Kenya’s recent events have reminded me of a Kamba saying that states, “Kimbu kiendaa kavola nikwaa muingi” which translates to “a chameleon which is known to be the slowest reptile, moves slowly because it doesn’t have anyone or anything to chase it. The moment you touch its tail you will be surprised at the speed it would apply as it seeks safety. I believe that just like the chameleon we have been moving with jerky, back and forth movements towards our national quest for definite peace and prosperity. The recent recurring demonstrations have touched our tail and therefore our haste towards reconciliation is mandatory.
Reconciliation restores unity, entrenches a joint pathway, and fuels the journey towards the same direction yet again. In so doing, reconciliation heals, fills and frees. It heals conflict, fills relationships with positive energy and frees the populace to pursue joint goals.
In 1995, South Africa’s then President Nelson Mandela’s Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. President Mandela appointed Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the Commission’s Chair. This commission went on to advance reconciliation and nation building in South Africa.
Indeed, reconciliation is a powerful process that can bring about positive change at the family level, community and national levels. Here are five factors that illustrate the transformative power of reconciliation.
Firstly, reconciliation heals conflict. People often make the mistake of fighting conflict through inflammatory remarks which is akin to fighting fire by pouring oil onto it. That will further inflame the fire. On the contrary, reconciliation puts out the fire of conflict.
The global community experienced the power of reconciliation in dramatic fashion in September 1978. That year, the Camp David Accords, signed by President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin established a framework for a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in March 1979.
Here in Kenya, Kofi Annan led the 2008 Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation that resulted in the Peace Accord. Consequently, a coalition government was founded on reconciliation.
Secondly, reconciliation heals divisions. Conflicts exacerbate division. In a conflict scenario, divisions keep multiplying. That’s what has happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first Congo War was fought in the mid-nineties. Because reconciliation never ensued, divisions multiplied, leading to the second Congo War that was fought from the late-nineties to the early 2000s. These two Wars led to approximately six million deaths. How tragic!
Because DRC is yet to realize reconciliation years later, people continue to die from armed conflict. That’s why the East African Community must walk lock in step with the African Union and the United Nations to achieve reconciliation in this great African country.
Thirdly, reconciliation fosters social cohesion. As such, Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is a statutory body that amongst other things, seeks to promote national reconciliation and healing.
Kenya is currently undergoing unending tension due to a variety of factors that include economic struggles and political rupture of the ruling class. Against this backdrop, reconciliation is critical as it will foster social cohesion which will in turn drive down the tension. Furthermore, reconciliation will rebuild trust amongst communities and political factions.
Fourthly, reconciliation helps in tackling the root causes of conflicts, rather than merely suppressing them. Reconciliation does this by promoting honest dialogue and understanding. That’s why it’s important for our political leaders to start talking to each other, not at each other. That’s the essence of engagement. Even in marriage, conflicts are never resolved until couples talk to each other honestly and respectfully.
Fifthly, reconciliation fuels economic growth and development. Tanzania’s President Her Excellency Mama Suluhu Hassan was recently captured in a viral video talking about the influx of investors into Tanzania owing to Kenya’s prevalent conflict. That’s unsurprising because investors abhor conflict and flee from it. We must therefore deploy reconciliation to boost our economy, unite our communities and strengthen our families. Think green, act green!