By Loise Wanjiku
On one of my regular strolls on the internet streets, I stumbled upon a job website for Africans. Several clicks later, I found one I was eligible for. Only problem was, I was from one of the countries categorized as a high risk state: Kenya. The patriot in me got mad. In my head, I went, like, “How dare they say that about a country that’s full of kind, hospitable people!” Then it dawned on me that we are in an election year, and our not so perfect history is probably responsible for the ‘high risk’ tag.
The 2007/08 post-election violence was a watershed moment in our country. It’s a horrific past we all want to never remember but have to grapple with every electioneering year. It was a moment of madness never witnessed before. I was only 13years old, about to finish my primary school. I wasn’t able to go to my dream school outside my county because my last name could suddenly determine my security and by extension where I could go and not go.
Violence is stupid however way you want to look at it. I can’t find anything that describes what I feel better than gospel singer, Holy Dave’s UshaiNotice song. Like the chorus goes: saa zingine mimi huskia kuleft! But kuna hope left! (Sometimes I feel like leaving but there’s hope left).It’s foolish of me to turn against my Kisii friend who has been through the most trying and happy times with me just because I’m Wanjiku. This is the person who fought with me over the number of pieces of meat on my plate to hogging the blanket when we had sleepovers during our campus years. Did I mention the times when we turned everything upside down in the house looking for coins to buy mandazi and have them with strungi (black tea) for dinner? I shouldn’t forget the times we cried whenever we had boy trouble, and then laughed about it later.
Again, it’s foolish of me to turn against my next door neighbor, Nafula, because our names suggest we belong to opposite sides of the political divide. Truth be told, I may need salt while I’m preparing my dinner late in the night like I always do and the famous Kenyan saying ‘salimia jirani chumvi huisha’ will literally come to life but what happens when you’ve burnt that bridge already?
Violence is stupid because no one wins. You don’t have much to celebrate when your local shop gets burned down and you have to trek miles to find ‘unga’ for your dinner. You realize it’s stupid when your university is shut down and you can forget about graduation for a year and, more importantly, the job you were promised because you don’t have the right papers. It’s stupid when the country is so torn that you can’t secure employment opportunities in some regions because, well, you’re the “enemy”.
But, we the young people have the chance to change the narrative.
The youth were used to perpetrate violence when I was just a teenager. I am now a youth and we have learnt a lot over the years. I choose to remain woke! I choose to seek alternatives to violence. For once let’s be selfish; let’s think of ourselves. Let’s choose ourselves. Let’s choose the peace and unity that will facilitate the success of our startups. Let’s choose to set an example for those who’ll come after us: our children. Let’s choose to thrive and we can only do that if we have an understanding and calm approach in all our undertakings.
The youth are the hope of this country and we can’t let politicians divide us. Again, borrowing from a campaign from the same song by Holy Dave: you’ve lived happily with your neighbor the past so many years, don’t forget after elections. In the words of Neville Chamberlain, “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”
Ushainotice tumekuwa majirani? Tarehe 8 isitutenganishe!
This article is courtesy of Project Mchujo, running with the hashtag #ChujaSiasa