Kenyan runner, Kiprop Wilson. Image via

It’s that time of the year when days are longer than nights. It’s already past seven in the evening but darkness is yet to set in. For children it means a few more minutes of play as parents juggle between preparing evening meals and convincing the children that there will be a chance to play again tomorrow. Some of the kids are stubborn, especially those old enough to understand that death takes people away to a place of no return. Not too long ago one of their friends, Joe was hit by a car as he walked home after school while another got injured in a street fight as he rushed home. They did not understand why Joe had to be taken to a mortuary in town yet the estate clinics were closer but they guessed that he had passed on when they did not get to play with him again. He played ‘dad’ so well in their games and the fact that no one has been able to fit in his shoes has brought some hollowness to playtime. Now each of the kids has a list of the people they ask God to keep alive and they pray that Joe will come back and play with them since no one acts ‘dad’ as well as he does.

There are still a few kids running around when I get to my grocer. She’s a lot busier today compared to other days and I am happy that things are looking up for her. I have the option of buying from other grocers since it is getting late but I chose to wait. She does an excellent job as my grocer and I can trust her with my kales and other vegetables any day. Besides, having to wait means I get to seek her view of the campaigns that fill the days and interrupt the stillness of the night. There is a new kind of gloom that comes over her when I bring up this topic. She shakes her head as one of the campaigning groups pass by her stall screaming and shouting songs in support of their candidate. She is interrupted and she chooses to wait for the noise to die down before she can talk again. She looks weary, her skin is pale and wrinkled around the eyes and I struggle to hear her when she resumes her speech.

She talks about the opposing campaign teams that disturbed the peace of the estate earlier on in the day. A man got stoned in the head and he sustained serious injuries during the campaign chaos. She saw the man’s face looking all bloody as he was rushed to hospital and the rowdy crowds that comprised different campaign teams left her fearing for her safety. The afternoon was uncertain and many closed their shops and locked the gates to their houses in precaution. She could not afford to leave her shed though. She needed to earn something to take home for supper in the evening so she braved it all. She keeps shaking her head when she talks about the injured man. It is as if she is trying to shake out the bloody memories and the apprehension that followed the incident. Her whispers are hardly audible today and her eyes are mostly focused on the bunch of kales she is preparing for another customer.

A mother calls out to her child at the next stall. She wants him to remain in her grocery shed; at least until the campaign motorcade passes. The child, a little boy who’s roughly five years however has a hard time obeying this instruction and he rushes out to stare at the dancers who precede the motorcade and have burst into song and dance. He wants to join the dance but he cannot be too safe in the middle of the road with the motorcycles that are speeding past the dancers. The mother grabs his hand and pulls him back to the area outside the stall. At least she gets to ensure he is safe as he watches the dancers so it is a win-win scenario.

The second grocer’s worry is no different from my grocer’s. She fears for her safety and that of her child. There is still about a month to go before the elections and disgruntled parties are already resulting to violence. She is not sure she wants to be in the city during the elections; she feels she might be a lot safer in the village. She tells me more about the afternoon chaos; that it had something to do with campaign money that was not paid to the youths. She tells me that every campaigner has to give a certain amount of money to the youth for their motorcade to be allowed to go through the estate. Any campaigner who does not do so risks having their motorcade stoned. A few other people got injured too, though their injuries were less serious. No wonder she wants her child to stay in her stall. The least she can do is protect him from stray stones.

It disheartens me that there are a few amongst us that think of violence as the easiest way to get what we want. They know that people will get hurt and property will be destroyed but they also know that the rest of us will do anything to prevent violence, including bowing to their demands. We preach peace and everyone agrees that the country is bigger than individuals but every time a conflict erupts, we forget the peace efforts and turn against each other. It makes me wonder if lifting a stone is really a lot easier than holding out an equally sized flag. We may not always be right all the time but it would be a lot easier to handle correction if those we have wronged did not put a gun over our heads. Stone or flag; which would we rather lift?