It is dawn. A dawn that is different from any other dawns in my village. There is unfamiliar silence that is unusual for this village. Often most dawns are filled with cock-a-doodle-doo from roosters and footsteps from farmers either ferrying their milk to the dairy or heading to their farms. Today however, there is dead silence. I think to myself that maybe it still is very early; but when I look at the watch on the stool beside my bed, my worst fears are confirmed. This isn’t an ordinary dawn in my village. Something unusual might be going on, and entertaining that thought scares me, even though I know it probably is true.
I pull myself out of the blanket and sit on my bed wondering what could be going on. I try to say a prayer so as to calm myself, but for some reason I can’t. I pull myself up; unlock the hatch on my cube door and what I see almost knocks me out. My mum’s house, which is adjacent to our cube, is up in smoke and my first reaction is whether my mother is okay. As I rush towards the house, am overpowered by the smoke and as I turn around, I realize that there is no one in site. Every part of me goes numb and the only thing I can afford to do is place my hands on my head. On a normal day, if any house in the village was on fire there would be a score of neighbors who would show up to offer support; but sadly, not today.
As I pull myself away from the smoke confused and shaken to the core, I try to call out to my mother, but my voice seems to have deserted me too. I try to walk outside the compound to call our neighbors, but I can barely make a step. I look up hoping to find answers as to what is happening, and as fate would have it I find the answers I was looking for. All the homes surrounding us are up in smoke too. At this point I am on my fours, my knees unable to support my body anymore. My brain has shut too, I can’t think of anything. I try to pick myself up but I am too weak to even move, I keep trying but I give up. Thoughts are flowing in my head like water down a cliff. Thoughts about what could have happened; whether my mother and the other villagers are okay, and what would become of me.
I pass out. When I regain my senses the first thing that meets my eyes is a group of police officers, heavily armed looking as if they have seen the worst disaster in their lives. One of the officers is kneeling beside me, not saying a word. I muster some voice and I ask him of my mother’s whereabouts. He doesn’t answer but continues staring at me, and his stare makes my heart to sink. I guess he must have noticed my reaction; he puts his hand on my shoulder and says “she is okay, don’t worry”. His words do little to help, as I can’t help think of what must be going on. I ask him why the whole village is on fire? he responds; “your neighbors have turned against you, they think you support the opposition and you didn’t vote for their tribesman.” As I try to make sense of his words, there is a knock on my door and I wake up all sweaty.
We are heading to an election year, and as mine was a dream and maybe because it has happened to us in 1997, to some other people in 1992 and in 2007; I will hate it happening to someone else in 2017. The holocaust didn’t start with the killing but with words uttered. Our turn someone uttered that we were invaders and that despite being invaders we showed contempt by not voting for their guy. In turn they were convinced that we deserved to be punished. What followed was loss of property and lives. It was the same script in all other elections and the devastation it has left is well known to all of us.
Unless we wake up and stand up against leaders and individuals who have started making reckless utterances, we might be forced to relive those painful experiences of the past. We might think the effect of post election violence doesn’t affect us all, but indeed it does. The government uses our hard earned taxes to resettle those affected by the clashes, we are left to care for the children who are left without parents, we mourn with mothers who lost their children and worse; we live with the guilt of having done nothing while we could have done something and worse having to figure how to live with the blood of the departed ones in our hands the rest of our lives becomes our new nightmare.
Our institutions may be weak. The police, judiciary, investigators and religious leaders but US and I repeat US; we are not weak. It’s just that we decide to be bystanders and watch evil take root without doing anything, or saying anything. We are scared to either offend someone or be seen in a negative light. But I am hopeful this time around we won’t just stand by and watch politicians incite us without saying something or calling them out. We can put an end to senseless loss of property and life in the name of politics. Let us force them to campaign on issues and not on our tribes or our differences. As long as we have the voting cards, we have the say in what kind of leaders and future we want. The system may have failed weeding the corrupt and visionless leaders out, but we can weed them out using our votes. Let our votes count. Let us vote for visionary leaders but not because they belong to our tribe or party.