Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Kenyan point of view

I had planned to post this up over a week ago but due to the fact that i never received permission from the author of the email in question to post it on here (emailed but no response yet), i had put it aside. But sugabelly's comment on The Situation in Kenya spurred more rethinking on the issue so i decided to go ahead and post my preamble to the intended post, and a teeny weeny paragraph from the email which should at least give you another perspective into the violence in Kenya, i hope.
Below is an excerpt of an email from a Kenyan professor at the University of Newcastle about the crisis in his country. Reading it forced me to re-examine my earlier feelings towards the violence in Kenya. I most certainly don't condone the 500+ deaths that have resulted from Kibaki's "re-election" (Blame the pacifist in me but I don't think the loss of ONE life is ever justified, no matter how high the stakes) but I now have a better understanding of the struggle. I pitied the Kenyans for not having the fortune that we Nigerians had in seeing our elections end in peaceful (resigned) acceptance of the corrupt practices that went on across the board. But now I see how unfortunate it is that we continue to take the slaps of our leaders and turn our cheeks repeatedly because after all, we are the resilient, "happiest people in the world", right? I wish I had an answer to this problem of unaccountability in Nigeria. But I don't. I wouldn't say the Kenyans have the answer either, but at least they're not about to sit about waiting for another 4 years to see if the answer falls in their lap. They, unlike us, will not sit by and watch their government make a mockery of the people it is meant to represent.

It is only with the restoration of peace that reason will prevail. But there can be no lasting peace without justice. There is an urgent need for an open and thorough public inquiry to determine the veracity of rigging allegations.

It is disheartening that Kenyans are losing their lives senselessly because they wish to express disapproval on a flawed process. Many of these are ordinary people who can see a 'loaded dice' but importantly refuse to let the lie go away just because the higher ups think they can get away with it! This is the biggest crisis ever for Kenya but I think we will get through it. Though the news talks about ethnic fragmentation--Kenyans as a whole tend to have a greater sense of nationalism rather than ethno-centric parochialism. We are smart enough to be rational, what hurts the average Kenyan is the senseless loss of life. We are Kenyans and part of the reason that we are the most heterogeneous African community that has never had a civil war. We believe in the State but should politicians force individuals to thinks as ethnic collections, it will be a very sad day indeed for a country that has resisted and served as an example that bucks the trend against the so called “normal” ills on the continent.

Thank you, Funke, for sharing this email!


Waffarian said...

I too, thought the exact same thing. The Kenyans are speaking out and reacting. I agree with the prof that it is a shame that the "reaction" by the ordinary man is being turned into a question of tribalism. We have all see what happened in Congo and we know how dangerous it is to go that way.

The only problem I think with demonstrations in Africa is how fast any gathering of people can turn to violence. I watched the "orange demonstrations" of Ukraine, now called the "orange revolution", and I was surprised at the way millions of people came out on the streets each night in the freezing cold to protest. I have seen the "million man" march so many times on TV, and when one thinks about it, (we are more than 150 million people) is it not possible to find a million people that would be willing to go out and demonstrate? Recently, the monks in Burma amazed the world with their demonstrations.

The French are quick to take to the streets anytime they think something is unfair...why can't we as Africans express our feelings without violence? Sometimes I have dreams of getting all Nigerians in "diaspora" on a march to Abuja.

I hope Kenya solves its problem and I hope demonstrations in Africa do not lead to violence as is always the case.

As for Nigerians.... we will keep sitting down there, "hissing", and folding our arms, nothing will change...we need a march.

Aspiring nigerian woman said...

I salute the Kenyans, for standing up to an unfair election and I salute their courage. Unfortunately, we Nigerians just don't have the courage to stand up and carry a placard. One of the reasons is because, the "elite", you and I , educated, middle class people have refused to lead this protest of injustice and unfairness, we will rather remain in our “safe bubble” and leave the fight for the "area boys", "the baba Isale", people that in the name of hunger and poverty will sell their soul to the highest bidder.

Until we stand up, walk and lead this protest, I am afraid that change will never come.

How many working class Nigerians, living the UK will carry placard and protest at the Nigerian Embassy in the name of …. Anything, just name it.

Jinta said...

the world is becoming smaller, issues will increasingly get less isolated and what affects one will invariably affect others. i hope nigerians can see the kenyan example of not accepting nonsense

guerreiranigeriana said...

is the violence because of the protesters or because of the government 'law enforcers'?...

...i agree with aspiring nigerian woman that nigerian elite/middle class are far too complacent and distracted with the trappings of 'success' and so-called wealth...but then again, nigerians have gotten so far away from doing what is good for all, that even if some few elite were to march/protest something, i'm not sure that the competition or opposing group wouldn't plot and crash the plane they were flying in or kill them off some other way... is sad though that kenyans are losing their lives because top officials are corrupt...

TheAfroBeat said...

Thanks so much for your comments.

