Can We Save the Earth By Ending Senseless Wars and Violence Such As This?
The rioting, killing, and political upheaval continuing in Kenya was a harder pill to swallow for many of us who love and care about Africa, our mother continent and Africa as a place on this globe. It is easy to hear news of violence as we now are reading about in Kenya when the news comes from already traumatized regions of Africa, from areas that we traditionally associate with long histories of political dictatorship and wars. Sadly for me however, news of violence has come from Liberia, my original homeland for more than two decades, and even though I would hate to hear of new wars and new violence from there, news of widespread rebellion and massacres can be so disturbing even for someone like me.
Since the end of the old year and the beginning of this new year, I have followed the ugly news of the destruction out in Kenya. For a while, I thought to stay low and see if this sad news would go away, to see if the fires would be put out, to see if the killings would stop, to see if the supposedly elected President would call for calm and actually be heard. The fact that an election was held and the one man, the incumbent supposedly won against his challenger, and therefore, the challenger decided to protest in such a way is a sad thing. But we do not know the whole story. I do not care about the whole story if that story involves the senseless killing of innocent fleeing refugees by supporters of the one who was supposedly cheated, if these people, having fled for protection in a church or in their homes, were burnt up. This is a sad thing for the world, and we cannot just continue to be silent.
To me the question is not who won or who lost the election. It never is. The question is how can supporters of the challenger go on the loose to kill so many hundreds of people, to burn down homes and a church with innocent refugees in hiding, to declare that unless their candidate wins the election, there will be no peace? How can such violence we are now seeing translate into peace and democracy for the future of the country? And how can a President who has supposedly won the election also stand his ground as his country is destroyed?
Should I be surprised or not? Maybe not. That happened in my own country over and over before and during the Liberian civil war. This is Africa and this is African politics as usual, but can the world afford losing Kenya too? Can we continue to say “this is Africa?” Maybe not, I’d say.
New York Times Photos
Looking at some of the images from the New York Times below, it is hard to believe that such a beautiful country, one of the most stable, most economically viable in the East African region, and to know that such a peaceful people as Kenyans have been for decades can come to this.
This sort of violence defies reason and such careless killing of innocent people by the mob and supporters reminds me of my own country, Liberia, where Charles Taylor supposedly came to rescue innocent Liberians from the tyrant dictator, Samuel K. Doe, and in rescuing us, about half a million of our people were killed, our entire country destroyed, and about a million Liberians were displaced and sent into refugee camps and into foreign lands.
Will we ever learn that politicians will not save Africa or the world from our problems and will we ever learn that wars do not solve any of the world’s problems? Poetry for peace is calling on the world as many human rights organizations, peace loving people, scholars, and the Kenyan people who love Africa are doing today. We cannot continue to allow power hungry people around the world to destroy innocent people, and we cannot bear to see such a beautiful country as Kenya, such beautiful people as Kenyans continue to be massacred day after day while we go about our daily lives. Already, there are enough countries at war in Africa and there are sufficient countries at war in the world.
I will conclude my words on this blog on Kenya with the words of the great Nigerian poet, John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo, one of my favorite poets, one who influenced me for many years as a student of his work and as one who aspires to his beautiful poetics. His poem, which is as old as I can remember was written about his own country, the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s, but it has relevance today because it is a timeless poem, and can strike the heart of anyone, whether the question is about warfare or about the kind of violence we are hearing about today. Read the poem, will you, and join me in decrying this ugly turn of events in Kenya. And do not join the journalists and political discussants who are already making this uprising a “tribal” war. Every time some crazy people begin to express their political opposition through violence or begin to kill innocent people in Africa or begin wars, others outside of Africa are quick to name this sort of human rights violation as a “tribal conflict.” This violence needs to end. We cannot afford to lose Kenya. We cannot afford another war in Africa. We cannot afford another war in our world.
by John Pepper Clark- Bekederemo
The casualties are not only those who are dead;
They are well out of it.
The casualties are not only those who are wounded,
Though they await burial by installment
The casualties are not only those who have lost
Person or property, hard as it is
To grope for a touch that some
May not know is not there
The casualties are not only those led away by night;
The cell is a cruel place, sometimes a heaven,
No where as absolute as the grave
The casualties are not only those who started
A fire and now cannot put to out. Thousands
Are burning that had no say in the matter.
The casualties are not only those who escaping
The shattered shell become prisoners in
A fortress of falling walls.
The casualties are many, and a good number well
Outside the scene of ravage and wreck;
They are the emissaries of rift,
So smug in smoke-room they haunt abroad,
They are wandering minstrels who, beating on
The drum of human heart, draw the world
Into a dance with rites it does not know
The drum overwhelm the guns…
Caught in the clash of counter claims and charges
When not in the niche others have left,
All casualties of war,
Because we cannot hear others speak,
Because eyes have ceased to see the face from the crowd,
Because whether we know or
Do not know the extent of wrong on all sides,
We are characters now other than before
The war began, the stay- at- home unsettled
By taxes and rumor, the looter for office
And wares, fearful everyday the owners may return,
We are all casualties,
All sagging as are
The case celebrated for kwashiorkor,
The unforeseen camp-follower of not just our war.
We cannot afford to be quiet. We must end the wars around the world today. Thank you for your patience.