goals tie in with our Vision 2030, and we can only realise Vision 2030 if we have industrial peace.

Over  the  past  few  months,  we  have  seen  many  of  our  workers  lay  down  the  tools,

complaining  of  low  pay  and  poor  working  conditions – university  staff,  medical  staff,  civil servants, teachers.

 

Just as I have moved determinedly forward in creating an enabling business environment, so I

plan  to  ensure  that  all  working  Kenyans  receive  remuneration  commensurate  with  the contribution they are making to nation-building.

 

We  intend  to  invest  in  rural  and  cottage  industries  and  to  foster  transformation  through  a good-neighbour system, so that community efforts help each and every person to build his or her house, to plough his or her land, to reap in good time whatever has been sowed.

 

I believe that, through ensuring social inclusion, social security, and marketable skills, we are

investing  in  sustainable  economic  development – and  that  means  a  quicker  transition  to  a

fully waged society.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Our  country  has  been  ripped  apart  by  factionalism  and tribal  hatred.  This  lack  of  social

cohesion  is  high  on  our  list  of  things  to  be  addressed.  And  I  am  well  aware  that  poverty contributes the largest portion to that kind of insecurity.

Poverty contributes to the ineffectiveness of our police force.

We intend to fully revamp our criminal justice system.  We  shall improve police conditions,

providing  police  officers  with  proper  initial  training,  as  well  as  sustained  retraining  and  the opportunity to acquire wider policing skills.

 

We  shall  provide  officers  with  decent  housing,  equipment  and  pay  cheques  that  match  the onerous responsibilities of their work in guarding our nation.

 

Speaking  of  onerous  duties – our  police  officers  have  a  very  onerous  and  important  task coming up soon – that of guarding our elections.

Because of their work, these officers will not be able to vote on March 4th.

 

In this sense, they are disenfranchised, and I am requesting the IEBC to put in place measures

to  allow  police  officers  to  vote  early,  so  that  they,  too,  have  their  say with  the  rest  of  the nation in electing the leaders of their choice.

 

All these measures we intend to take will give the police force a new culture and a new pride, guiding it towards a new identity as a pro-people agency of assistance and security.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Speaking of social cohesion brings me to the fundamental underpinnings of ODM as a social-democratic party that advocates the peaceful, evolutionary transformation of society through social inclusion.

 

Being  a  social-democratic  party  means promoting  a  social-market  economy  where  people have choices, not just at the ballot box but through being stakeholders in their own economic futures.

It means ensuring rights not just to education, but to QUALITY education.

 

It  means  ensuring  rights  to  accessible  healthcare  facilities – QUALITY  healthcare  that  is available to everyone through a universal health insurance scheme.

Our  social  inclusion  programmes  will  help  close  the  gap  between  the  haves  and  the  have-nots.

 

We have begun cash-transfer programmes. We shall extend this, so that anyone who cannot

make  a  living  through  no  fault  of  their  own is  not  forced  into  a  life  of  crime,  or  life  on  the streets.

 

This  transition  to  a  humanly  sustainable  way  of  living  will  loosen  the  grip  that  criminality,

homelessness, hunger, modern diseases, ethnic clashes and other ills have on our society.

 

 

And  when  people  are  treated  equally  and  there  is  equity  in  the  distribution  of  our  national

resources,  we  shall  finally  be  able  to  send  ethnicity  to  the  place  where  it  belongs – the museum of curiosities of human history.  NOW is the time.

Ladies and gentlemen –

Only national unity will make possible the great goals we have set for ourselves.

I  have  set  the  bar  for  co-operation  with  fellow  Kenyans  by  entering,  on  your  behalf,  into coalitions with some of my fellow leaders.

At  the  signing  on  Tuesday  this  week  of  the  largest  coalition  agreement  in  our  history,

Kenyans  saw  what  they  had  so  eagerly  been  waiting  for –  the  composition  of  a  new government that will usher in the change that our people have fought and sacrificed so much for over the decades.

 

Vice-President  Kalonzo  Musyoka,  the  Honourable  Moses  Wetangula  and  I – with  so  many

other  leaders  who  appeared  at  the  formation  of  the  Coalition  for  Reform  and  Democracy

(CORD) – have made a pledge of total commitment to a new future for our beloved country.

 

In the days to come, other leaders, professionals and activists will join us. All of them realise this election is by far the most important in the history of our country.

This will be the biggest step Kenya has ever taken towards real unity.

 

The Grand Coalition was a forced marriage but we have still managed to achieve some things

of  significance – the  new  Constitution,  devolution,  and  the  entrenchment  of  integrity  as  an essential pre-requisite for leadership.

We  must  build  on  these  gains  as  a  united  nation,  all  of  us  willing  to  stand  side-by-side  in mutual support.

In  the  search  for  unity and  dignity  of  our  nation,  I  commit,  as  I  have  said  before,  I  will

petition  the  Security  Council  of  the  UN  to  have  the  cases  facing  our  people  before  the

International Criminal Court, referred back to Kenya.

We  have  a  reforming  Judiciary  that  enjoys  the confidence  of  the  people  and  can  handle  the

cases.

My  message  is  one  of  peace  and  unity,  just  as  our  national  anthem  prescribes.  We  must “dwell in unity, peace and liberty.”

 

Our  hearts  must  be  “strong  and  true”  and  service  must  “be  our  earnest  endeavour.”

