It’s a different day, a new morning. I wake up with the hope and drive to help in nation building activities. On my way to town, it’s the typical rush hour. Vehicles are speeding, and pedestrians are rushing on foot. We all have one goal, one focus, to get to work in real time. All year round, four years down the line that has been the norm. At work, I remember that I left in a hurry and forgot to lock the house. Ah! My neighbor is still around and just a phone call away. Relaxed, I call and ask him to secure it for me. I tell him where the keys are and to keep them until I get back. We’ve been friends for a long time now, and I fully trust him. He is like a brother to me.
Four years have now passed; it’s about election time. The politics is now gaining momentum, diehards are born, and groups are formed. Silly me, another day, I forget my keys again, but my neighbor is still around luckily. I pick up the phone, select his contact number, and I am now ready to dial it and ask him for this favor. He’s used to me calling him to lock the door; we’ve even made a joke about my forgetfulness. My finger is ready to dial the number then it hits me, he belongs to the other party politically. His political party is the “enemy” of mine, will he still lock the door? I doubt his loyalty; I’d rather have my place broken into than call him. All day at work, I’m worried about the safety of my things. I can’t complete a single task as I’m busy looking at the clock counting the hours until closing time.
It happens after every four years. I have a brother, a friend, for only four years not just to me but every Kenyan. Your story may be different from mine, but the storyline is the same. After four years, on the fifth year, relationships are broken, bridges burned down and new enemies made. All this because of our ‘leaders.’ The elite becomes diehard fanatics, no need to apply the knowledge gained from the many years of toiling in school. The youths get bribed and blinded with the usual clarion call of ‘The Future Belongs to the Youth.’ Somehow, time and time again, it’s the elderly who vie for those seats and are the most vocal champions of the call. Maybe my dictionary definition of who the youth are is wrong. No time to have a peek at it.
The ‘big’ man or woman of your party wakes up one day and calls for a demonstration. Just like a puppet, without any facts at hand, we take to the streets. Shouting slogans that we don’t know where from and why they were derived. The enemy of the ‘big’ man is my enemy too. That’s all we know and believe. That’s all that matters, no discussion, no reasoning. He says, your neighbor is the meanest and the evilest person on this earth. Even though he or she has never done anything wrong to you but be a good friend, you see him as evil. The one who that keeps you from succeeding. Funny thing, you are both at the same level, going through the same oppression but it’s four years past, you can’t see that.
Like clockwork, four years have passed. People are now back on the streets. I can’t sleep in peace at home; I don’t know what the ‘demons’ in my neighbor would make him do this time. I recall 2007 P.E.V. quite clearly. Fear creeps inside me; every sound makes my heart pound even faster. I remember the smoke rising from the burning houses. At home, with my family, we would wake up late and sleep early so that no one would know that we were around. Every morning we woke up, you thank God for letting you see that day and pray that he stays with you through it all. There was no going out or letting anybody in unless we were of the same ‘origin.’ The few scraps that were stored in the house was used for food for the weeks to come. You would go to bed hungry but be grateful for breathing.
No credit to check in with your colleagues or even call for help if and when needed. We lived like scavengers in our country. A place I have known as home since I was born was no more a haven. Then, all of a sudden, in my subconscious, I started grouping my friends. I needed and wanted to know their second names, their tribe. I was ruling out those I could count on for help in time of need and those I couldn’t. Now, I can see that we’ve started to disagree. It’s all because of politics; you belong to a different party from mine. I try to understand but I can’t. Do we stop communicating? If so, then we should pray hard that we wouldn’t need the others’ help in future.
We are lucky, thanks to God, the chaos and brutality came to an end. I know that I had not gone through much compared to others. They experienced what we only see on our screens. Ours is just like having a front row seat at the theater while theirs was the real deal. I know of people who used to eat ugali and raw tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and supper. At least they had some firewood to cook the ugali and the vegetables stored from the last harvest. They tell you tales of how they were forced to seek refuge in the forest and trek for days to get to town. In town, there was some semblance of peace, luckily, but this did not guarantee your safety. We would take them into our homes and shared whatever little there was. The horror stories, the stories that were left unsaid to the masses still disturb my mind.
The call for forgiveness and peace bore fruit. I forgave “them,” four years down the line, I am not sure I could forget. Each passing four years, blood curdles in my veins as I recall the pain as if it was inflicted yesterday. When people take to the streets, and we stop to reason for ourselves, then I remember. Dear God, You know that I am trying my best to let go. Every four years, the memories creep back in. When will enough, be enough? Dear Kenyans, we have the power in our hands just by being a registered voter. The ability to ‘hire’ and ‘fire.’ We are stronger united than divided. Let’s test our muscles at the ballot box and leave the polling stations joking and smiling at each other. How many much more lives need to be lost for us to learn?
They say experience is the best teacher. Yes, we have experienced, but have we learned anything? I want a brother for a lifetime and not just for four years. Will you be my brother only for four years? God is love; we confess to be Christians but what changes when we approach elections? Do we show love to our brother or do we harbor hate? We are all equal in the eyes of God, your skin color, hair texture or language doesn’t make you any better than the next person. May God’s love reign in our nation, Kenya even as we approach the election date. May He give us the courage to choose wisely and vote for leaders that He will use to lead us. Amen, let this be our prayer, for four years, every five years.