In January 1995, a thirteen year old boy woke up and found himself in a foreign country, a peaceful one where there were no bullets flying over his head. In this foreign land there were no bombs or gangs threatening his existence.
This boy was thankful that he had been saved from not only a genocide that had claimed his own by his own but also a humanitarian crisis that had erupted in refugee camps that were in the then known Zaire.
There being no time to dwell on the past, the boy covered his wounds, started working as a child, went to school and forged on.
Today, thirteen years later, in the same country that offered him a second chance in life, the story is repeating itself.
His eyes open to a stadium full of displaced people, churches burning and gunshots close to his ears. January, 2008 has started off as a nightmare.
It is the same script. Even in this once-upon-a-time peaceful country, politicians are using a wrong, bloody card of ethnicity to acquire power, wealth and control.
So many questions come into mind; what is this desire for power that permits the burning of fifty-plus innocent children and women in what are referred to as Houses of the Almighty where the weak and vulnerable assume there is refuge?
What is this desire for power that allows a brother to drink his own siblings’ blood in broad day light?
In a church close to where the displaced are seeking refuge, on Sunday, a preacher asked the same question. Speaking as if disciplining his children, the man of God charged he got alarmed at the number of short messages (on his cell phone) he received from those lamenting that they and their own were being targeted.
But these messages did not come from dwellers of Kibera, Eldoret, Kisumu or Mombasa. They were from members of his own flock; the business owners and wealthy educated elite.
The man continued to speak from his heart shaming those that identified themselves not as Kenyans but as Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba or otherwise.
“You have been coming to church for a year confessing that you are children of God. Isn’t that what the Bible says we are? No race or ethnicity among God’s children, we are all one,” he went on.
As if to emphasize his disappointment in his own congregation, the man asserted that the church is neither for Kikuyu or Luo.
“There is no segregation in our church leadership,” he retorted.
From the wealthy, elite congregation, one would tell there were some who would want revenge or those that were using their influence to incite the less fortunate in society to carry out their hearts’ desires for power. But as the preacher went on, some could not bear it anymore.
One member of the congregation who had earlier on been prayed for among those that lost their loved ones in the skirmishes finally stood up and walked out. From the illustration on his face, he had been hurt. Had the man of God been so insensitive in his comments?
His spouse turned back and looked at him but remained put in her seat, with her ears seeming to be paying more attention as if listening for both of them. It takes a lot for an African man to cry; the gentleman was weeping as he counted his losses.
Inside the church, two other pastors asked the congregation to bend and repent. Yes, the rich, famous and poor had all come to seek God’s intervention and had all been told that they were part of the problem.
As the pastor continued to invoke the writings in the holy book, everyone got on their knees and in the end, it was God’s children seeking his intervention.
This House of God was another refugee camp, a spiritual one…Both the spiritual and physical refugee camps though serve as a transition period for one to decide either to continue the road to hell or turn around and choose a positive path.
The Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies can’t take you anywhere; they are there for a short period while CNN, BBC and other local media still have cameras focusing on your crisis, and after they find a more desperate situation they leave your crisis as fast as they came.
They operate from the same mentality of desire for power, not only to control how your story is told but also to influence your actions by watching your own life re-played on a screen.
The preacher made his church options clear to the concerned political parties. One was sound: Put in place the suggested government of National Unity and plan new elections in a year.
There was an article written by The Sunday Nation Managing editor (one of the leading newspapers in Kenya) titled “Sweet Jesus, give me tears to cry for my country”.
This preacher seemed to have a lot of tears flowing in his heart as he continued to pray for his country’s future during a prayer session aired on all major media stations in Kenya from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
It is difficult to define peace as a concept, but one thing seems to be sure: peace has to be found within one’s heart before the person can give it to others.
The heart that desires this power and is blinded to the plea of a bleeding nation, knows no internal peace and cannot therefore be expected to give it.
This power-hungry heart finds roots in greed, adoration of materialism that drives one to lose his/her humanity. This heart knows no sister, brother, mother when it comes to look out for its own interests.
Day or night doesn’t matter, when or where; there is no room for reason - it is driven by selfish insanity. This power knows no color, or continental borders. Unfortunately, this power leaves bloody stains on the unborn children and gives young generations a burden to carry.
Ask the Banyarwanda of a thousand hills and they will tell you how thirteen years later they are still fighting the genocide ideology even among young ones who were toddlers during the Genocide.
Kenya, the country of the Rift Valley, the 7th wonder of the World, Masai Mara, the land with the white sand beaches in Mombasa, where Swahili culture has a home in Lamu, the country that gives refuge to its neighbours and settles disputes between brothers in one country, gives rest to those who are tired is still alive, wounded but on the road to healing and reconciliation.
The big boy wanted to tell you these stories, because his were not a priority to the world when they were unfolding. Few bothered to come and rescue his own.
His hope is that people of the world learned a lesson and now they can fly from wherever to initiate diplomatic negotiations, like Bishop Desmond Tutu did, Dr Jandayi Frazer (US Under-Secretary for Africa) did, President of Ghana has come this week, and other former regional presidents have come, or simply act from where you are like many other Kenyans are doing, to inform these power seeking hearts that there are other ways than spilling of innocent blood.
And for us who do not occupy these powerful offices, what is our role not just in Kenya, but Pakistan, Israel, DRC, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, in your neighborhood, in your heart?
If we look around carefully there is a crisis caused by this greed for power! We are part of the problem as much as we are part of the solution.
The author is a Rwandan student at the United States University in Nairobi.