 

The third verse of the national anthem contains exactly the message I want to impart to you today:

 

“Let  all  with  one  accord,  In  common  bond  united,  Build  this  our  nation  together.

 

“And the glory of Kenya, The fruit of our labour, Fill every heart with thanksgiving.”

 

Nothing can say it better.

 

I, Raila Amolo Odinga, am more than READY. Are you ready? Mko tayari?

 

[Response: Tuko tayari!] Then, let us get on with the job!

ODM! Chungwa! Maisha bora!

Wiper!  Ford-Kenya!  Narc! All the people of Kenya!

Thank you so much, and go well. We have exciting work ahead.

Reclaiming the African Dream: Call to the Committed African

The redemption of Africa remains with Africans. Africa can no longer continue heaping piles of blame upon colonialism. It is a case closed. Period. Despite the imperialistic injustices suffered at the hands of the Europeans, we must move on. Charting the way forward is what should disturb us. Reducing unemployment rates, alleviating poverty, acquiring technology that will help treat diseases and investment in African man power is what any sane and committed African needs to worry about. It is imperative to find better ways to improve on modes of governance and establishment of firm institutions that outlast leaders. In other words, passing on of a better world to the future generation is the most persistent thing that should tickle any committed African. But how do we do it without sounding abstract? How can it be done practically so that the common citizen who bears the greatest brunt of incompetent governance, wretched indigence and suffering the most treatable of maladies benefit and live a better life

Here is my two cent worth. First, there must be a commitment by everyone to make him/herself better with whatever we have at our disposal. Whether it is farming, teaching, rearing livestock, writing, acting or just offering advice; it is fundamental to have something that keeps us busy. It is from a started project that an individual may solicit for help which mostly is always financial and at other times, social or even emotional. Back in the rural areas, it is being done with women forming farming groups to help them improve on their farming methods. Young men and women who have not had the chance to join institutions of higher learning are constantly forming groups and writing numerous letters to both governmental and non-governmental offices asking for funds to support their nascent ventures. That is the way forward. I am speaking from the Kenyan context though it resonates well with most African nations. These ventures will help in the reduction of poverty and dependence that is known to drag back most African families.

 Another thing is to constantly put our leaders to account. Especially political leaders because it is them who influence most of the destinies of their nations. Shooting of people demonstrating for their rights as happened in South Africa of platinum miners should be loudly condemned. Massacring of thirty four people should not be allowed in Africa at this age especially when it is done by law enforcement agencies in a country with a vibrant democracy as South Africa. This also goes to the CCM party in Tanzania where police beat up a journalist and ended up dropping tear-gas canister killing him in the most heartless technique ever witnessed. In other words, the electorate of Tanzania cannot allow CCM to continue with this pointless hegemony and must vote out Jakaya Kikwete and his team that embodies such cruelty. Right here at home, the Tana massacres should have prompted the Police Commissioner who is also serving illegally under the constitution to resign. It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens because we pay tax. Condemnation of such atrocities should be loud and made known to the government that the denizens are not pleased.

 Where is the soul of a nation when people are killed up to fifty two and no serious demonstrations take place to express the outrage? Then the killers get more emboldened and set ablaze more houses and another bloodletting follows and we sit back and assume nothing is happening at all. Does it not prick you? Are you not disturbed or is it just normal? After all its just news, so what. Is that how you quip? Down in South Africa when miners were massacred a section of the populace went into demonstrations and their government and the world got the message loud and clear: We Are Fed Up With the Killings! Even in the Arab world it is now possible after the success of the Arab Spring. In a nutshell, everyone must get into the frontlines in ensuring our leaders are accountable for what they do. Telling me you do not love politics does not help the situation but what are you doing with what you love to make the country better?

Africa needs innovatorsThird and the most crucial of all is the use technology to help ourselves. Generation Y have a chance to reclaim the glory of Africa using technology being the most tech-savvy of all the existing generations. The young men in the Arab nations especially Tunisia and Egypt used it in order to ouster their dictators. Why not other African countries? Coming up with helpful innovations that help make things better is the hallmark of being counted in this information age. Look at what M-Pesa has done in the money transfer. Young innovators are busy developing various mobile applications that target the common citizens in order to improve lives. Young people are running online companies and getting self employed hence demystifying the notion that one must get formal employment after school. That is the best way to go. And for those who have learned the ropes, pass the baton to others. Spread the word.

 Lastly, it is the participation of the middle class in the politics of the day. Why are our middle class especially in Kenya taking a distance from the political scene? Or do they want to put the lower class to the fate of Sisyphus who was condemned by the gods to roll a rock to the top only for the rock to roll back. Then Sisyphus would repeat the same process. Is that the fate the middle class want by standing at the periphery then expect the lower class to transform leaders overnight? From solid to liquid. Instantly. No. It cannot happen that way. They should begin dirtying their hands too. Nations like Egypt and Tunisia succeeded in the revolution because the educated masses that mostly constitute the middle class joined in the struggle for a better a nation. And that is what should be replicated in other African nations. Only then negative ethnicity and rampant graft will decline. Only then will that average citizen who survives on less than a dollar have an improved life of feeding him/herself.

About the Author

Amol Awuor is a young Poet, Short Story Writer, Critic and Freelance Analyst of various issues affecting the global society. He can be reached at brunologix.89@gmail.com

He also runs a blog http://sikuzijazo.blogspot.com

Nairobi, Kenya

This article is part of the ‘What is the way for Africa?’ Series you can contribute by sending your article to granddebate@gmail.com