rotating header

Monday, March 11, 2013

In the Year That . .

 . . King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the most incredible, detailed, majestic, overwhelming vision of God, which Pastor Couch preached on Sunday morning.  Fiery servants, terror, trembling.  A self-revelation and affirmation, a change in direction.

Because when a political regime changes, life becomes unsettled, and a vision of God becomes more necessary.

This is the year that President Uhuru Kenyatta won.  And it has been an unsettling time.

The election was held a week ago, with long lines and optimism, with correspondents snapping colorful photos of the Africa people in the West want to see:  beaded maasai women clustering and queuing, or slum residents loitering outside shops waiting for news.  For about a day the results were steadily flowing in and being broadcast, and we all thought the new era of responsible management had begun.

Only then it became apparent that the lap-tops being used to power identification programs (fingerprints) and the cell network being used to report results, weren't working.  Polling stations were in schools, and whoever designed the program failed to take into account the lack of electricity in most schools.  The election monitors were taksed to bring the ballets back to their NBI headquarters.  The initial tally was re-counted.  Some of the monitors failed to show up, for days.  The entire excruciating process dragged on from Tuesday through Saturday.  Britian "happened" to land troops for a training exercise.  Kenya was getting restless.  Friday we expected the announcement, and Friday night went to bed still uncertain.  The winner would have to get 50% PLUS a minium of 1 vote more, AND garner at least 25% in more than half of the 47 counties.  We heard about police officers being killed by a mob on the coast, but the week was mostly tense and surreal, with verbal arguments but commendable restraint.  A LONG, long wait and see.

On Saturday morning we were awakened at 5 a.m. by shouts, screams, horns, whistles and drums. It seems the unofficial tally was complete, and Uhuru Kenyatta was the winner with 50,07% of the vote.  His ethic background is similar to that of our neighbors, so they were ecstatic.  I peaked out the window, fairly certain this was happiness (vuvuzelas for instance) but equally aware of the potential for violence.  Masses of people marched in the darkness in front of our house, their dusty coats or huddled shoulders visible in the car headlamps which followed each section of humanity.  They were ululating, screaming, whistling, dancing.  There would be a group, then a car, then more marchers, then more cars. They were celebrating, but the line between a victorious throng and a mob seemed small in the darkness.

Seven hours and one patient-death later, we were back around the TV on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for the 11 am official announcement.  Three hours of commentary, music, crowd shots, false starts, suspicious pauses, announcements later, we finally saw the chairman of the IEBC (electoral commission) take the podium.  "There can be victory without victims," he said.  Kenyatta was declared the winner.

The runner-up, Odinga, with 43% of the vote, immediately filed a petition in court.  There were a few protests in his western strongholds, and in a crowded central Nairobi slum.  But no eruption of widespread unrest.  The police waited.  The people waited.  And not much happened.  Today we're all breathing a collective sigh of relief.  The sun is shining, the schools reopened, groceries are once again on the agenda, the hospital clinics are full.

Kenyans showed that history does not have to repeat.  Our chaplain this morning commended the "hakuna haraka katika Africa" (no hurry in Africa) attitude of Kenyans as we spent six days in suspense, allowing the tedious process to be carried out.  This election is seen as a triumph of democracy, at least by those who won of course, but I think by the world in general.  It is also seen as a triumph of Africans refusing to bow to pressure from the West. What Americans see as a moral issue (the ICC vs. Kenyatta) Africans see as a sovereignty issue.  When the US issued a veiled threat that the people should not choose Kenyatta, it only seemed to boost his ratings.   Here is a summary from the news:

In his victory speech, Kenyatta said:  Today, we celebrate the triumph of democracy; the triumph of peace; the triumph of nationhood.  Despite the misgivings of many in the world, we demonstrated a level of of political maturity that surpassed expectations.  That is the real victory today.  A victory for our nation.  A victory that demonstrates to all that Kenya has finally come of age.  That this, indeed, is Kenya's moment."  He also pledged to work together with his political opponents with "friendship and cooperation."  "Kenya needs us to work together," he said.  "Kenya needs us to move on." In a pointed warning to the international community, he added:  "We expect the international community to respect the sovereignty and democratic will of the people of Kenya.  The Africa star is shining brightly and the destiny of Africa is now in our hands."

 And so the next era of Kenyan history begins, mostly with hope, though of course there is frustration and skepticism mixed in too.

Isaiah reminds us that the political regime may change, but God is still on the throne.  The last month has been a trying one as we've wondered if the entire country would fall apart, would we evacuate, what dangers lay ahead.  As the patients trickle back, I am beginning to see this took more than just an emotional toll.  Kids are presenting who have been sick for days or weeks, only their families feared travel to the hospital. One came too late, and died just as he was arriving yesterday.  I need an Isaiah view of God, a new vision of repentance, purpose, hope.

Isaiah 6 ends with the holy seed, the offspring from the burned stump, the post-judgment promise of renewal.  We long to see that day when Jesus' rule drives out fear and death and sorrow and injustice.  When we can celebrate much more than a new president, a new Heavens and a new Earth.

No comments: