Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What We've Lost.........

The ongoing situation in Kenya has turned from watching a car crash to watching a multi-car pile up. When you think that it is over and want to go and help another car comes barelling down the road and slams into the pile adding more to the carnage. Everytime you want to help there is another car coming to join the pile, it also doesn't help that instead of clearing the wreck the drivers who started it want to argue as more cars join the pile.

That is my analogy on the Kenyan situation right now. It is amazing how less than 2 weeks are going to set us back years in many ways. I've decided to take a broad look at the different ways we are going to be hurting.

1. The Economy - One of the daily papers in Kenya said that the chaos has cost Kenya 60 billion shilling so far. I'm not going to bandy around numbers but the results are self evident. We have looted businesses, destroyed infrastructure, tourist numbers are going to plummet and I'm even going to venture and say that investments both local and foreign won't be coming in any time soon. I see our neighbors Uganda and Tanzania benefiting from our misfortune. Of course in turn what is going to happen is that we are going to end up exporting even more skilled labour than usual and given the xenophobia Tanzanians and Ugandans have for Kenyans that isn't going to help relations much. I'll even venture to say that the rate of inflation is going to rise.
If one took a close look at the rioters and looters one would notice that they were young men. A writer said there is nothing as dangerous as an unemployed young man, Kibaki's failure to create the jobs he said he would or encourage the growth of small businesses is indicative of the large number of looters, rioters and militia. Rest assured if these young men had something to call their own, they would have been less willing to riot and enter battle. On many levels I feel that their rioting was more a way of expressing their frustration than expressing their tribal allegiances. Since the 90's the number of disenfranchised youth has been growing in Kenya at an exponential rate, a walk around the different neighbourhoods of Nairobi can attest to that fact. Until Kenyan's leaders starting from the head put in place economic policies that have a trickle down effect instead of a trickle up effect we are always going to have young men willing to loot throw stones and kill either for money or to prove a point.

2. Tribal Relations - I have a Kikuyu friend (yes it has become that bad when we have to claim to have friends from certain tribes) told me that when Kibaki announced his Cabinet, the Kamba messenger loudly and happily proclaimed, "sasa tuko na nyinyi!"
That is what we have been reduced to, us vs them. I can recall reading Kpundit's post about how she was really conflicted since she came from a multi ethnic family. I am sure her anguish is being felt by thousands all over the country. In some cases it didn't end at feelings as some individuals have had their families torn apart by in-laws who have come to claim them or other in-laws who have banished them from their adopted community irregardless of how long they have lived there.
We have now entered a whole new period of distrust among tribes, we are one nation in name only at this stage. Alot of this tension has been simmering for a very long time and no attempts have been made to disperse it after the explosion since the powers that be are willfully blind to the cause and even deny its' existance. I have been reading different Kenyan forums on-line and while many people are attempting to at least put out the fires in our country and help the affected, there are some blog postings I have read that are full of gloating and are just a step away from hate speech. What they are gloating about, I don't know because right now any victory is Pyhrric at best.
I remember a time when you could travel throughout Kenya and the only thing you had to worry about was your property but now we may be coming to a stage where the only way certain tribes can travel through certain areas is by air. That may be a stretch but with the tensions that have been inflamed in some areas I think we are going to have sunset towns (outsiders must be gone before sunset) if we are not careful.

3. The Land Issue - One underlying cause of the tribal tension in Kenya has been the land issue. Skewed land distribution after independence, poor land policies, land grabbing and no attempts to address the issue have been a cause of sporadic clashes in parts of Kenya and the only thing most leaders have done is use it for political mileage. Now with certain groups being banished from certain areas of the country, their land will be taken by the "natives" but what of the displaced? Even if the government attempts to give them their land back, most of them won't go back especially when your neighbor was the same person who drove you out and burnt down your house.
So while one group may have solved their land issue (the wrong way), a whole new group of disenfranchised people will have been created alongside a new set of tribal tension and hate.

Those are the three main points that came to mind but I am sure the fall out is far far wider. Who ever knew that a struggle for power between 2 men would hurt Kenya this badly. At this point in time it doesn't matter who won or who lost the election, the point is that as Kenyans we all lost. It doesn't matter if you live in the slum, in the village, in an estate or in a mansion we are all going to be feeling the after shocks of this for a long long time to come.
The only question is that as Kenyans are we going to path a positive way forward and seek reconciliation or are we going to get into our respective tribes and dig in for the long haul? Think about it.....