MWANGI: Silence isn’t golden; see how everybody’s shedding tears

MWANGI: Silence isn't golden; see how everybody's shedding tears

What does the extrajudicial killing of a lawyer, his client and taxi driver in Kenya have in common with the 40th anniversary of the raid on Entebbe by Israeli forces? The lessons of history make it abundantly clear just how much our fates as human beings are intertwined. Rich or poor, Kikuyu or Luo, Christian or Muslim, the security of each one is necessary for the security of all, while the oppression of anyone automatically leads to the oppression of all.

This is a truth that is often forgotten whenever people are made to believe that a choice must be made between “them” and “us”: Between Jew and Arab, Hutu and Tutsi, Kikuyu and Luo, Christian and Muslim. Quite often, those who bear the brunt of injustice seem far away from the perspective of those unaffected, but the birds have a strange way of always coming home to roost.

Beginning with the global war on terrorism, many people never contextualize the circumstances that have made the world a living hell. The injustice of a people thrown out of their homeland to create a Jewish state in the Middle East is lost on people fed on Western propaganda around the world, yet this is a daily reality for the millions of Palestinians and their descendants scattered in countries far and wide, most of them as refugees in the countries neighbouring Israel.

It is the Palestinian struggle to regain their dignity that spawned the plane hijackings of the 1970s. Whenever oppressed people are faced by forces that are militarily superior, they often retaliate against soft targets, and this is true of liberation movements from Kenya’s Mau Mau to South Africa’s armed struggle against apartheid. Sad as the suffering of innocents on the oppressive side may be, the focus in the resolution of any conflict must surely rest on solving the original situation of injustice.

Unfortunately, the legend of the Israeli raid on Entebbe reinforces admiration for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian cause. While this is no doubt a story of military genius, we should not forget that the lack of an acceptable resolution to the Middle East conflict led to extreme desperation, which in turn gave rise to the global terrorism that has now sucked in the whole world.

This same diffusion of the effects of injustice can be seen in the crisis of extrajudicial killings in Kenya. As in many African states, the culture of violence that was a feature of the Big Man syndrome was encouraged from the earliest days of independence. The new African elite led by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta resorted to eliminating opponents, who included Tom Mboya, Pio Gama Pinto and J.M. Kariuki. Others were detained without trial, with the security services used to harass and intimidate opponents of the autocratic regime.

To those who were not affected, the killings and violence appeared far removed from their lives.  Then came the Wagalla massacre under former President Daniel arap Moi; shocking as it was, it did not elicit much response from the rest of the country.

But Kenya’s rogue police force continued growing into a monster, moving closer to those initially unaffected. The Mungiki became a target for extrajudicial killings, in addition to radical Muslim clerics. Certainly, most average citizens didn’t pay too much attention to these killings, which may have even seemed good riddance.

Now, the impact of encouraging violence and injustice against others, conveniently keeping quiet when everyone ought to have been outraged, is finally hitting home. Lawyers, who had generally maintained a low profile on the matter of extrajudicial killings, quickly organized a week-long boycott of the courts and peaceful street demonstrations now that one of their own has been affected. The coldblooded murder of lawyer Willie Kimani and two others galvanized Kenya’s legal fraternity to speak out.

Hopefully, more people will now take an interest in matters of social justice at all levels, from the village to the international arena. When Iraq is unfairly attacked, we ought to know Libya could be next, and then who knows which other country a rogue American leader will fancy to attack?

Similarly, is it too far-fetched to imagine that a policeman demanding daily bribes from lorries and public transport vehicles could soon begin asking the same from every shop in the vicinity? From there, what will prevent such a rogue official from seeking daily bribes from every home in the neighbourhood?

The struggle against injustice demands that we all become our brother’s keepers. Every time injustice is accompanied by silence and cowardice, it only gains ground. Finally, everyone gets their turn to shed tears.

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Story By Isaac Mwangi
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