By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 04 November 2012
It has been said over and over again, but it bears repeating. Our beloved country Kenya is not out of the tribal woods yet. No
matter how much we congratulate ourselves and repeat the mantra that
“Kenyans have become cleverer”, the truth is that we are constantly one
step away from apocalyptic disaster.
After the conflagration that
followed our last General Election, many of us thought to ourselves that
that was as bad as it could ever get. We watched on television as
hundreds of thousands were displaced, as hundreds of our
fellow-citizens were butchered for being born in the wrong tribe, and a
few of us shed a tear in despair. We wrung our hands and begged
the principals to reach an agreement and prevent an all-out civil war.
We reached out to the international community and asked them to mediate
Finally, we sighed with relief when on the steps of
Harambee House in late February 2008, former United Nations
Secretary-General sombrely intoned, “We have a deal”. We took to the
streets in joy, embracing total strangers, swearing that this would be a
new beginning in the history of our country, and telling anyone who
cared to listen that we had triumphed over adversity.
reality sank in soon enough. The same ethnic considerations re-emerged
in making state appointments, and cronyism continued to rule the roost
as epitomised by the now immortal incantation by our former deputy Chief
Justice, “You should know people”.
Those that had been left out of the loop quickly realised that they were going nowhere, and nothing had changed. Poor
Kenyans living in squalor in our slums and rural hamlets soon realised
that the deaths, rapes and displacements were all in vain, and that the
country was soon settling into its “anything goes” routine.
set in once again. Unemployment, extreme poverty and a feeling of
disenfranchisement pervades the country in the setting of soaring
economic growth numbers and a trillion shilling budget. Our
leaders have lost touch with the common mwananchi. They only fight to
secure their own fortunes and those of their immediate family and
hangers-on. The rest of the citizenry survive on crumbs from their
tables. And this is fertile ground for dissent, disengagement, and
We are already seeing signs of disorder.
From Tana River to Mombasa, from Samburu to Kisumu, Nairobi all the way
to Garissa and Mandera, Kenyans are rising up against fellow citizens.
Grenade attacks, killings of policemen and other violent crimes on a
large scale no longer merit newspaper headlines.
Let us not repeat the fallacy next year that we never saw this coming. Let no one say that they were never warned. From Justice Kriegler’s warning to the conversations at middle class dinner tables tonight, the warning signs are all around us. From
unthinkingly mouthed ethnic epithets to blatant favouritism in
allocation of state resources, we are laying ground for the final
assault on the idea of Kenya.
Disenfranchised youth have tried the
ballot several times and failed to win emancipation. When they tried
violence to claim their freedom last time, they were stopped in their
tracks by a political settlement.
One shudders to imagine what it will take to stop them once they get going after the next national crisis.
Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and a
senior lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine firstname.lastname@example.org;