Sunday, January 27, 2008

Societal Collapse

The former acceptance, however grudging, however suspicious, of tribal groups living alongside one another in a prosperous, politically and economically forward-looking country has completely dissipated. The skillful political machinations of a determined opponent to the current president of Kenya, enlisting his tribe in 'protests' have succeeded in completely disrupting life in a country once admired for its progressive politics, economy, and handling of tribal disagreements.

Because Mwai Kibaki succeeded in outfoxing his presidential opponent Raila Odinga,
in adroit illegal ballot-stuffing in a presidential election, the country itself has been manoeuvred into a state of murderous violence, as one tribe expresses its anger and frustration over the unwillingness of a rival tribe to surrender its hold on power. This is two men, politically powerful in their country, willing to sacrifice the well-being of their country and its people to their personal political ambitions.

It's the poverty-stricken, the slum-dwellers, the rural farming communities, now viciously rebelling against civil order. They to whom scant few crumbs of their country's wealth had fallen, but whose loyalties can be so readily manipulated in the name of honour, solidarity, tribal adherence, support of the tribal leader's aspirations against those of another tribe's leader. Already-poor Kenyans find themselves on the brink of utter privation.

The shopkeepers upon whom they had depended, the farmers whose crops helped feed them are now bereft of shelving stocks, let alone shops, of the fruits of their labours - no longer now able to offer wares and basic survival foodstuffs. The angrily rioting mobs have damaged their own futures in destroying symbols of perceived oppression which had also been their means of subsistence.

Now, in rural areas, tribes which had been on the lower end of the subsistence scale, have suddenly acquired means heretofore eluding them, as they move into the homes of tribal members whom they have dislodged, taking for themselves all the possessions of their rivals. Fields which had been carefully tended, now ready for harvest, give up their mature crops to those now claiming ownership, while their true owners, those who sowed and tended the crops, watch bitterly from a distance.

Kikuyu families are still desperately fleeing their home villages, trucks groaning under the weight of possessions, children, livestock, even the tin of their abandoned homes' roofs in the hopes they can find land elsewhere where they can be safe. They may be placed in some burgeoning refugee camp, they may discover an oasis of safety; they become part of the quarter-million internally displaced through the censorship of tribal revenge.

Local religious leaders are left to bemoan the state of affairs, the cattle thefts, home invasions, looting, vandalism; above all, the unspeakable murders. But the rebels, those who have used machetes to drain the life-blood of their perceived enemies, claim in their defence that the Kikuyu have brought this upon themselves; originally, by taking their land; they are now simply reclaiming it.

"Now, because everything has been vandalized, they are looting what is remaining; maize and potatoes in the shambas", say local officials, predicting the obvious: dramatic food shortages - irony abounds - in an area of Kenya formerly spoken of as its 'breadbasket'. "The people who are coming to harvest and loot are from far away", claimed one tribal member, glowing with satisfaction, going about the business of doing just that.

A new area has been added to the murderous mayhem, as tribal vengeance rises, rather than subsiding, despite the intervention of leaders from other nearby countries, including Kofi Annan, formerly UN chief. The level of brutality now seen in Naivasha is frightening, as people are being hacked or clubbed to death by mobs with machetes. There have been reports of people being locked in their homes, the mobs setting them on fire. Isn't this a replay?

"We have moved out to revenge the deaths of our brothers and sisters who have been killed, and nothing will stop us", vowed a man. "For every one Kikuyu killed, we shall avenge their killing with three." Kenya is being left with many burned-out, looted ghost towns, those of their original inhabitants who survived the paroxysm of violence, vowing never to return.

How to mend this dreadful human malaise that we inflict on one another, brothers and sisters in humanity?

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