Sunday, March 3, 2013

Your behaviour will determine Kenya's future

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 03 March 2013

Finally, the campaigns are over. Today Kenyans take a break from politics and can begin thinking about a future after Monday’s elections. All candidates and parties have shouted themselves hoarse and danced themselves lame trying to convince us that they are the best option for a better Kenya. We have listened keenly, danced with some of them, and derided others.

That time is now over, and we must now be allowed to reflect in silence on the choices we are going to make on Monday. The decision we make on Monday determines whether this country holds together or finally disintegrates into its more natural mono-ethnic units as it has been trying to do at every election in the past two decades.

And this has nothing to do with which candidate or coalition we vote for.

What will determine the future of our country is actually how we behave after we vote, and after we receive the election results. How we behave when we discover that our “extremely popular” and well-loved candidate has been white-washed by a hitherto unknown upstart. How we behave when our coalition, which was slated to win the election with a “landslide”, loses by such a wide margin that the election is decided before the night is over. 

Shoulder high

How we behave when supporters of our opponents start singing and dancing the night away, deliriously carrying their chosen candidates shoulder high and exchanging celebratory high-fives.

These are the decisions that will make or break our country. Will you reject the loss of your candidate, and lash out at everything around you? Will you arm yourself and rush into the streets to block roads and attack your neighbours in protest against a presumably “stolen” election? Will you accept money from a candidate to demonstrate in the streets in the wake of a disappointing result?

If these decisions characterise your planned action, and if you and your ilk constitute the majority of Kenyan voters, then it is time for those of us who are more liberal-minded to pack up and find another country to call home. It is those that answer “yes” to these questions that will destroy the fragile peace that exists at this time in our beloved country.

If, on the other hand, you intend to accept the results as presented by the electoral commission, and plan to go to court if you are dissatisfied with how the process is handled; if you are willing to congratulate your neighbour on the win of his candidate whom you campaigned vigorously against; if you cannot countenance a violent thought in relation to the forthcoming elections; and if, as I hope and expect, you are among the majority of Kenyans, then we have already won this election even before a single ballot is cast. 

Stature of our country

In this, as in all future elections, let us remind ourselves that the reason the candidates are struggling so hard to win our votes has at least something to do with their desire to improve the stature of our country in the community of nations. Let us set up the system such that no matter who wins, the best interests of our nation will prevail. Let us banish the possibility of election-associated violence to the dustbin of our history, where it rightfully belongs.

Once again, may the best candidates win. 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and a senior lecturer at the Moi University’s school of medicine; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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