Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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To Reconcile, We Must Look Back

The country has transformed rapidly since the ‘dark days’, an old system is gone and although it’s easy to identify what has changed, it is not yet clear that a new system has taken its place. Old patterns have come unstuck and if new patterns are emerging, it is still too soon to identify them clearly.

Reconciliation broadly refers to efforts to present or mitigate violence resulting from tribalism, religion, economic factors as well as reducing the underlying disagreement.

Despite the popularity of this concept, many people are still asking “why reconciliation? Why now? For a few the answer is self evident: they understand the history of greed and manipulation that has forever altered the course of their nation. But for others, there is a continuing lack of awareness of its importance. Reconciliation is a collective responsibility and one that we Kenyans share regardless of background or outlook.

Reconciliation is not merely one way forward- it is, at this critical juncture, the only way forward. The strategies for reconciliation include: power, mediation, conflict transformation, problem solving workshops, alternative dispute resolution and legal guarantee of free speech and association.

Structural prevention focuses on the problem of culture and histories of collective violence as witnessed in 2007 in Kenya; perpetrated by one group against another.  Some tools available for structural prevention include institutions for transitional justice, truth telling and reconciliation.

Rehabilitating the future means remembering the past. The ongoing denial of the historical injustices lived by affected people is a crucial obstacle in imagining the way forward. Negotiation in a country of national interest means balancing or trading the competing interest of leaders against one another or finding a common interest that could be the basis for agreement even in the face of conflicting interests.

One way to put thought into action is to re-imagine reconciliation as a process rather than an end point. Reconciliation is not only about what we do, but also how we do it. So, to those asking why now? The answer is that the responsibility belongs to us all. In the words of Rebecca Tababodong, a famous poet: “And you will cry and cry/ because we can never be the same again. / But we will cry without you/ and we will see ourselves in the huge mess/ and we will gently whisper the circle back/ and it will be old and it will be new.”

Despite the challenges we are going through, the country is imagining a way forward. In the same way, if we allow ourselves to rethink the future then we are thinking beyond the rose-colored glasses: we are thinking forward. The solution to the legacy of the past lies beyond, in a future we may not know but can access through hope. God bless Kenya.


poet,playwriter and essayist

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