One of our greatest distinction as mankind is our ability to extract information from the past and project it into the future. For this reason, we often think, write and narrate about our past experiences. As part of our narratives, we have a different version of stories that oft unveil the ruined coexistence amongst ourselves. I mean, the kind of stories which always leave us wondering whether this universe has turned into a Warsaw ghetto or its’ inhabitants (ourselves) have turned into heartless beings. The tales which when comprehended sometimes break our hearts and leave us into tears. These are the chronicles that constitute a focal facet of our lives. The stories which Veronica Roth in an opinion that I too agree with would say, “they are worth reading and telling.”
Roth’s words reminds me of a similar version of events that occurred in Kenya back in 2007.The year has since then attained our country’s historical recognition. This is not because Kenya banked another gold medal at the Olympics as many could anticipate but instead incurred the most conflicted election in her post colonial era. During this time, the entire democratic process turned into a row due to alleged malpractices.Instead of exercising our political rights and celebrating the victory, we turned into man-eaters and claimed each others’ lives based on political differences.
The post election dispute successfully divided the whole state into two warring parties. These sentiments were purely ethnic, based on the presidential candidate each tribe supported. During this mayhem that lasted for two months, the country was filled with inhumane acts. As a result, over 1,000 innocent Kenyans lost their lives while more than 600,000 were evicted and displaced from their residences. Unfortunately, some of those entrusted with power at the moment became our misleaders and allegedly financed the riots. In the same dimension, we can not fail to recount the reports by Human Rights Watch groups, which clearly indicated that the Kenyan police had used excessive force in curbing the situation leading to further death tolls.
On 28th February 2008, the conflict was brought to a standstill after a series of negotiations between the two presidential candidates. This agreement was a fruit of the endless discussions aimed at finding a solution and was led by a United Nations’ peace finding envoy under the stewardship of Kofi Anan, the organization’s Secretary General at the moment. The treaty therefore secured a satisfactory power sharing deal between the two sides. As a result, the country’s peace was reinstated ending a havoc that had cost us the country’s national cohesion.
This story is a typical example of a conflict narrative. It features a political dispute between: an electoral body, the candidates in concern and the voters. The electoral body in this case believed in having delivered a credible election. Mark you, their opinion was supported by the party and voters whose candidate had been declared victorious. On the other extreme, the conflict had the uncontended voters and the presidential candidate who obviously viewed the results as being manipulated. For us to make an alignment in regard to Veronica’s opinion, we need to therefore evaluate whether this story is worth telling or reading.
Despite this story being like a scar that reminds Kenyans of the pain caused by a previous wound, the tale has since then remained inevitably worth telling. This is because deep within the scars there are many lessons we have been able to learn from the conflict. One of these lessons was the effect of ethnic profiling to our national cohesion. From our past experience it is clear that the division on tribal basis acted as a great blow to our national integration. The loss of lives and the internal displacement of our countrymen was also enough to teach us why armed confrontation is the worst method of solving our differences.
The war also presented to us a different picture of those who were thought to be our leaders. Instead of preaching peace; some of them incited us against each other and as the Kenyans maimed one another to please them, they were observed parting together at lucrative places. Surprisingly, some of our leaders were even forefront in funding militia groups to act as mercenaries against some ethnic targets. This story has therefore been told at every election period to remind Kenyans of the adverse effects of: tribalism and incitement to peaceful elections.
To the government, this election was able to illuminate a true picture of the citizens. The whole reaction clearly proved the meaning of democracy as earlier on pointed by Abraham Lincoln to be, “the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. In this case the unrest caused by masses was enough to show the response that may accrue from voters when they have a feeling of being robbed off their democratic freedom. The Kenyan Civilians were able to clearly communicate their exhaustion as a result of seeing their democracy robbed off in favour of the atrocities and the incumbents.
To other nations and generations to come, this story clearly befits reading. The value of this story is therefore underpinned in the identifiable mistakes and the peaceful conflict solving trends. For instance, this story may be used as a critical point of reference for any democratic state during elections. The mistakes identifiable e.g. violence approach, incitements and lack of transparency may be avoided while successful conflict solving trends such as mediation potentially applied whenever a similar calamity resurfaces anywhere in the world.
Since 2007, Kenya has incurred two general elections and one referendum. Through these, we have been able to see how the citizens and government were able to embrace some of the lessons leant from the past mistakes. It is true that not all Kenyans had total satisfaction with the results but the voters and politicians showed some recommendable level of maturity in solving these disputes. I say this because the use of tribunals as opposed to violence methods has been evident by the complainants in all the two general elections. To Kenya the past conflict lessons have therefore acted as our reference point whenever a similar tragedy approaches.
Just as the Kenyan story, all conflict stories in the history of mankind have similar roles. First, to enlighten us about the potential roots of disagreements and their possible prevention measures. Secondly, they show us the disastrous effects of an accumulated dispute and suggest amicable solutions at an earlier stage. We also read these stories to learn about others’ past mistakes and avoid repetition of the errors leading to the predicaments.
Conflicts also remind us of our greatest achievement as mankind, which is making our world a better place than it was before. This desire therefore makes us directly or indirectly involved in others’ suffering by our virtue of being human. As a result we are often interested in telling and reading about the social, political and economic injustices to provide opinions which may be used to tame the unjust acts or possibly empower the victims of the injustices. The empowerment in this case may entail mental or material support.
Assuming this world was perfect, maybe a paradise. A place where we all had a mutual understanding of each other and treated our fellow men with total love and care. A world where: “thieves”, murderers, male chauvinists, racists, morons, aristocrats and despots never existed. Then, I have no doubt that this world would be free of conflict as Roth implies using her words “if there was no conflict”. In that case, what would have been the essence of telling and reading stories with an aim of making this world a better place if it could have already been perfect?
Unfortunately, we are currently living in a “deformed world” where peaceful existence has never been wholesomely achieved due to our ideological differences. For this reason, I agree with Veronica when she says, “If there was no conflict, there would be no story worth reading or -telling.” This is due to the fact that, we are often telling about these conflicts to inform the world of mistakes made in solving misunderstandings and the successful conflict solving trends that can help solve our differences without escalating human sufferings.