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Diary 15 – I cannot say “Happy New Year”

By Kui

I have never found it so hard to wrap my mind around the phrase ‘Happy New Year’ before. The sun is shining outside my window. I am on my way back to the rest of my life overseas. I am glad to be alive. But somehow, in another locality, the locality where my heart lives, I am distraught, I am alarmed, I am looking out into unrelenting darkness. I feel naked in all this, stripped of many things that made me Kenyan. I am a stranger to what is becoming familiar on the news. I keep wondering what country that is where flames are rising on the streets, where the government is making every day is a public holiday, as a way to keep us cocooned in an endless haze that pretends that tomorrow everything will be normal again. The word holiday has never seemed so strange–our holiday has ended, and now a new work has began–the work of trying to understand what is happening.

In the councils of power, what was stolen was not an election–it was our right to live lives as people whose existence was greater than the sum of my parts; who walked in friendship with people who were not ‘like’ me; who knew myself as a person who was connected to many things in many ways. And this is repeated in countless varieties of human experience in Kenya right now. We all were Kenyans, and now we are something else–flotsam and jetsam, hurtling along in a current of displacement, unable to hold on to something that seems bigger than ourselves. My government has reduced me to a crude representation of power politics, a blank ballot whose ethnicity makes me complicit in the actions of a man who was powerful and is now weak. Give me back the freedom to be a Kenyan again. Give me something to believe in that is not the death of a dream. Give me the courage not to turn away. Give us people who can hold the line, no matter the cost, and keep us from being swept away. It might be too little–but let it not be too late.

I cannot say Happy New Year. Not yet. So I will say–Don’t let this new thing grow old–let it remain strange, let it remain abhorrent, let it remain something that has no place in the place we call home. Evil prevails when good men (and women) do nothing. So Do. Do something. Live a life that imagines that we will mourn together, we will bury our dead together, and we will plant a tree of life and water it with our hope.

26 comments to Diary 15 – I cannot say “Happy New Year”

  • wachira

    amen kui amen !!

  • NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s feuding president and opposition leader have agreed to work with a panel of African personalities to seek resolution to a dispute over the December 27 election, the head of the African Union said on Thursday. “The parties agreed to work together with a panel of eminent African personalities headed by (former U.N. boss) Mr Kofi Annan … towards resolving their differences and all other outstanding issues including constitutional and electoral reforms,” John Kufuor told reporters.

    NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki swore in new cabinet members Thursday as his opposition rival was locked in crisis talks to resolve turmoil sparked by a presidential poll that he claims to have won. (…) As diplomatic activity heightened in Nairobi, Kenyan police fired tear gas to disperse more than 100 female opposition supporters marching towards a church in the capital to hold prayers for peace. “They had not notified police about the demonstration. We asked them to disperse peacefully, which they refused and we were forced to fire tear gas,” said police commander David Kerini. (…)

  • Ngugi wa Thiong’o laments Kenya violence:

  • Amos

    I have just been reading Martin Luther King Jnr Quotes – looking for non-violent inspiration for our situation and fortunately also found on youtube one of his speeches which I will quote here in the hope that we can find something that resonates with our situation and the fact that his injustice cannot and will not overcome us. Here it is….

    “We are on the move now and no wave of racism can stop us. The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not divert us. The release of their known murderers will not discourage us. We are on the move now, like an idea whose time has come. Not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.

    “I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’ Someone is asking today, ‘How long will prejudice blind the vision of men?” I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again!”

    “How long? Not long! Because no lie can live forever! How long? Not long! Because you shall reap what you sow! How long? Not long! ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.’

    “How long? Not long! Because the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long! For mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on!

    “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat. He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat. O, be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet! Our God is marching on! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah! His Truth is marching on!

  • Kui,

    Happy New Year feels distasteful to me at the moment, with all this turmoil.

    I feel strongly that we all have to do something.

