Monday, May 27, 2013

Democracy and the Emerging Culture

There we were, and now here we are thinking that things have changed to better if not the best! Leadership, which some people refer to as governance, is a crucial issue. A Kibera society where people have got different versions to its meaning is regularly occupied with lots of activities as pertains, and is majorly political. It is then, and from the background, that we should ask ourselves the significance of major leadership decisions. Some tag it the epicentre of Kenya’s political development, but it’s so challenging to summarily report whether this perception is consummate with the people’s level of empowerment on political reforms.

In the past regimes, there was very minimal tolerance of citizen’s freedom or any mode of expression in whichever manner and direction; the more you tried championing an agenda focused on the public’s interest the faster you risked your life. In this time where Kenya is celebrating the year of Jubilee, it is paramount to note that this has been accompanied with the opportunity of the Kenya’s Supreme document-“the constitution”- which is protective to all.  I have a strong belief that we, the people, may champion the reform courses from the lowest level so far to the top most. This is because a number of progressive steps have been made right from the struggle for multi party to the current spirit of devolution of power using individual commitment and contribution.

However, some of these gains have been reversed because of emerging factors in every Kenyan election year. While the factors vary, money has constantly played a crucial role in our decision making. While I believe that money is a valuable and convenient material it is also a mysterious disaster if prioritized for auxiliary purposes. In leadership, the citizenry should consider more the people’s integrity and competence to manage our resources and enhance effective service delivery aimed at a sustainable development momentum, contrary to salivating for short term handouts then start unnecessary complains just a while after elections. This is a primary concern which, if not addressed, may stop achieving sustainable peace. The electorates’ thirst for immediate gains rather than well structured enduring systems is a perfect recipe for chaos.

Yes, we all understand that planning for leadership positions to a greater extent requires some resources. My worry, however, is that  if money is the in thing,  should it be the  same resource one has to use in facilitating the planning or bribing the electorates’ sober mind of clear decision making? Again, if all who pocket much are always perceived as winners even before elections, then why can’t the electorates do advise the election governing body to pre-declare them earlier instead of letting others waste the little resources into the process? Voters still value pennies instead of the holistic understanding of what better leadership and governance mean for their lives. Can the real and natural Kibera youth stand up?

Written by:
Mr. Sigar James Agumba
PMC Member                   

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

This Was My Feeling....

There is a story which was collected in March by the project members that shows that a small incidence in elections, that saw a candidate lose, can wash away all the good work done by the PMC. It also showed that celebrations of election victory can make people forget the need for good neighbourliness. However, the flipside of the story also shows that there is an awareness of people taking a responsibility to desist from violence and engage in relative calm. From this stand point it is encouraging that individuals in Kibera had come to believe in the country systems which should provide dispute resolution mechanisms as witnessed with the acceptance of the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling on elections. It shows also that celebrations of election victory can make people forget the need for good neighbourliness.

The question it left begging for answers is whether there is a better platform where these issues can be addressed so as to unite people of different feelings living in Kibera. Below is the account as collected by Erick Owuor, a member of PMC, and told by John Kavoi, A Kambi Muru resident in Kibera people’s settlement:

“I have been having very positive thoughts about other ethnic communities especially after attending voter seminars organised by the “Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation Project.”  I first got involved as a participant in this voter education seminar at Kambi Muru where the main issues revolved around voting processes and peaceful co-existence. The most striking thing I had come to cultivate in this process is that I was developing very positive impression about other ethnic communities other than mine. I was convinced that Kenyan people had come to age especially when I saw an assembly of youth from different entities preaching one Kenya and united for a common cause.

Members of the Project Management Committee in a function
All these hopes came to change after the general election. After the elections I felt that my effort towards inter-ethnic tolerance was wasted since immediately after the announcement of the presidential results, most of those I reached out to were the one who were bragging on how that some ethnic communities in Kenya will never lead. The said people even went a step further and confirmed that even if the supreme court favour my favourite party, they will go on and fight it in the name of ethnicity! Sincerely, for the first time in my contact with the project, I vowed and took a commitment not to vote in a Kenyan election; Never!

