Lucy Oriang: Amnesty out of the question if we want to remain sane


We fight over things we have no control over, such as your ethnic background.

We fight over things that should not even be the subject of debate, such as bringing killers to justice.

Our MPs fight over whether or not to keep the Government on its toes.

They turn it into a national crisis and demand the right to form a grand opposition with the express purpose of doing precisely what they are paid to do — until they get the appointment they are angling for, of course, upon which they vigorously oppose the very idea of opposition.

Sometimes we fight just because a microphone has been stuck in our face. Talk is cheap and there are too many idle people purporting to be leaders.

Following the amnesty debate does not disappoint, if you are a fan of exhibition wrestling matches.

A guy is pinned to the ground in what looks like an unbreakable grip. He grimaces in pain and sweats like a stuck pig as the countdown begins.

There is no way he is going to get out of this, you reckon.

But, lo and behold, his hand goes up a heartbeat from the count of 10. He will not be conceding defeat despite the extremes of pain he has gone through.

There is no dent on his ego since the outcome is part of the plot. This is meant to be fun.

There is a difference between real life political wrestling and the entertainment variety:

Innocent people get hurt and lose their lives as the politicians and their foot soldiers play games of one-upmanship — more than 1,500 dead and 350,000 displaced the last time their interests clashed.

Now, playing by the roadside near you is the dramatic confrontation over whether those who killed others in the post-election violence should be allowed to get away with it.

The answer should be clear-cut, and the punishment is provided for in law.

People who butcher others and rob them of their property deserve no mercy.

They cannot claim mitigating circumstances; they cannot plead that they were only messengers or that their children will suffer irreparable damage if they are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

On the face of it, this is an open-and-shut case.

But then our other national pastime, political grandstanding, butts in and clouds our thinking.

None of the two sides in this debate is being truthful — and they just cannot resist the temptation of a fight, any fight.

In one corner, we have the Rift Valley troops and the Orange Democratic Movement demanding the release of youths arrested over the post-election violence.

In the other, the Party of National Unity brigade screams blue murder and demands justice.

Justice is relative when you are caught up in the situation we found ourselves in at the beginning of the year.

I seem to recall a ghastly photograph of a child screaming his head off in Naivasha as his mother lay dead in a pool of blood.

SHE HAD BEEN SLAUGHTERED BY people belonging to her husband’s ethnic group, who appeared to enjoy some protection as they paraded in the town, armed to the teeth and in full view of the armed forces — who were literally begging them to get off the streets as TV cameras rolled!

Let us call evil by its name, regardless of its origin.

And however we choose to address the quagmire we find ourselves, let us acknowledge that none of us is entitled to the moral high ground.

We are having trouble dealing with today’s evil because we created the culture of abuse and impunity that feeds the many militias that roam the land.

The cycle goes back all the way to the land-grabbing and human rights abuses of the immediate post-independence era to the Kisumu shootings of September 1969, when policemen opened fire on unarmed civilians during a disagreeable political rally attended by the president of the day.

The trail includes the Wagalla massacre, the “ethnic cleansing” in the Rift Valley since 1992 and at the Coast, and now the selective torture and killings of young people under the pretext of pursuing militias.

And let us not forget the era of detention without trial and assassinations of popular politicians. We cannot keep wishing away these things.

They will return to haunt us again and again.

There are lessons from the amnesty debate. We are all hostage to shamelessly corrupt politicians.

The “either/or” character of our politics has reduced us to pawns in a board game. We are not real people.

When you are just ethnic statistics, you can be treated as trash when you are no longer useful — which is in between elections.

Trash can be recycled when it suits our politicians and buried six feet under when it does not, hence the love-hate relations between them and the militias.

The tragedy is that youth who are drawn into these killing machines do not seem to recognise the vicious cycle.

They are content with passing gains.

There are many layers of dishonesty and double standards in the amnesty debate.

All this posturing is designed to distract us from the simple truth: killing is a crime, not just another campaign tool.

No one should get away with murder just because they have connections.

This is the reality we need to arrive at fast if justice is to be seen to have been done.

Can we agree on that, at least?

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