Mutahi Ngunyi: Lead us not in to the new frontiers of war

Sometimes I think we ended the post-election violence too soon. Maybe we should have allowed the country to reach ground zero.

And, from the ashes, a new order would have emerged. But we aborted it. Now the country is pregnant again. We do not know who the father is, but I suspect some foreigner from ‘‘Kumasi’’. A retired mzee from the UN. The date of birth is August 6, the day of the referendum.

On August 22, at the latest, the new- born will come home. This is when the new constitution will become law if it passes. Incidentally, this is also the date when former president Jomo Kenyatta died.

His death ended an era. And, on this date, the ‘‘Nyayo’’ era was born. Similarly, former vice-president Kijana Wamalwa died around this time.

Because he died, Kenya changed. After his death, the Mount Kenya “sharks” colonised the presidency. Then they took us to war. By chance or by design, we have a destiny with August 22 this year.

But we have an advantage. Unlike in the past when things changed because someone died, we have been forewarned. Whichever way we vote, change is coming.

The question from the “gods” is this: If we had been forewarned about the 2008 violence, what would we have done differently? And the answer is simple: Nothing. Positions were hardened; the country had regimented.

At zero option, we were headed south. But now we have a second chance. It is as though we have been taken back to October 2007, three months before the disaster election. We are re-living the crucial months before we fought.

And the question from the “gods” is this: Will we do it differently this time? But more fundamentally: What has changed? I have three thoughts.

One, this referendum is not about the constitution. It is about politics. And remember “politics is perception”. Forget the facts and the fancy arguments.

The bottom-line is simple: How do we see the facts in the constitution? Do we see them as they are, or do we see them as we are?

The law of nature is clear on this. We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. It is possible that this is a good constitution. But because of who we are, we reject it.

Similarly, it could be a dangerous constitution; a recipe for instability and bloodshed. But because of who we are, we embrace it. My point?

We are not voting for a constitution. We are voting for or against personalities. It is politics. And what is sad, it is no different from the 2007 disaster election. This election was about two people. We fought for the two. Now Moreno-Ocampo is in town to roast some people.

Unfortunately, the two are not in his list. They are leading us to new frontiers of war. Like in 2007, we are following them blindly. We have not changed.

Two, if the constitution is about politics, we must bank this fact: Politics is deceit. The question to ask, therefore, is this: Who is cheating who? Look at the vice-president. What I know is that I have experienced the same instability as him.

I have experienced moments of ‘‘Yes’’. This constitution has some extremely brilliant things, and some extremely dangerous things.

To swing like a pendulum from one end to the other is natural. This is why we have 90 days to decide. If this is what Kalonzo is doing, he is real. He is just like one of us. My worry is with the sneaky people in Cabinet.

For starters, where is Mr John Michuki? Is he “No”, or is he “Yes”? We know him to shoot straight. Why is he brooding in the dark? What about Mr Uhuru Kenyatta?

Dr Naomi Shaaban is in the “No” camp. Is she holding brief for him or has she broken ranks? Allow me to make my point now.

The Gema Nation is politically sneaky. From its Mau Mau days, it learnt to conceal its intentions. That is why its position on this referendum is not bankable. In fact, its leaders are either silent or vague. If they vote “Yes”, they will abandon Mr Odinga after the referendum.

In my view, they are either setting him up or using him. What would happen, for instance, if they abandoned him before the referendum?

Would you call this deceit? If politics is deceit, I would call this politics. And although the President is “asleep”, I would credit him with the scheme. In sum, he has not changed.

Three, we have not changed. Or Have we? This is what the clergy is inviting us to examine. Have we changed, or have we just become “clever”? I will give my thought in the form of a story I have used before.

A Nigerian wise man moved from village to village answering complex questions. But one day, he met his match: a clever Yoruba boy. The boy had a butterfly in his hand and was out to prove him wrong. He was going to ask the wise man if the butterfly was dead or alive.

If he said it was dead, he would release it; if he said it was alive, he would squeeze it to death. Either way, the wise man would lose. And so the boy cut through the crowds and confronted the wise man with a question:

“... Dead or Alive?” The wise man was puzzled. He examined the boy wisely and after a few minutes, he told him: “... it all depends on you!”

Like this Yoruba boy, we think we are clever. But these politicians are way ahead. By the way, they did not fail to amend the draft in parliament.

They chose not to. Their message was simple: it all “depends on you”. The question therefore is this: Will they twist our “cleverness” to get what they want, or will we outwit them? I have no idea!

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