Thursday, February 21, 2008

How did we get here?

In the streets of Perth Western Australia am sitting in the train, the lady next me is reading the local news paper the West Australian. She looks up with concern and tears on her eyes and she asks me where are you from? I say Kenya and she looks again at the article and asks how did you get here? For a momment am thinking thats idle talk, I came by air, then before I can answer her she points to the article and the pictures jump out. It is a scene that I have seen, smoke raising from a burning house, a man running away with a little girl on his back. And immediately I know what she is asking.

I have no answer, all I can say is we did not see it comming, the elections were very peaceful, there were observers, we had an electoral commission that had the experience having overseen the past elections of 2002. I also muse to my self, that there was a lot of investment in civic education, promoting peace, tolerence and all desirable virtues. I do my best to explain what I think must have transpired.

Painful as it is once again we have been reminded of how fragile peace is and how in one action mayham can be caused. There are those who believe that the violence was premeditated and as such are looking around for the inciters. There is the other school of thought that says the violence was all spontenous a reaction to events as they unfolded.

The first premise of organized response to the election is easy to deal with as it gives us the false comfort that people were acting under orders, it basically shifts the blame on the individuals who violently reacted to what was happening. The second idea is hard to deal us it forces us to squarely look at the reality that amongst us there are people who are ready and willing to kill and maim to make a statement.

In a country with a judiciary and a well ordered way of resolving dispute this is a big blow as it negates all the gains that we had made in advancing democracy and human rights discourse in Kenya.

She then asks why do people in Kenya like living in their small communities even when they migrate in the city? And am thinking right, we got Kisumu Ndogo in almost all cities of Kenya, we got Garissa in Nairobi, for a momment I wonder if that shows how tribalized we are, but then I point out that in so many countries there is a China Town, and I have always visited the China town's to get some Chinese stuff and it is so beautiful. The landscape of Perth City or Sydney would be incomplete without the little china town's. I also remind my self that the Indians almost without exception reside in one area of whichever city or town they might migrate to. So in a sense living with ones own kin should not be seen as a bad thing of itself but the flip side is that when the tension rises this blocks can feul a conflict.

I also tell her that in any community there are people who are just waiting for an opportunity to be disruptive, we have witnessed mob violence in the streets of Nairobi that point out clearly to a complete disregard of human life and due procedures. The lady gets off am heading to the last station from Perth and as such I have the rest of the journey to reflect upon what has become of Kenya..

As I journey in Australia am a walking source of curious looks, talks and discussions, suddenly everyone has realized that there is a country called Kenya and they have issues to deal with.

As dutiful Kenyans we have joined hands here in Perth Western Australia to raise awareness on the plight of people affected by the post election, we are also collecting funds to support relief efforts and hope we will be involved in the long term process of finding sustainable peace.

Hope she reads the message that we are sending out, that we as Kenyan's in Western Australia will work as hard as we assist people to overcome the challanges that have been caused by the conflict..


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