Four and a half years ago and newly arrived in Kenya to undertake peace-building work we were caught up in a whirlwind exercise of visiting areas where the 2007 election had resulted in violence in the community.
Longstanding followers of our blog will recall what we then wrote about how Kenya held its breath and finally rejoiced after the 2013 election took place without violence. Although we are now based back in the UK, our Kenyan colleagues in civil society have kept us up to date with current developments. We write this blog entry in solidarity with them, albeit no longer resident in Kenya but carrying them all in our hearts and prayers.
And so we come to another election, on August 8th, and tensions are running high.
On the one hand, the ruling Jubilee coalition is calling for 5 more years, “tano tena”, while the challenging party, NASA, is talking about about Kenyans entering Canaan, the promised land, once elected.
It is no accident that politicians of all stripes use Biblical language. Kenya is after all, a religious nation, with very high levels of church attendance.
Biblical memes offer useful rallying points and slogans.
Our leaders are ever willing to prey upon our baser instincts, and we are ever willing to be ruled by both.
Many of our leaders work upon our Lowest Common Denominators instead of our Highest Common Factors, to borrow a metaphor from arithmetic.
Hate speech has again raised its toxic head, not only in social media, but also on the lips of some leaders in public speeches in Uasin Gishu and Nandi County.
Not that different from the hate speech that litters the social media in the UK and US, actually – as evidenced by the recent out-poured vitriol about the Charlie Gard case, and also disgraces the pages of some tabloids.
And thus tensions are ratcheted up another notch.
People have left Nairobi and other mixed areas to return to their “homelands”, seeking safety in numbers. The Government urges them not to do this, promising protection that is likely to prove illusory.
Why do we allow ourselves to be played in this way? Why do we so often fall for empty promises and venomous propaganda?
Instead of the kingdom of God on earth, we see Empires of the Elite, and not just in Kenya.
Perhaps at the same time as we consider the relative virtues – and vices – of our candidates and their parties, we should also soberly consider our own.
And ponder what we can do to stop ourselves from pandering to corrupt power blocs; instead facing up to inconvenient facts and unpalatable truths.
As a religious nation, Kenya is called to prayer. Prayer is good, but prayer alone is as impotent as a man with a shovel who never starts digging.
Voting against our self- interest might be good point to start.
As ever, our colleagues in Kenya urge the various communities to pursue peace and this video is an amusing yet powerful vehicle for that message.