Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Images, pictures and descriptions of violence stay with me forever, so I try to avoid them. As a result, I don't watch the news and am basically ignorant about what is happening in the world. However, I have just started listening to NPR while driving to and from work.

One story that has my attention is the ongoing violence and unrest in Kenya. For those that don't know (as I didn't until recently), Raila Odinga was elected President in September 2007. He ran as leader of the Orange Democratic Movement party. In December 2007, the Kenyan election commission declared Mwai Kibaki the President. Odinga believes the ruling is fraudulent and Kibaki should step down or call another election. Of course, Kibaki does not agree. As a result, members of the Kikuyu tribe (who support Kibaki) and Luos and Kalenjins (who support Odinga) have been rioting and murdering.

Last week Kofi Annan (former U.N. chief) led the first meeting between President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. There was hope that this meeting would lead to some peace in the area, but it did not. After the meeting, the President used language that Odinga and his people found insulting and more violence ensued.

I know nothing of the history, but the news stories state a long history of hatred between the various tribes. The conflict over who is the "rightful" President appears to be the tip off for the rioting, but the real reason seems to be rooted in the racial issues. In an interview I heard on NPR, Odinga said he asked his supporters to stop the violence, but it didn't sound truthful.

I'm fascinated by people like Kofi Annan who attempt to mediate a resolution. I've always admired people who have the vision to see resolution to large, difficult and seemingly unsolvable issues. In one interview on NPR, a Kenyan politician was offended when the interviewer asked about compromise. The politician said, "this is not a good word". If the leaders are not willing to compromise, what hope is there?

The violence is frightening to me. Stories like this make me wonder what I would do if riots started in my neighborhood. How could I protect my family? If it seemed to be ongoing, would I try to outrun it and leave? Would there be somewhere safe to go? Who could help? This is why I hate "the news". I don't want to think of a riot in my neighborhood or think of my daughter living in such unrest.

I also start to wonder what I, in my little suburb in the US, can do to make life better for those in Kenya? Nothing that I can see. I suppose raising a child that has values will help the future in general terms. I wonder if Odinga and Kibaki were taught that it is ok to admit that you have made a mistake, that it might be ok to be flexible in your opinion for the greater good, that people in the other tribes are very similar to yourself. I'm guessing not, or at least not effectively. So, I'll try to effectively teach my daughter the basic values. Who knows, maybe some day she'll be a mediator brokering peace for a country in need.

Today I'll send out a few silent wishes...

For Kofi Annan - that he have the vision and the words that the politicians will accept that will lead to a resolution of this latest conflict and open the door to preventing future internal conflicts.

For Kibaki and Odinga - that they can learn to compromise, let go of past hatreds, and be leaders that can promote and maintain a stable, healthy and diverse community.

For everyone with children in their lives - that we can teach them the values and skills that will lead to a good and peaceful life.

For my little SweetiePie - that she never has personal experience with the violence and fear that so many people in the world live with everyday.

- Peace

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