    The whole thing has felt like an out of body experience to me. I am still trying to come to grips with what has happened.

  • NAIROBI (Reuters) – Around 70 pro-opposition women marched and blocked a main road in Nairobi’s Hurlingham suburb on Thursday. Some lay down, stripped to their bras and shouted “Shame on you” at riot police who tapped their batons on their plastic shields. Police fired teargas to disperse the women, including one who clutched a small baby to her bosom as she fled.

  • fiona

    On Sunday we were praying a wave of hope swept across me I believed. Somehow there was going to be peace . Then today I heard Kuffour flew out and the talks reached a stalemate and scrolling down the pictures on Kenyanpundit’s website I saw shelves of babies and bodies , fires burning homes and my people seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Everything I hoped and believed in was crushed. How do you fight an enemy that you see but can’t feel. How can arrogance be tamed to tune into the humility of being human again? How will WE find our way to that day Dec 26th the day before we began to lose it all. Kui calls this a strange thing and prays that it remains not a normal occurence but a strange one. I hope along with her, but am also wondering where will we find the strength to make right what has been so wrong for so long. Here we lived side by side today there are places in Kenya , certain Kenyans can’t live. Today there are families in Kenya mourning the death of loved one inflicted by other Kenyans. Today there are Kenyans in Kenya who feel like there voices and lives are dispensable and noone cares. Today there is huring all over Kenya and not even one leader emerging to say this is enough. This has to stop. However am hopeful when I read messages of fellow Kenyans they like me want peace and so I pray with them. Maybe this thing , this very strange and unusual thing is a chance at a new beginning perhaps now we will look at the quality of our leadership. Perhaps now we will begin to understand the concepts of nationalism and patriotism that fosters progress for us. This strange happening might just be the cleansing we need. The realisation that even before December 27th made us enemies we have always and will always be friends and family. Our nation needs each of us to foster that peace and friendship. No more blood letting , divisions and anger. Instead extend hands of friendship throughout our country and to our fellow Kenyans let us humble ourselves and meet each other halfway LET PEACE PREVAIL.

  • Mkalimani

    It seems that Kufuor has achieved absolutely nothing in his trip to Kenya. Indeed it still remains imperative that the solution to the Kenyan crisis be homegrown even if mediated by outsiders. According to the BBC , the document proposed by Mr. Kufuor and which the government rejected had three main proposals.

    ‘Not responsive’

    The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said that the talks failed after President Kibaki refused to sign a document agreed by both sides and approved by World Bank Country Director Colin Bruce.

    Both sides agreed there should be an end to the violence and they also agreed there should be dialogue
    John Kufuor

    Tough task for diplomacy

    The key points of the document are that they want:

    * a credible, independent and impartial investigation into the issues arising from the elections

    * to determine whether a re-run of the elections is necessary

    * if so, to provide a time-frame for recommendations on the structure of government up until the re-run

    But the president’s office was quick to disown the document.

    “The government had offered dialogue which was to be facilitated by President John Kufuor but Orange Democratic Movement leaders have not been responsive,” a statement said.

    I would think that these are credible and realistic expectations. Yet the adamant and obstinate nature of the government’s stance seems to me to offer no commitment to any resolution, dialogue or otherwise, that may result in their already tainted mandate being overturned.
    I am not sure we are going to see any meaningful progress in resolving the current political impasse. However, I hope I am wrong – for the sake of the nation

  • mamanyongesa

    How do we endure this pain: our own and our neighbours’? Can we move beyond it? Let us not be quick to move on and sweep away the pain and shame as we did in 92 and 97. like our grandparents did after mau mau. It will only re erupt: every time stronger and more bitter.

    Like Kui says: let us keep it as something strange, let us not normalise it, let us look harder and recoil at the horror so we can remember not to tread here again.

    Amos, keep the faith because I am losing it. those who can pray, pray more because for some og us the words stick on the ry bitterness of our tongues. Let teh collective faith carry those of us who are broken reeds and smouldering ashes.

