As is the norm, even such good actions attract their fair share of cynics and there are some suspicious fellows amongst us who are wondering why it took so long to do it, and whether it has a political angle to it. There are also those wondering whether these elders can stop something they did not start: or whether this means they are in some way responsible for the 2007 PEV. However I believe this has been done with utmost good faith, for the people, not for the politicians.
Unfortunately it is only a step in the right direction and by itself is not enough. I would therefore like to make a few suggestions for Uhuru and Ruto to consider.
Firstly, they should go beyond the wazee caucuses and press meetings in hotels. I am thinking along the lines of public engagements led by Rift Valley Kikuyu MPs (rather than Central Kenya MPs) jointly with Rift Valley Kalenjin MPs. What a powerful peace message would it be to Kiuna and Kuttuny escorting Kiambaa fire survivors back to the land where they were ejected from! The outcome of any peace between the two communities has to be that IDPs can go back to their original land.
And imagine what impact would be created if we were able to see ordinary people from the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities — the farmers, teachers, local youth, women etc— meeting in a public peace rally and talking to each other (rather than be talked to by the politicians). It would be very impressive if we saw a huge rally with an Open Mic session: where a microphone is set up for ordinary members of the public to walk up and speak messages of peace to their fellow citizens. I can picture a situation where after members of these two communities have shared their stories, they eat together, hug each other, forgive each other, and literally bury the hatchet.
For me another very important aspect of peace activities in Rift Valley has to be justice. Considering that the 2 are themselves part of a judicial process as suspects of the 2007/8 PEV, I would love to see them urging the political and business leadership at local level to weed out the men and women who they know were involved in the 2007/8 atrocities, and hand them over to the police to be charged in court. I make this suggestion because as a country we now know that even as peace is preached, justice must also be seen to be done. If they were able to enable second and third tier suspects also to go through a transparent local justice system where they explain the why and what that happened in 2007, Rift Valley would move forward, permanently.
The reason why the pursuit of justice and peace must take a parallel line is that all of us really must start respecting the rule of law. We cannot have people behaving badly and then expecting the ‘community’ identity to protect them. Someone must also talk about the need to return land that has been forcefully taken over the years, back to the various families. Incidentally, the end of the justice process driven by local involvement could very well be where most of the suspects end up being put on probation (except those who murdered, burned people in churches or raped women who really should go to jail). We need to see Uhuru and Ruto being brave enough to talk about these things.
Finally, if we are to stop Rift Valley violence I would like to see Uhuru and Ruto hold a special forum for the women who lost loved ones in the 2007/8 PEV, (and maybe where possible, even those affected in the 1992 and 1997 violence). I am convinced that for there to be closure on the violence cycle in the Rift Valley then mothers, widows, and sisters of those killed, raped and/or injured during election violence must be involved. I believe peace will only prevail if these women accept to let go of vengeance: and to urge their husbands, sons & brothers not to avenge the lives lost in previous incidences of violence. Can you imagine what would happen if mothers from both communities took to public podiums and declared that it stops here: that they accept to allow their sons who have died in the past to be the last ones to die in such circumstances: to stay unavenged for the sake of permanent peace.
History teaches us that what Uhuru and Ruto have done so far is not enough. After 1992 & 1997 the Former President Moi, who certainly had more clout than the 2 young men, facilitated similar initiatives. If they had succeeded 2007 would not have happened. These two honorable members of parliament must therefore do a lot more if the ‘Wazee’ Peace Meetings they are doing are to be more than a public relations exercise with no content.