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January 30, 2008

In Women’s Absence, No Security for Kenya
Posted by Marie Wilson

Today, the National Council of Women of Kenya decried their exclusion from the current mediation talks being lead by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.  The Council’s chair, Isabella Karanja, condemned Kenya’s disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that supports women's participation in mediation.  I’ve been paying close attention to Kenya’s dramatic social and political breakdown, and I can assure you that the exclusion of women from the mediation process is not only unjust – it is a grave sentence for the Kenyan people and their nation’s future.

The country’s rapid descent into violence and relative chaos was sparked by a crack in the veneer of its successful democracy, and attributed to tribal anger and the back-and-forth of ethnic reprisals.  But the violence that Kenyans are suffering, and that we witness in disturbing daily imagery, is rooted in the nation’s lack of access to jobs and healthcare, inequalities in land and resources – all glaring disparities which are funneled into ethnic tensions.  Kenya’s current malaise will only be cured through the acknowledgement of human security as fundamental to state security.  And the issues which make up human security are the issues that women have continually championed worldwide: basic human needs like economic and environmental justice, safe streets, healthcare and education.

Kenya is not unique.  With few exceptions, women have found themselves systematically closed out of the security debate – with severe consequences for national and global security.  Which is why The White House Project, along with a myriad of other groups across the globe, have come together to permanently shift the way we think about, and enact policy, on security. 

In November of 2007, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with The White House Project, the Council of Women World Leaders and the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum, convened the historic International Women Leaders Global Security Summit in New York, bringing together over 75 of the worlds most powerful women leaders in a Call to Action on international security.  Under the leadership of co-hosts Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, they worked together to tackle the world’s most critical security issues. And in the Summit’s aftermath, hundreds of women and men alike have signed on to this critical cause, committing their resources to uphold the bold imperative of crafting policy that holds human security to be intimately intertwined with state security.  I encourage you to join this vital effort and sign the Call to Action as well.

We are witnessing moves in the right direction, and I am heartened by the women and men around the world currently working on issues of human security.  When I was researching the new afterward to my book, Closing the Leadership Gap, I was buoyed by how far women have come in the field of security since the book’s original publication four years ago.  But there is so much further that we need to go in order to normalize women’s leadership in this area, and truly listen to the women working on the ground when we craft national policy.  From Kenya’s post-election violence to the devastation in Iraq, we need women’s voices to be an integral part of the conversation.  As the scale of violence and human insecurity continues its rapid escalation, the critical paradigm shift on security cannot wait a moment longer.


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Hello, allow me to respond to the constructive and insightful comments about democracy, human rights, women. I will also discuss the issue of tibes as part of the Kenyan and African culture, because the issue of of tribe has been institutionalized and has been nurtured and perpetuated by Kenyan and African self centred politicians.

Tribalism has been used sentimentally to gain, manipulate and misuse national office and Presidential power. Tribalism has also been used by Kenyan and African leaders to supress certain tribes and communities that are considered a threat, or for other baseless, absurd, and mundane reasons.

Tribalisam and nepotism have also been used by our leaders to corrupt the systems and institutons of modern governance in the Republic of Kenya. The same is true, as the misuse of power and abuse of office is replicated in all the other nations in East Africa, Central and indeed in the whole African continent.

In my opinion "tribalism" in Kenya and Africa is only a symptom of the core problems that Kenya and Africa faces.

Tribe is like race. Tribe is a natural phenomena with social implication. Let me illustrate my point by saying that: a black man will always be black. In the same way as a white man can get a suntan or spend endless hours in a skin-tanning bed, but they will still remain white. An African black man can try or learn, behave and think like a white man, but that will never change the skin colour or heritage. Unless ofcourse you want to bleach your skin, and then you will end up looking like as wierd as Micheal Jackson. And, frankly, even after all that trouble, expense, and stress, you will still remain a black man. In fact, you will probably run the risk of being the biggest joke in town, and you will definitely earn high marks for being a silly and stupid. You will be ridiculed, and rightly so, as being a black person who lacks self esteem, self respect and self confidence. You might even be viewed as a black person who does not have much self worth and lacks a sense of heritage, cultural pride, and as being a person with an serious identity crisis.

Back to tribalism as a factor in the crisis that Kenyas are grappling with today... The situation in Kenya is very similar to the 13th, 14th and 15th century conflicts in Europe. Faced with economic decline and a myriad of other problems, including the enormous power of the monarchies, the errosion of confidence, assured values, and quality of life, which then reigned, the people of Europe got fed up. There was social unrest. The people begun to revolt, demanding a voice, improvement in standards of living, equitable access resources, to better representation and impoved governance. (Ref: A History of Enland, Prehistory to 1714, Vol. 1, by Clayton Roberts and David Roberts).

Europe in the past centuries experienced increasing population pressure, high cost of rents and living, ruthless and insanely inhumane feudalistic landlords with private lawless bands or men as armies. Then there were other contributing factors in the European and the American conficts of the past centuries such as prejudice, economic depression, the unprofitability of demesne farming that erroded the dignity of the people and the manorial institutions in the countryside. All this issues are being mirrored in the Kenyan crisis.

Also similar to the Kenyan situation is the European conflict's era of a distinctive English language, very much like Swahili is used today in East and Central Africa. The growing use and signficance of the English language, in Europe during 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, promoted a national and regional consciousness that undermined the cosmopolitanism of the early middle Ages. The few new, wealthy, educated laity and elite promenaded around, maquerading as gentlemen and distinguished women, presuming themselves to be of a higher class, then all the poorer people who were seen as supposedly inferior and mere mortals. The merchants, clergy, and lawyers, showed increasing interest in the material world, governance, and politics, improving the penchant for analytical debate of various national, continental and international issues. This is the exact situation is being replicated in Kenya today.

