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This is your moment to change the course of Kenya’s history

by Rasna Warah
Monday, March 04, 2013

Fellow Kenyans,

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On Monday you will decide who will run this country for the next five years. It is a huge responsibility. This is no ordinary day.

We have a highly divided electorate that is going to make far-reaching decisions with long-term consequences. With new counties in place, our choices at the ballot box will impact us in a deeper and more personal way than ever before.

Today, some 14 million very polarised voters will decide what path Kenya will tread. This election is significantly different from any in the past 50 years in three vital aspects.

One, it is occurring against the backdrop of a contentious and violent election five years ago that led to the death of hundreds and the displacement of thousands of others.

Memories of that violence are still fresh in the minds of you voters, and your choice of candidates may be determined by what you experienced then.

Two, the election is happening at a time when the much-discredited Tenth Parliament threatened to reverse gains made by the new Constitution. Betrayal of Kenyans’ hopes and aspirations by that wily Parliament may impact on voting patterns.

Three, the election is occurring at a time when one of the presidential candidates and his running mate face trials at the international Criminal Court.

This election is also taking place at a time when new institutions have been set up to ensure that the mayhem of 2007/8 is not repeated.

However, it is happening at a time when the country is deeply divided ethnically and when the State security apparatus has not fully been reformed.

There are worrying signs that new breeds of militia and criminal gangs-for-hire are forming across the country, particularly in hot spots such as Kisumu and Nairobi.

We must not allow ourselves to be taken hostage by the forces that seek to destroy our homes and kill our family members. We must resist the evil designs of those who wish to divide and rule us.

We now know that there is no messiah that will take us to the promised land. We don’t want a messiah; we just want good leadership that guides us safely through the implementation of the new Constitution and safeguards the rights enshrined in it.

We want to end the culture of greed, impunity and tribalism that has characterised our politics since independence. We want a more level playing field that will bridge the yawning gap between rich and poor, men and women, the powerful and the marginalised.

Above all, we want peace and security, for our children and grandchildren. We want to know that our investments will be secure and that the rule of law and justice will prevail.

I cannot tell you how to vote – that is your prerogative. But I do ask that we look inside our hearts and ask ourselves this question: Who is most likely to protect our rights as citizens?

This is a question that the thousands of internally displaced persons across the country will no doubt be asking themselves when they cast their votes (if they are able to, that is).

Many of those displaced by the last election are still waiting for justice. The government not only failed to resettle many of them, but also failed to prevent the creation of a new set of IDPs in places such as Tana River and Samburu. All these IDPs are still waiting for an apology from the government.

What’s worse, none of the presidential candidates have looked even one of them in the eye and said, “I am sorry I failed to protect you”. There is a lot of sorrow in their hearts, and a lot of anger.

Whoever becomes president will have to deal with these emotions. And make amends.

The last five years have been long and hard. We have made significant progress in some areas and regressed in others. We have a new Constitution but have still not healed from past wounds, thanks partly to an incompetent and elusive Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which is yet to release its report.

This is our moment to decide who is most likely to heal this nation, once and for all.

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