In his New Year message, President Kenyatta stated that he will ensure there is peace in Kenya. Deputy President William Ruto too appealed for peace this year during a prayer rally in Eldoret.
Former Justice Minister Martha Karua, in her first tweet this year, wrote, “We have a role, individually and collectively, in making 2017 [a] peaceful year”. Most New Year messages, across the world, were about peace.
A simple dictionary definition of the word ‘peace’ is a ‘stress-free state of security and calmness that comes when there is no fighting or war’. Other definitions define peace as a state of tranquillity or quietness; freedom from civil disturbance; or a state of security or order within a community provided for by law and order, etc.
The reason responsible human beings treasure peace is because it is an ‘enabler’. Peace facilitates development, security, social and economic justice and reconciliation. None of these will thrive in a conflict or a chaotic environment.
The pursuit of peace is what makes millions risk their lives and those of their children in dangerous journeys from their home countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, etc — to go and live as strangers and refugees in countries that do not want them. As at the end of 2014, the United Nations estimated there are 19.5 million people who have fled their countries as refugees — half of them children. Another 1.5 billion people live in countries without peace — affected by violent conflict.
The effect of peace on the economy, especially the lack thereof, is also huge. The Global Peace Index calculated the cost of conflict to the global economy as at 2014 to be the equivalent of $13.7 billion.
Politically, the lack of peace means a breakdown in law and order, which manifests in criminality reigning. Extremist criminal organisations form or consolidate. Raw power becomes the order of the day. Force becomes how one gets things done — good or bad. The innocent ones, the weak, children and women, suffer.
This is why I applaud the new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. On his first day in office on January 1, he pledged to make 2017 a year of peace.
“I appeal to all of you to join me in committing to peace, today and every day. Let us make 2017 a year of peace,” he said.
Kenyans must make 2017 a year of peace, deliberately. Ten years ago, Kenyans who supported Raila Odinga were asked under the slogan ‘No Raila No Peace’to sacrifice peace because he lost an election . Two months later, President Mwai Kibaki and Raila agreed on a political settlement.
The Kenyans defending or attacking under the ‘No Raila No Peace’ slogan were told to stand down. Unfortunately, over 1,000 had died, hundreds of thousands forcibly displaced, and property worth billions destroyed.
Now I hear some foolish people in rallies, on social media and on mainstream media threatening that if Raila does not win, there will be no peace. They forget that lack of peace did not personally affect Kibaki or Raila in 2007. They forget there is no monument to the millions of ordinary Kenyans who were affected by the ‘No Raila No Peace’ demonstrations.
My fellow Kenyans, let us not be stupid. Let us not allow anyone to make us end up in violence for their private political ambitions, at whatever level.
I have said it here before and I will say it again. If someone cannot win an election — or stop their victory from being stolen after an election — without asking innocent Kenyans to shed blood to achieve it, then they do not deserve to lead Kenya in any capacity. Happy 2017!