And to quote historian Clayton Roberts, "out of the crises and dislocations of the fourteenth century arose new values and new institutions - nationalism, capitalism, individualism, anticlericalism - that were to find fruition in the sixteenth century".

So, based on historical precident there is hope for Kenya.

We have hope that Kenya will emergy from the depths of this miserable, disturbing, agonising, terrifying, horrific and unfortunate dream-like-state. We hope that Kenyan will awake to improved leadership, new and better values, new and better institutions. We hope that a new sense of nationalism will be born. Vey much like a woman goes through much pain and travail, in order to bring forth her beloved child. Whom she nurtures, gives lots of attention, and she adores with loving care, all her life. Enjoying and cherrishing the fruition of her pain, strugges, and labour for many years.

In Kenyan the black-Africans are born into a tribe. And, tribes are part of our African culture. Tribe is part of who we are. In the same way as being a black-French citizen is a part of the puzzle that makes up what it means to be French. Just as an African-Canadian is part of what it means to be Canadian.

In essense, tribe is a good and integral part of our African societies. Tribes signify great potential and diversity.

However, like any other distinct identity, tribe can be used in a prejudicial manner. Tribe can be missued to favour or victimise and oppress a certain group of people. Much in the same way as black people and asians were easily discriminated in Kenya during the colonial times. Or, in the same was that Hitler was prejudiced against the Jews (Ref: The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, by historian Robert Payne). Note that the Jews are a group of 12 tribes of Israel/Jacob, bound together like a tight cord, by religious faith and ardent belief. (Ref: Gen. 32:28 in the Holy Bible, and The Bible as History, A Confirmation of the Book of Books, Archaeology and Science adventure 4,000 years into the past to document - the Bible, by historian Werner Keller)

Cultural diversity applies to people of all tribes in Africa. In the very same way it cultural diversity applies to Asian-Africans, Black-Americans, Irish-Americans or Chinese-Americans and Latino-Americans in USA. They are all Americans. In Canada too, there is alot of cultural diversity. It is the cultural diversity that makes these countries so awesome.

Even today in Canada, USA and Europe, civil rights groups and common folks are like still advocating for justice, equity, better health care, and better governance. This is inspite of all the talk about democracy and civilization there is still social, political and economic injustice in the West.

Real life and the standard of living in the West is definitely much better than Africa. Yet as a word of caution, life and society is still very much like in the Animal Farm, the classic work of literature by George Orwell (1903 - 1950). Where, the animals seem to have taken over the farm. They think it is the start of a better life. The have dreams of a world where all animals are equal and all property is shared. But as we all know, that no sooner than the pigs take control, one of them, Napoleon, becomes the paramount leader and begins to dictate to all the animals. A sign is posted saying: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS. One by one the principles of the revolution are abandoned, until the animals have even less freedom than before.

So in Kenya tribe Kenya is a factor in society, but not the core issue in the current crisis. Like the whole of Africa, Kenya faces great challanges and obstacles to social and economic development. A major retrogressive factor being our pathetic, self centered lackadisical leadership. Sadly, and not surprising at all is that, the most pressing and core issues are still the same ones we faced when Kenya became independent in 1963. These core are: poverty, ignorance and disease.

In addition to the core issues, Kenya needs to address the distribution of power (the current flawed almighty, all knowing, and all powerful - winner takes all - Kenyan presidency). Kenyans also need to into establishing constitutional and structural checks and balances. And, like popular East African advertisement: "new blue and impoved omo", we the people of Kenya must ensure that the constitutional and structural improvements "ngarisha kabisa" / work well well enough to ensure good governance and improved management of Kenya's national resources.

Let me end by quoting Maina Kiai, the chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Maina Kiai says that "What's going on in Kenya is a political crisis with ethnic expression. It's not an ethnic crisis. It's triggered by political issues... The reasons for them (the violence), are that peaceful means for resolving our differences have been closed down, so people become violent and express that violence in an ethnic way because our politics is ethnic. That's very important to emphasize. This issue will not go away quickly. It's a serious issue. It's a big crisis for Kenya. I need to emphasize that calm is not peace... We have got to stop band-aid solutions to deep problems. We have to deal with the political problems".

Indeed, I could not have summed it up any better, than Maina Kiai has done. So, for those interested in reading further, here is the link to the full copy of Maina Kiai's wide-raging interview: Maina Kiai has also proposed reasonable soultions, and a reasonable cause of action to resolve the Kenyan crisis.

Hopefully we, Kenyans and Africans, will find a sane, sober and amicable way to resolve our conflicts. I am confident that with good and able leadership, we can address the issues of: abuse of power, poverty, ignorance and disease. Dedicated leaders, who are honestly committed to serve our people, can restore our fragile dignity, and leader us towards justice and greater heights of socio-economic development.

Thank you.

Your patriotic Kenyan,
Kiprotich Arap-Ruto

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luxury watchIndeed, I could not have summed it up any better, than Maina Kiai has done. So, for those interested in reading further, here is the link to the full copy of Maina Kiai's wide-raging interview: Maina Kiai has also proposed reasonable soultions, and a reasonable cause of action to resolve the Kenyan crisis.

I am grateful to you for this great content.

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