This week, Kenya has their elections. Much respect for Kenyans who faced long line-ups to cast their vote:
..and made it meaningful, truly Kenyan:
I urge all Kenyans to work for an election — and aftermath — that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new Constitution and the future of your country. Any disputes around the election should be resolved peacefully, through Kenya’s institutions and the rule of law.
The reality is, there is extreme poverty and unemployment in the day to day life of many Kenyans. Even though Kenya has one of the most robust economies in Africa, with vast natural resources (coffee, tea, sugar), a population of 48.5 million and 90% enrolled in school, more than 42% of Kenyans still live in poverty.
There is now a lot fake news, flooding their social media. There is also the new problem of big data, and international meddling that was seen in both the US election and Brexit, with a strange connection to a tech firm in Victoria, Canada.
It is a complex situation, with no easy answers – the systems of justice cannot be over simplified, without knowledge of life on the ground.
Despite reports in the international mainstream media, people of different tribes, of course, make friends, work and live together in peace. (Just as Catholics and Protestants do in Northern Ireland, despite reports). No one wants violence. People want shops to open, they want to feed their families. Like the vast majority of people, Kenyans just want a functioning democracy, so they can live.
A friend in Kenya once told me:
You do not know what peace is, until you do not have it.
Kenyans want peace. Democracy and peace – means simply and peacefully naming and speaking the truth. Without fear.
I think without understanding and empathy for ongoing economic oppression, it is also easy to misunderstand the context, and potential power, of peaceful opposition. Democracy brings hope.
No matter the results of this election, I’m thinking about my students:
…and praying for peace, justice (and some soda) for them.