My bitterness with certain ethnic communities is not likely to change any time soon. I wanted to restore it until others felt just too superior. I thought people would engage others in meaningful discussions after the elections but now it is about our ethnic community winning and you loosing. My only hope now is that the court ruling address the real issues of what happened during the election because as much as we try to work towards tolerance and peace building, tribalism and the feeling of “this is ours” is a burden we have not accepted to offload. My fear is that the same manifests every five years and the worse of it all is that some communities are more than certain that it is only them who can lead; only because of ethnicity.

As much as I appreciate the work of the project team, the Kenyan situation needs to go much more than elections made in boardrooms. Political players still call upon their tribes to destroy any change in elections. My fear is that people are resorting back to the old order. This may in essence end up destroying the spirit of people like us on democracy and fair elections. So many people will not vote in the next elections; this I can confirm to you if you want.”

The story has shown that the calmness experienced in Kibera after the elections cannot be equated to peace. Sustainable peace can only come when people feel justice has been achieved. The Kibera people have been given awareness and they believed that the Kenyan electoral system would work this time round. However, the failure of the electronic voter register which saw people revert back to the black book saw members of the society lose interest and believed their voting rights has been violated once again.

On the other side, those perceived to be winners celebrated and even asked rhetorical questions on why the other side could not steal votes. The essence is that there are two divides living together in Kibera and so many underlying issues left untouched. Kibera needs to be cohesive enough for meaningful development. This means that a platform of dialogue should be encouraged and meaningful reconciliation instituted.

Edited by Ramogi Osewe-PMC Member

Project is Funded by The European Union

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is Tolerance Enough?

“What do you do when someone steals your dream?” This was question posed by one Moses from Soweto West during the Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation Project held at Mashimoni Environmental Centre. To most Kenyans who supported the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy in the just concluded elections, the feeling is that their dreams were stolen. Another participant in the same forum added: “It is easy to see people resorting to violence because there is a gap that cannot be filled by anyone. True reconciliation only starts by solving the main problem.  There can never be peace if the bitter seed that was planted still exists”

It is now evident that the Kenyan election period passed but there are people who still hold grudges while others feel hurt, robbed and victimized. If you consider the way people express themselves on social media insulting and degrading each other, the truth is that we are yet to accept in full the outcome of the elections. People have even gone to the extent of not buying goods from shops of business owners belonging to specific tribes. Whereas it is normal to have feelings when one has lost or won, how one expresses these feelings is very important.

For starters, a dream that is broken can be likened to a river that meets an obstacle on its course. In the circumstances, the river never stops but circumvents the obstacle. This takes time, resilience and tact. For the people thinking their dream was stolen, it doesn't mean the end of life. Progress, in many a case, may only be delayed but not stopped. One may be angry at the person who has broken their dream and when that person is not there, this anger is likely to be taken out on another person. It is therefore important to be careful not to eliminate the person who has in no way been involved. One should maneuver the obstacles and find new opportunities along the way.

The end result is that in life you have to tolerate others. Give people a chance to air their opinion. It is a fact 
hat Kenya cannot move on without the people appointed in power, however, everyone should ensure that peace prevails. People should not shy off from saying which candidates they voted for. That does not mean that we all have to agree with each other’s choices but we should respect each other’s choice and opinion. This is summed up very aptly by one participant who added: “I think we should stop pointing our fingers on everybody else apart from ourselves. We can change right from the daily relations we have with people. For example, when we were asked to mingle here, this lady told me that I should not seat next to her if I support Uhuru. Though she said it jokingly it shows the extent to which tribalism has taken root in our lives.” That is the work on the hands of all residents in Kibera.

Story by: Ramogi Osewe

This project is sponsored by The European Union