The announcement by the Ministry of Education to close schools earlier due to political violence is not only heart breaking but poorly thought-out. The officials who came up with the idea must have thought every school going child travels on Matatu route 23 or 46 within Nairobi and rolled that idea across the country.
Did they stop to ask how parents in Illeret in Marsabit, one of the furthest corners of this country would be able to find the money to pick up their child within a day in Meru or Nairobi for instance? The risks to stranded kids are also too many.
There are parts of Kenya where transport is few and far between. The distance between one village and nearest town is miles apart and may involve a very long walk and two bus rides in some cases.
To ask parents to pick their children up in less than 24 hours is cruel. The inconvenience justifies violence and creates space for violent leaning politicians.
Even in places where there is transport nearer a school, there will be many families who won’t be able to raise fares that quickly. Kenya is a poor country where half the citizens still live below the poverty line. The cheapest bus fare may be small change for Wakubwas, but it is a lot of money for mostly poor people to raise at the drop of a hat.
Fear of violence
Kenya should be ashamed that despite the violence that shocked the globe in 2007/8 it is still talking of violence during electioneering season.
Clearly lessons are not being learnt if the President and his deputy (once ICC suspects) continue to bicker daily and verbally abuse each other in public. The leaders of this country, starting with the President have legal duty to always maintain peace, election season or not.
What we have witnessed for number of years is constant fanning of violence by the ruling class, either by fighting among themselves or inciting the citizens. It is hypocritical to demand the citizens to maintain peace in an environment where those mandated to work for peace are the first to create violence for the sake of votes. What politicians need to do is not close schools because of violence but control their mouths to tame violence.
Making contingency plans because of election related violence signals failure by successive governments to inculcate the culture of peace and tolerance. Our lives do not need to be disrupted because of elections. Life can still go on while people exercise their civic right.
The two can exist side by side. Kenya wastes crucial years before the election by creating state of fear that not only affects local businesses and our way of life but puts off visitors to the country. Tourism suffers the most because of fear of violence. As a result, it takes the industry years to try and recover from one election related violence before suffering further losses at the next.
Political violence is never for the benefit of Kenyans but for aspirants. Kenyans need to realise that and learn to say no to violence. Their enemy is hardly their neighbour but the politician who stokes violence between communities for him/her to win. If Kenyans want to see how much politicians don’t work for them, they should look at the number of stalled projects that were ‘completed’ in the last couple of weeks as we approached voting.
Why have these projects, which were meant to benefit voters years ago, only completed days before voting starts?
Kenyans today have an opportunity to vote for their rights than accept violence and under development. Voters still have the time to re-assess the incumbents on what they have managed to achieve.
Violence and under-development are artificially created by politicians to disrupt our lives. The leaders have demonstrated that it is not their children’s schooling calendar that gets affected by violence but those of ordinary citizens.
In any case, politicians’ children have taxpayer funded security, drivers, and private education. These are not people to understand the impact of disruption they cause by shutting the country down due to violence instigated by politicians.
Neither would they understand the financial loss to small businesses because they are well remunerated and safe from shocks borne of election related violence. Saving mama mboga is just hot air and great photo opportunity. They don’t care about her, if they did, they would conduct peaceful elections so that her kibanda remains open before, on and after elections.
Dear Kenyans - if politicians did not serve you yesterday, they won’t tomorrow - repeat! It is time to realise, that your vote has value, and that value is to you.
While you stand in the voting queue, know that the vote you cast is for you and your rights and not for those closing your children’s schools because they anticipate unleashing violence. Letting political violence dictate our lives is letting violence win. Vote wisely, your life depends on it!
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo