10 January, 2008

Kenya and The Lessons Of History

What has happened in Kenya in the last few days, has been so shocking and incredulous, that I feel utterly numbed! How can Kenya, the one place that I have always considered: an island of sanity, peace and a place for refuge, sink so low and become such hell within a matter of hours only? A nation that has over come many challenges before; a country that has hosted regular and many peace meetings and conferences between waring factions; a country that has been able to organise many huge international conferences and International sporting events without hindrance; a country that has been one of the few on the Continent that was hoping to host the Soccer World Cup or the Olympic games because it can; a country, that 40 or so years ago, was wealthier and with better infrastructure than Malaysia or Thailand - how can such country become what it is now?

It's very hard to explain. I can only ponder and these quotes come to mind:

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." Aldous Huxley

"If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind." Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"What experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." G. W. F. Hegel

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." George Santayana

"So the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life - peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food. Animals eat one another without qualm; civilized men consume one another by due process of law." From: "The Lessons of History" By Will & Ariel Durant

A few months ago, my favorite Search Engine, Google, opened its first major operation on the continent in Kenya - preferring Kenya over South Africa or Nigeria or the many other sub-Saharan countries. One of the main reasons, I believe, for Google to have done that - was because of Kenya's political stability and economic vivacity. Many other International organisations and multi national companies have favored Kenya for setting up their main regional bases. But now, in a matter of days, this confidence in Kenya has been very badly shaken.

I very much hope Kenya can soon stand up again and move constructively forward. I believe it will. I believe Kenyan leaders have the wisdom, courage and foresight of over coming whatever differences they have. I hope too, and quoting from the Daily Nation Newspaper: Kenyan leaders will not only solve their personal differences but will come up too, with means and ways to guide Kenya 'to genuine national repentance of errors committed, righting of historical injustices dating back to 1963, co-opting all tribes and races to one nation-state, equitable distribution of resources, cessation of active tribalisation of the public service, affording all tribes equal chance to rise to the highest office in the land, even application of the rule of law, end of impunity and abuse of public offices, restoring faith in the institutions and structures of government and having and maintaining a true and genuine constitutional order.'

During and in all these last few days tragic events, one thing keeps repeatedly coming to my mind and haunting me: the site of desperate, terrified people, who are otherwise dignified and never ever begged for food before, queuing and receiving food handouts; but what has shaken me most of all and what will never, ever leave my mind, is the many sights and images of Children - uprooted from their homes, from their friends and schools, and displaced; and not knowing or understanding what exactly has happened to change their lives so drastically. CHILDREN. If only leaders would think of them first and foremost before taking any actions!

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