Dear Kenyans: I’m from Rwanda. Please don’t repeat our mistakes.
(Washington Post) Kenyans are bracing themselves for a potentially disastrous presidential election on Oct. 26. It’s a rerun, actually — an earlier one on Aug. 8 was annulled by the Supreme Court after bitter disagreements over alleged voter fraud. Many Kenyans hoped that repeating the election might help to defuse the potential for violence in a country plagued by deep ethnic divisions.
So far those hopes don’t seem to be materializing. The country’s two leading politicians, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who both head parties based on tribalism, are once again pitting Kenyans against each other.
This worries me deeply. As a Rwandan who lost many members of my family in our country’s 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, I fear that Kenya could go down a similar road if its politicians don’t reject destructive tribal politics.
Yes, it’s true that Kenya and Rwanda have different histories and backgrounds. The contexts in both places are entirely different. Yet as I watch events unfold in Kenya, I can’t help being reminded of the ethnic divides that ultimately tore my homeland apart.
In Rwanda, members of the majority Hutu ethnic group developed intense grievances against the Tutsis and worked to marginalize them wherever possible. In 1994, that hatred exploded into a slaughter that left nearly 1 million dead. My aunt, a Tutsi, was killed along with her children. Their killer was her own husband, who was a Hutu. He killed the woman he once loved, and his own children, because he was convinced that they had Tutsi blood. Twenty-three years later, I am still trying, like so many other Rwandans, to come to terms with the nightmare that befell our country.