Kenyans for Kenya- where are we?

By Sophie Ngugi
Kenya has been in the international news for various reasons, mostly some crisis or the other.  Kenya was dominating the news between December 2007 and February 2008, for reasons that we will not forget in the near future.  We were in the worst violence to rock the country since independence popularly now known as Post Elections Violence (PEV). Fast forward, August 2010 and were in the news again, this time it was progressive news; we had peacefully voted to overhaul a constitution!  We can talk about this event forever, the great example that Kenya set to the entire world.
This reminds me of a story I was once told. There was this woman who had tried for long to get a child. Assuming the story is set in the African setting, it is well understood how childlessness is frowned upon, and the women is blamed for it hence it becomes easy to empathise with this woman who was scorned and looked down upon. It would therefore be well understood the excitement of this woman who had waited for so long when she finally got a child. In the excitement as she went sharing the good news she forgot to take care of the child. I am almost sure that this cannot happen to any woman who is a new mother, but the moral of the story is clear; if we don’t nurture what we have it will die. This is the challenge for Kenyans, and we have to keep reflecting back on this, and assessing how far we have come.
‘Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation two years on: where are we?
Those were the words that glared from several banners at the conference hall from 2-4th December 2010. As I sat at the Crowne Plaza where the conference was to be held I could not help but wonder; really where are we? This was the theme for the 2-day conference organised by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the African Union panel of experts. The purpose of the conference was to take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) agreements and the recently promulgated Constitution of Kenya, as well as build momentum for the full achievement of the reform agenda. This was an important occasion in Kenya, taking place just as the country is undergoing the pains of overhaul having passed a new progressive constitution and now the overwhelming task of making it a reality is here with us; with a lot of politicking regarding the justice process.
The conference theme got me reflecting on where we have come from as a nation and wondering what we are each doing to make Kenya the nation we envision. On 28 February 2008 following the  political violence that engulfed Kenya after the disputed December 2007 General Election, the two main parties – the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) – signed an agreement to undertake several step to end the crisis. Through mediation by the African Union’s (AU) Panel of Eminent African Personalities under the chairmanship of Mr Kofi Annan, the parties committed to undertake actions under four main agenda items agreed at the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process. These were:
Agenda Item 1: Immediate action to stop violence and restore fundamental rights and liberties;
Agenda Item 2: Immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, and promote healing and reconciliation;
Agenda Item 3: How to overcome the political crisis; and
Agenda Item 4: Addressing long-term issues, including constitutional and institutional reforms, land reforms, poverty and inequalities, youth unemployment, national cohesion, and transparency and accountability[i].

The overall agenda of this conference therefore, was to review the progress made by the grand coalition government 2 years on.  The first 3 agendas were immediate to stop the violence and address the humanitarian crisis. The Agenda 4 item aimed at addressing the root causes of the violence through institutional reforms, with the constitution review being one major issue. The different aspects of the Agenda 1-4 had been handled while others remain unaddressed. The delegates composed of government officers, members of civil society organizations, diplomats among others reflected and discussed on various aspects of the implementation of the agreement with a lot of focus on the implementation of the constitution and the transitional justice system.  The chief guests in the event were Kofi Annan who played a key role in the peace agreement in Kenya and the dreaded and anticipated International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  These two gentlemen represent peace and justice in the eyes of many Kenyans, Kofi Annan was critical in unlocking the deadlock for the country following the post elections violence, hence representing peace; while Ocampo has been viewed as the representative of justice in Kenya with the prospects of punishing the chief perpetrators. The chief prosecutor’s speech stood out as he outlined the plan for prosecution of 6 individuals who has highest responsibility in the post elections violence.

He emphasized that ‘We are investigating murders, rapes and forced displacements, which constitute crimes against humanity”. This caused quite some ripples in the country with a countdown to the day when the names will be made public. The ICC now looks more real, hence there is political resistance to the ICC process mostly the political class who are afraid of the implications of the ICC, while other Kenyans are mostly hopeful that the ICC process will send a message relating to end of impunity in Kenya.

Does this mean that every Kenyan who suffered will feel that justice has served due to the ICC process? How will the woman and girl who was raped and still live with the scars of the violence benefit from the process? What of the man who sees the neighbour who took his property across the fence while he can only recall how he lost his livelihood and dignity? How does the Kenyan who lost loved ones feel justice in this process?  The future of our nation lies in our hands as Kenyans; we are the ones who can decide to bring justice in our nation, and to ensure that the constitution is implemented in spirit and in word and other aspects of the agreement.

Several issues still stand out; justice for post elections victims and establishing local mechanisms; durable solution to the IDPs issue as many are still in transitional camps and settling them and allocating land has remained controversial 2 years later; reconciliation of communities, who we expect to coexist to name just a few of the issues that Kenyans are dealing with.

As I listened to the various issues that were raised in the conference, I could not help but notice the normal divide of duty bearers defending their role, convinced they were doing their best in the implementation of the constitution and other reforms; while the rights holders expressing the very opposite, there was rarely middle ground in the discussions. On the other hand the voice of many who have waited for justice for long was loud. It was clear that violations have happened for long that people are no longer sure when justice will come knocking. Some expressed that post elections violence has affected them for a long time indeed, in previous elections not just the 2007 elections while others expressed various forms of violence in various parts of the country that generations have suffered.

The international process will not sort out the grievances and pain of Kenyans if not followed by local efforts towards justice, reconciliation and healing.  Kenyans know that the ICC process is just a tip of the iceberg about the over 1, 133 innocent Kenyans who lost their lives, the families they left behind, the hundreds of thousands displaced, some who are still living as internal refugees, and the thousands of women and girls who were raped. Kenyans also realize that the ICC process is only but one step in a several procedures that we must carry out towards enabling effective closure on the Post Election Violence. Other steps ahead include local criminal prosecution of lower profile perpetrators of murder, rape and other criminal activities carried out during that period, as well as processes of national healing and reconciliation. 

The back therefore stops with us Kenyans, with me and you, not with the external processes.

In his closing speech, Kofi Anan uttered conviction in Kenyans being able to manage their nation “I came here to listen. What I’ve heard makes me believe that the prospects are good. You are passionate about your country, honest about the challenges you face; and determined to create a democratic, peaceful and stable Kenya that is rooted in good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights[ii].
So; how far are we; and, where are we? Are we waiting for the ICC to sort our issues or are we on the path of sorting our mess? Are we keen on the implementation of the constitution that we worked hard towards or are we waiting several years down the line to complain how it has not been implemented as per the wishes of Kenyans?

It is a Kenya for Kenyans, and as citizens we have a responsibility to ensure this happens, that we claim our country back.

[i] South Consulting, Nov 2010, Briefing notes on the conference
Ii Kofi Annan’s closing speech