Yesterday evening, I was sitting at home watching NTV where they were playing music advocating for peace especially with the referendum coming up. What caught me off-guard was just how much I still associate some of the songs with the state of mind I had during the post election violence. “Wakenya Pamoja” and “Daima Kenya” and Muthoni’s “Cool Waters” – the best Kenyan song I have heard – which were played over and over again during the two months that Kenya was burning made my heart sink as I watched them yesterday. I recalled the state of despair we were all in at that time and it scared me.
During the 2 months Kenya was burning, I was with my Mum in Nakuru, my big bro and three small bro’s were staying in my Dad’s house in Nairobi and my Dad was on a work assignment in Uganda. It was a scary time especially if you had family spread all over the country. Our neighborhood in Nakuru was safe but the surrounding estates were burning. Machete wielding youth would pass through our estate heading to the outlier estates where violence was ripe. We were hosting a family that had managed to get out just in time. Food was fast running out because we had to share it with the neighbors and their two young kids. Money was almost useless because shops closed most of the time or out of stock. When the shops would open, people would flock them and even at skyrocketed prices stock up on food. Airtime was like water and I had to sneak to town to get it from the few open shops where they had to check you out from the windows first before they let you in.
We had at all times to keep tabs on where family was. When money started running out, my Dad in Uganda was the only hope. He’d send it and the process of taking it from Western Union and trying to distribute it to Family would start. Gunshots were the order of the day in Nakuru and a constant worry about stray bullets reigned. Have you ever seen a gunship flying so low at an angle and with the most deafening sound shooting at people? I and the lady neighbor were just getting back from the maize miller ad we had to lie flat on the road as the gunship shot away. Can you picture a 300 meter tarmac road filled with fleeing people who are all lying down flat as a the chopper shoots behind them. Can you imagine a pregnant young lady who gets caught up and takes refuge in our house when Machete wielding Mungiki get chased by shooting police? Later, it was me escorting her back to her house as she screams and though heavily pregnant tries to run at the sound of every gunshot. At home, I would sleep on the couch in the living room with a Panga at arm’s reach just in case. Only bullets ringing in the air would make me sleep.
This was worst experience of my life and I am sure yours too wherever you were.
Why am I writing this? Media had a big role to play in the violence. Depending on where their loyalties lay, news became skewed and as result escalated the violence. Before the Media people realized that the country was burning to large extent because of how they were covering their news, it was almost too late. Before they started playing the “Pamoja Kenya” and “Daima Kenya” music, people had already designated certain stations our station and their station or our paper and their paper. What media should have reported was that Kenyans were suffering. The thing that was missing in all this reporting was that “we were all victims” and as we thank God that nobody in our families got hurt, this period in our lives was no less traumatizing. It was hell even for Kenyans outside the country as they worried about Family back home.
Blogging as you may well know is becoming quite big in Kenya. Bloggers are emerging as thought leaders in whatever they field they write in be it poetry, finance, social media or politics. As we approach the referendum and even the elections in 2012, my appeal to you as a Kenyan blogger is to be responsible in your blogging. Do not be sensational, just be real. Make a point without taking shots at personalities and tribes. Be smart enough to know that words are potent and not play around with what and how you write as people may take it for gospel truth instead of just opinion. Even when you tweet or engage in discussions in forums and on Facebook, keep a level head and do not be dragged into pissing contests by people who do not know better. Do not tweet or retweet sensational and potentially misleading tweets if you are not sure they are valid.
I am asking you to take responsibility for everything you publish and to hold any Kenyan blogger to account on whatever they publish.
Happy Referendum and may Kenya be born afresh in our minds regardless of which side wins. As @Mwirigi aptly tweeted yester night and I paraphrase “constitution or not, only respect to the rule of law will make the difference.”