After quiet diplomacy, Kenya rocks and raps for peace

May 1st, 2008 - 10:02 am ICT by admin  

By Eva Berendsen and Eva Krafczyk
Nairobi, May 1 (DPA) German Ambassador to Kenya Walter Lindner has great faith in the hushed tones of quiet diplomacy. Lindner is among the European Union (EU) and US diplomats who had been working over the last few months to resolve the internal political crisis that gripped the country after the disputed presidential elections in December. When it emerged that a grand coalition between President Mwai Kibaki and then opposition leader Raila Odinga was considered the best solution, Lindner, who had experience of coalitions, was sought out as a negotiator between the two conflicted parties.

But barely two weeks after the new coalition government was sworn in, the time for quiet diplomacy was over last Saturday as the decibel levels rose in the garden of Lindner’s official residence.

Under the banner of “Freedom and Unity for Kenya”, 25 Kenyan bands played to a mixed group of young Kenyans, foreigners, diplomats, and young people.

Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula was among the guests along with US Ambassador Micheal Ranneberger.

Odinga, the new government’s Prime Minister was also supposed to attend the concert, but was unable to make it back on time from a visit to the refugee camps in which 150,000 Kenyans who fled the violence are still seeking refuge.

Rap and hip-hop, pop and blues, jazz and Afro-fusion set the tone of the long night of celebration marking the restoration of normality after two months of bloody violence which left over 150,000 dead and 350,000 displaced.

Up on the stage and amongst the audience enjoying the music, ethnic affiliation became meaningless.

“Kenya has been through hell”, said Wetangula, in a speech to the 150 concertgoers. Now the most important thing is for Kenyans to re-unite. “Kenya is greater than us all,” said the minister.

The East-African country must now return to “peaceful co-existence and to normality”, Lindner said, while according to Ranneberger “the party spirit had returned to Kenya”.

While there was dancing on the lawn at the residence, just a few hundred metres away as the crow flies, hundreds of young people were listening to music in the very different surroundings of the Deep Sea slum.

The political and socially critical lyrics of Kenyan rappers and rockers rang out in the slum, which is home to 6,000 people, living in crowded conditions in corrugated iron huts without electricity.

There are only 25 toilets amongst the 6,000 slum occupants who, from their hill, have a direct view of the surrounding properties of diplomats, high-ranking UN workers and senior managers.

Eric Wainaina, one of Kenya’s best-known musicians, who played and sang for rich and poor alike across the walls, says he is “optimistic, but watchful” about Kenya’s future.

“What counts now, is not politics, but the Kenyan people,” he says.

“It is very, very important to set up a truth commission to investigate the causes of the violence.”

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