One of the critical questions that Kenyans have continuously asked is what went wrong in January and February 2008 with the ‘peace’ they had hitherto enjoyed. There have not been readily available answers to this fundamental question. The collection of papers presented in this book attempt to provide, as a starting point, possible explanations for the events of early 2008 including key background issues in Kenyan history since pre-independence times. Based on a series of public lectures titled (Re)membering Kenya organized by the volume editors together with Twaweza Communications and sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Kenya, the Institute for International Education and The Ford Foundation the lecture series became a way of trying to get scholars to engage meaningfully with the Kenyan public on critical matters pertaining to their nationhood—even if this entailed first calling to question the ‘lie’ about the very ideas and practices upon which that nationhood is assumed to stand. A key lesson drawn from the unfolding discussions at the Goethe-Institut Kenya was that the 2007 elections’ debacle was merely the cusp of momentous crises to do with among other issues, governance, law and order, Parliament’s abdication of its role in ensuring accountability from the Executive, dilemmas of identity and socio-economic marginality.
The book is the first of three volumes under the (Re)membering Kenya series whose overall objective is to cast some new light on the various trajectories that informed the happenings of January 2008. The present volume brings together some of the best interpretative writing and suggestions on pertinent questions, past and present, ranging from the architecture of Kenya’s ethnicity, Kenyanness, generational competition, socialization and violence, iconic representations of identity to the ongoing debate on the efficacy of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). It is hoped that the issues debated during the public lectures and documented herein will spur further discussions in other spaces within civil society organizations, among activists and in newspapers where the public might continue to expand their thinking on the complex task of (Re)membering Kenya.