@ Waffarian and Aspiring Naija Woman, welcome o! It is true that certain nations/peoples have a tradition of protest/speaking out (like you said, the French always come to mind in that regard). The stakes are high for them, but at least they know that their actions will hold their government to ransom, and no lives will be lost. In our case, Nigerians at home cannot "afford" to protest, because next thing you know, you have some policeman throwing tear gas at your peaceful protest. I once heard self-exiled political activist, Omoyele Sowore (the guy who runs speak about his days as an activist in Nigeria, and the number of times he was beaten/tortured in jail over peaceful protests in Unilag and his main point was that protests are so much more risk-free (less hassle) in the Diaspora that we should be convening more often. We have strength in numbers all over the world, so why can't the annual Nigerian Reunion (where thousands of Nigerians gather to network, party, and what have you) be used as a platform to get nigerians to physically protest a cause. Or like you mentioned, a worldwide protest in front of Nigerian embassies on Oct. 1. Fine, it might have less effect on the government back home, but at least the media will cover it, and i find that unlike other African nations, Nigerian leadership is relatively more wary of bad press. I wish my parents could leave their businesses closed for weeks on end to strike against increased petrol prices but that means no school fees for the siblings et al. I, on the other hand, am perfectly capable of taking a day off to protest in front of my local Nigerian embassy, or write a letter to CNN about a protest by Nigerians @ a local college campus without as much hassle as the N20k/month civil servant who could lose their job for a similar attempt.

@ guerreirannigeriana, welcome too! It is indeed sad that Kenyans are losing their lives over what started as non-violent protests. i think the 'law-enforcers' in many cases are what cause the downward spiral into violence.

@ Jinta, right on the money! Last month, all we could hear on CNN was how violence in the ND was a major cause of the $100/barrel peak, so we, as the largest market on the continent, have so much influence over not only energy issues, but even private sector issues - telecom, retail, consumer products - we sneeze and Africa catches a cold. Now, to get us to sneeze be the issue.


Waffy pointed me here. Thanks.

Afro Beat, again, you are forcing us to face the issues.

@ aspiring: you hit the nail on the head. I have been discussing with various Nigerians why it appears that our people are willing to lie down and be walked on continuously. We have all had various answers, but I have never considered your point about the middle class and its role in leading/organising mass protest.

Anyway, I thank you for sharing your insight. It definitely has my mind spinning. Nevertheless, despite our frustrations, we must continue to fight for Nigeria, literally and symbolically.

Sherri said...

thanks for this post.
it's a shame all those lives had to be lost i only hope it's not in vain.

while not in protest, lives are being lost daily in nigeria and no one is taking notice of them as casualties of a war not declared

every time a life is lost to armed robbers, every time a life is lost in an automobile accident due to bad roads or lack of adequate medical services, every time a life is cut short at the hand of cultist, every time a dream is killed by the non-existent education system, every time another woman compromises herself just for another meal, every time a another man "join em" cos he can't beat em"
every time a young mind is stiffled by the din of hopelessnes.

the list is endless.
i am ready and willing to lay down my life for my beliefs (my mum is sure glad i don't live in naija)

we all have to be willing to do something no matter how little or how big..
i believe in the power of one, one can make a difference! one is not lonesome, the power of one is the voice of many speaking as one..

where is the battle? in the mind i say,

it begins with u and me.

every time an ignorant american/british/african rant about the fraudster nation known as nigeria be not afraid to educate them for they know not what they say other than what their govt has sanctioned

everytime u come in contact with a child of nigerian descent be courageous to educate them about the grace and beauty and richness of the land of their ancestors even if their very parents have nothing good to say of nigeria

every time u are at ur job, do it to the very best of ur ability for u are the ambassador of ur country.
(yes for the love of country)

every time u see another human in need, give what u can, that afterall, is the nigerian way...

for those who have children,
teach,them nigerian culture as it used to be. let them see ur passion for ur beliefs, give them the best of both worlds
that is, a priceless legacy

i better stop o

girl, u lite my fire!

Aspiring nigerian woman said...

sorry all. this was for a different blog!

Allied said...

Will nigerians see this an an example? i hope so

Naija chic said...

Thanks for this post. Great comments. My thoughts:

How much of a difference will carrying placards and peaceful demonstration in diaspora achieve?

How much impact will it have on those shameless, ruthless, murderously greedy, calculating Nigerian politicians?

True, present politicans are well educated but sadly, their intelligence is warped.

I hate to say this but as an avid history student, protests by 'elite middle classess' ALONE will only be an exercise in futility.

Afrobabe said...

Wow, the comments here are so serious and ermmmm educated...How do i fake intelligence now...ok here goes...

I personally wish the government would do things and not tell us about it before hand...just build the damm things and let us see it and praise them...I heard the 3rd mainland bridge was built with oil what happened since then...the oil is still there why hasn't the bridge been maintained since then...

God help us...

Ok, did that sound inteligent? It better did cos hand dey pain me!!!

TheAfroBeat said...

@ Afrobabe, my sister (us Afros have to stick together now!), mission accomplished! I feel your frustration on wanting the government to stop with the big parties around the announcement of projects, and start throwing the parties once the task is accomplished. But you know that if they decide to take that approach of quiet contracts, then there's more than enough opportunity for hands to feast on the cookie jar without the public being able to scrutinize the proeceedings (e.g the Nigerian Police Equipment Fund scandal).

@ Naija Chic, i too struggle to figure out what a Nigerian's kryptonite is. shame? discomfort? prison? threat to life? Methinks the latter. How about making corruption a capital crime? We don't have the death penalty in Nigeria do we?
In the meantime, you're right that the revolution will need more than the middle classes. But for now, they are the ones who have less to lose by demonstrating/protesting (feel free to disagree).

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