Speaking after the signing of a power-sharing agreement in Kenya, opposition leader, Raila Odinga thanked Kofi Annan for his role in achieving the historic agreement, and in closing said “We have now opened a new chapter in our history, from the era of confrontation to the beginning of cooperation. We should ensure that Kenyans begin to celebrate and love each other, that we destroy the monster that is called ethnicity.”
Paging through the news headlines, we are reminded once again that intolerance is the root of all conflicts.
Whether it be Race – as we see with the latest racist videos of university students in South Africa; Sex – demonstrations for gay rights in Mozambique; Ethnicity – recent violence in Kenya; Health – HIV/AIDS stigma throughout Africa – discrimination is at the core of instability and stunted economic growth.
There is no greater barrier to development than discrimination. Discrimination leads to stigmatization. And those who are stigmatized become victims in their societies, denied equal opportunities to reach their full potential and contribute to economic growth.
The Durban Declaration, adopted in 2001 during the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, acknowledges that poverty, marginalization, social exclusion and economic inequalities “contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty.”
So how do we tame this “monster”?
In his closing statement President Kibaki said “Kenya has room for all of us if we can enhance peace and tolerance. Fellow Kenyans, we stand before you to give a solemn commitment”
It is time to hold our leaders accountable to their words.