Our brothers in Eastleigh, in North Eastern, in Nanyuki, Mombasa, lamu and Nakuru are caught in the middle of a bad bad situation. Many of them, their fathers and mothers, have kept our streets safe in the police, have fought for kenya since the 1960s in the armed forces. They are at the heart of our best trained troops, our critical and necessary anti-stock theft unit. Many of them are risking their lives, right now in Kismayu, their families right now being insulted and abused in Eastleigh. They do not have to defend their belonging. We are in unchartered waters and our behaviour to these brothers and sisters will define our common future.

Those who are, today, in the streets of Nairobi spitting on women wearing hijab, or cursing people with “funny hair” are tearing apart the spirit and history of our country, our constitution. We cannot support this. Hate and xenophobia will destroy our fragile gains. It is not worth it. It is no different from burning people in Eldoret churches, or pulling people from trains to circumcise them. We know what those acts did to the integrity of Kenya. It brought us to the brink, and continues to threaten our future as a diverse and united nation.

How we, the Kenyan public behave in the next few weeks, will decide what country we are going to be. Let us take time to think clearly and avoid chest banging and false machismo. This is our first war, others, who have been there, will tell us that this sort of thing plays out for generations and generations. There is no “victory” – there are just consequences.

© Binyavanga Wainaina