    And those who can hope for a new future, keep hope alive.

    Yet still I beg you, do not be too quick to return to normalcy. All greif is a process: it takes time. And it has to be lived through not avoided and skirted: it will only mutate into a stronger beast: hate.

    So let us mourn and greive this new year: we have lost somethign precious, something we love. Let us honour Kenya with our grief. Let us mourn the dead: they are our children. Let us count the losses: they are ours together.

    Luos and Luhyas know soemthing important in our elaborate funeral traditions: we celebrate life when we mourn. we create new fellowship in coming togehter to grieve. We confess our bonds in our communal sorrow.

    Do not be shy of grieving. Express it in your own style whether with tears and wails or silence or written words. But dare to show your vulnerability and our reciprical need of each other: blessed be the bonds that tie your children together.

  • asante sana mamanyongesa for your true words.

  • NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s opposition said on Friday it planned to restart protests across the east African nation against President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election after the failure of African Union (AU) mediation.

    Opposition leaders will hold an afternoon news conference “to announce the immediate resumption of nationwide mass action against the irregular presidential results,” Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) spokesman Tony Gachoka said.

    Kibaki’s government has made clear it will not tolerate opposition marches. Previous protests have led to bloody clashes between ODM supporters and security forces, adding to a total death toll of around 500 since the December 27 vote.

    The unrest has tarnished Kenya’s democratic credentials, damaged east Africa’s largest and previously booming economy, hit supplies to neighbors, and unnerved Western donors.

    An opposition source said ODM leaders would march to a Nairobi police station later on Friday, after their news conference, to give notice of plans for nationwide demonstrations starting on Wednesday.

    “We are going to go through a very dark period in this country’s history,” he said. (…)

  • Judith

    I went to this session in DC yesterday

    One of the remarks that was made by Maina Kiai when asked what Kenyans in the diaspora could do…was that the emails circulating should stop he said he had receeved some emails circulating in the diaspora and they were extremely unhelpful. Calestous Juma also said it is most insensitive given that we are not on the ground. I haven’t received these emails (apparently I am looped out of whatever criteria the recipients have to be) but I have seen some blogs so I have an idea of what they are and just thought that I could pass the word on from Maina Kiai.


    The Electoral Commission of Kenya was grossly negligent, their leader Mr. Kivuitu had no control, the elections were rigged, Kibaki was sworn in to power within the hour and the chaos started.

    Many people, yes Kenyan citizens, the people who own the country died. Many were displaced, many were injured..

    And now the economy is suffering.
    Reputation damaged, and there goes the tourist. Yes the tourist who brings the much wanted dollars, euros and pounds

    Businesses looted, businesses torched. Many a times, a life’s worth of sweat gone in to flames and with that the jobs..

    Investment banks…them who saw Kenya as an emerging market that will give them the much needed growth in the wake of the credit crunch now have become bears, holding on until the political climate stabilizes.

    And now Safari Rally…
    Yes that famous Kenyan even, where nut cases compete and petroheads like me follow with cult like passion is now gone. Yes eliminated from the WRC 2008 calendar..

    Mr. Kibaki, your greed caused all this.

    I cry for my motherland..
    I cry for peace
    I cry for democracy
    I cry for freedom from corruption

    But, I still have hope..
    Hope that justice will prevail
    and the wishes of the people will prevail
    Hope that those who have lost loved ones will find peace in their hearts to forgive

    To quote Obama, “Hope is what led America to end slavery, pull themselves out of the Great Depression and champion civil rights.”, I still have hope

    But make no mistake,
    We Kenyans are now more than ever committed,
    Commited to seeing Kibaki out of statehouse.
    We want to see justice and the rule of law prevail.
    Make no mistake about our determination, Mr. Kibaki.

    Mr. Kibaki,
    you can sent your riot policemen
    with teargas, water canons and batons.
    But one thing that you can not break is the resolve of the Kenyan people,
    the love of their country and peace,
    and the search for the Kenyan dream.
    A dream of flourishing peace, democracy and economy.

    You manipulated the tallying process,
    but you can not manipulate our brains…

    Make no mistake.

  • dan

    Its refreshing to read some sober talk by Kenyans. If only this culture could infect our arrogant and adamant so called leaders.

    With all the brains Kenyans have, the only reason we cant get solutions is because sober people keep quiet and never get involved, leaving it out to loud ethnic haters.
    When will the voices of sober Kenyans rise a little bit more… Ask kenyans for ideas to get us out of the impasse and you will get plenty good ones.
    Kibaki, Raila and kalonzo who by endorsing and joining Kibaki compromised his partiality should all be kept out of a new coalition Government.

  • Annah

    Thank you, Kui and Ory. I think you’ve captured the feeling better than anyone.

    By the way, Ory, you are AWESOME. I am glad that someone is keeping a record of the incidences of violence. In history, so much is so often unaccounted for.

    Much love and peace…

  • mzaas

    One prayer I think is timely and relevant is found in a song that needs to be sang by every one of us … Strange–I was home and wondered why this seems to be such a rare thing to hear.

    O God of all creation,
    Bless this our land and nation.
    Justice be our shield and defender,
    May we dwell in unity,
    Peace and liberty.
    Plenty be found within our borders.

    Let one and all arise
    With hearts both strong and true.
    Service be our earnest endeavour,
    And our Homeland of Kenya,
    Heritage of splendour,
    Firm may we stand to defend.

    Let all with one accord
    In common bond united,
    Build this our nation together,
    And the glory of Kenya,
    The fruit of our labour
    Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

  • Ochunyi

    It’s a high time we forget of our Tribal affiliations. Our forefathers concentrated more on their tribes and forgot the entire needs of our country.
    The country now needs leaders with a vision to develop and improve the lives of each and every Kenyan. I think Last week violence is a clear indicator that Kenyans are tired of the leaders who only think of their stomach.
    I believe for example Mr. Kibaki has been in the government since independence, My question is therefore what makes you think we still need your leadership, I as a Kenyan am tired of old men like you who have crippled our government and impoverished our people behind the scenes.
    In 2002 after the announcement of the Presidential Results every Kenyan flocked to various cities I being one of them to celebrate Kibaki’s Victory, for a period of Five years things have turned the other way round, I have respect for our former President Daniel Arap Moi, by then he would have manipulated the results and asked for a Rerun between his preferred successor Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr. Kibaki but as a gentleman he was harassed and he handed over power in a peaceful way. Kenyans were happy and hoped for the best from Mr. Kibaki and his government.
    In January it was a Show off between His ministers, Michuki with improving the Public transportation, The Late Marisa was busy cleaning up the Local Governments, Mr. Raila started by cleaning he cowboys contractors.
    After two years the government officials from Mt. Kenya and coast started siphoning money to a project that was known Anglo-Leasing when the project was exposed to the people, Divisions began erupting between the thieves and the informers. By December 2005 Mr. Kibaki chose a friendly cabinet since he felt betrayed and he wanted to work with folks he can trust more.
    Why should we trust Mr. Kibaki since he never kept his promises of fighting corruption, delivering a new constitution, not abiding by the IPPG agreement that he was part of in 2002? Not creating jobs to Graduates who are now suffering since they can’t even pay the loans they were offered while in University.
    Kenyans who are your employers now want things to be done the right way they need accountability for their tax money. Stop stealing their lives and resources let them decide their preferred leader. They are ready to pay for the Rerun of elections since they feel cheated and robbed, it’s their money anyway why should they die for demanding their constitution rights? They need to experience a change.
    Five years might seem a long period of time but it will over someday, where will you be? Are you ready to face judgment of your own actions?

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