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Last Updated: 02/06/2008
It stops with me
Sandra Macharia

Since the disputed election in Kenya on 27 December 2007, more than one thousand of my fellow Kenyans have met a violent death and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Life as we have known it has changed forever.

What began as a reaction to a deeply flawed electoral process, morphed into an ugly spiral of vengeful killing over genuine and perceived marginalisation regarding land and other resources. But the purpose of this writing is not to examine the politics, the posturing, the lack of sensibility, vision, leadership and the sheer vacuum of credible institutions through which to address grievance.

I have been forced to scrutinize my own role in this debacle. What would I have done differently, really, if I were any of the protagonists – power-hungry, land-starved or denied access to justice? I cannot know as I sit, ironically, in Costa Rica, bastion of peace. Perhaps I may have done exactly the same thing as thousands have done – sent an email or a text message ridiculing one tribe or another. Jokingly, of course. On the other hand, I may have read the gathering storm clouds with such clarity and raised the alarm far and wide. For in the end, nobody wins when people’s lives are lost and seeds of hate sown. But that is all in my mind. I am appalled, disappointed and frustrated as I read and watch the news reports daily as yet more people die for supposed leaders who do not even know their names. But a journey must start with one step. An action.

And that must be a commitment that tribalism must stop with me.

I want the youth in my country to stand up and say, unanimously, that tribalism stops with us and we shall not be slaves to it any longer. Old and young people who believe that they are so much more than this inane label – that they are women and men of integrity, compassion and faith. I want us to teach our children, and our children’s children that this thing called tribe is neither a currency nor an investment. Neither a shield nor a weapon.

To bring our beautiful country through this fire, we must make sure that everybody counts. That every Kenyan can feed and educate their child. That they have hope for the future. That they have a stake in this land. If this were already so, we would not be burning down our homes, our churches with people in them and our economy. We would not be killing our neighbours with guns, machetes and poisoned arrows. We would not be raping our girls and women.

I stand up now and swear before God and country, that tribalism stops with me. Everybody, everybody counts.

Sandra Macharia is a Master's degree candidate from the UN mandated University for Peace.