Cold Peace is Not Good for Kenya
By Maurice N. Amutabi
Kenya still needs genuine reconciliation and healing because there are signs that the country has not totally recovered mentally and psychologically from the events of the post election violence of 2008. The county is in state which peace scholars call cold peace (negative peace). Cold peace is a situation where people pretend that there is harmony, when in reality they hate and can’t stand each other. The only thing stopping them from doing violence on others is the law. Cold peace is indication of latent tensions and disagreements. Cold peace is what we have in Kenya today, going by the divisions among leaders and some people.
The current peace and tranquillity in Kenya seems to be held in place artificially because people expect 2012 to bring out a new order to replace the present unease in the coalition government. The problem is that the structures and institutions that should bring about a new constitutional order are being delayed, creating anxiety among many Kenyans, within and outside.
Things seem not to move, as everyone seems to be marking time, putting everything on hold and waiting for 2012. There is uncertainty about what the County governments will bring about. Now, there are stories that the Treasury is not keen to support County governments and has refused to release the first tranche of funds for the establishment of infrastructure for the devolved system. There are differences in the meaning and interpretation of 15% funds from Treasury for county governments. It is surprising that well trained individuals cannot seem to agree on simple interpretations of the constitution.
There is a huge section of Kenyans who wanted the provincial administration to go, but who are now apprehensive because of contradictions that are prevalent in the public sphere, where a committee on devolution does not seem to agree with entrenched bureaucrats in the Office of the President who are beneficiaries from this colonial system and keen to retain it regardless of the verdict of majority of Kenyans. The truth of the matter is that a devolved county system cannot operate alongside the provincial administration as currently constituted, for this will be a recipe for chaos.
The many alliances that have emerged are not helping maters either, because many of them seem to be targeting ethnic blocs and heightening tensions and counter tensions. Listening to politicians in the past few weeks in Kenya, one wonders if this country would still be standing come 2012. The bare knuckle exchanges are not healthy for the economy or political stability. it is perhaps for this that the shilling has been having a free fall.
Our leaders never seem to realize how powerful their words are and the implications some of their statements can have in all sectors. Like all societies, words of leaders can either create positive peace (hot peace) or negative peace (cold peace) because they have followers some of whom hang on what they say. It is for this reason that alliance-building and early campaigns for 2012 should perhaps be toned down for the sake of the country.
There seems to be suspicion in all corners of the country, with some Kenyans not sure about the stability of the country given the manner in which the new constitution is being handled. There appears to be some lethargy and lack of commitment to the changes by some in government. There is a feeling that some would like Kenya to continue under the old constitution. The cabinet is not acting in unison, and MPs appear to be indifferent and half hearted in their attempts to deliver bills that will lead to implementation of the new constitution.
The victims of prevailing conditions of cold peace are ordinary Kenyans, the hoi polloi. Under this cold peace, observers fear that people are not speaking the truth. There is suspicion that there some people pretending that all is well and acting as if they like each other, while holding daggers in the back, waiting for an opportune time to strike.
Cold peace is where some smile at each other on the dinner table when they know that they have laced drinks of their rivals with poison. It is simply not healthy and not needed in a country that is facing elections soon. History teaches us that cold peace often heralds violent conflict or confrontation if not checked. Recent polls have shown that political temperatures are high in the country. Unchecked exchanges among leaders often create intense enmity and polarization among their followers.
Prof. Amutabi teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Amutabi@yahoo.com