[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you say that someone has won the battle but lost the war, you mean that they have won the small conflict but lost the bigger one. It is, therefore, a temporary ceasefire. It provides for a sign of relief as warring factions strategise on the next cause of action. It offers for the much needed time out.
Leo Tolstoy in his short story: “How much land does man need,” in Memories We Lost and Other Short Stories, tells a story of Pahom, a Russian peasant farmer who boasts to himself that if had enough land, he would not even fear the devil. Pahow is not satisfied with the 123 acres of land he owns. He desires more.
In his travels, he meets Bashkirs where fertile land is available at low prices. The Bashkirs welcome him and agree to sell, for a thousand Rubles, as much land as he can walk off in a day, as long as he returns before sunset to his starting point.
Pahow walks the whole day so as to cover enough land. At some instances, he runs. Pahow is driven by greed so he mismanages his time as he realises rather too late he is supposed to return to the starting point before sunset. He has to run back. He finally reaches the starting point though with exhaustion thus he collapses on arrival and dies. He gains the much needed land but on his grave.
Elsewhere, in another classic American folktale, a stubborn railroad worker decides to prove his skill by competing with a drilling machine. John Henry, enraged to hear that machines might take his job, claims that his digging abilities are superior. A contest is arranged. He goes head to head with the new drill. The result is impressive — the drill breaks after three metres whereas John Henry makes it to four metres in the same amount of time. As the other workers begin to celebrate his victory, he collapses and dies of exhaustion.
John Henry might have been victorious against the drill, but that small win was meaningless in the face of his subsequent death.
In short, we can say that he won the battle but lost the war.
Winning a battle but losing the war refers to achieving a minor victory that ultimately results in a larger defeat, rendering the victory empty or hollow. It can also refer to gaining a small tactical advantage that corresponds to a wider disadvantage.
In our handshake context, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga succeeded in winning the war but they will eventually lose the battle if the current political disgruntlement is anything to go by.
On Tuesday night, listening to three Central Kenya MPs on Citizen TV’s News Night programme, it clearly dawned on me the optical millage that the March 9th Handshake is. Alice Wahome of Kandara, Moses Kuria of Gatundu South and Nyeri Town’s Ngunjiri Wambugu epitomised the national confusion that the much taunted Handshake has created.
Lee Sandlin observes: “War ends at the moment when peace permanently wins out. Not when the articles of surrender are signed or the last shot is fired, but when the last shout of a sidewalk battle fades, when the next generation starts to wonder whether the whole thing ever really happened.”
In both Pahow and John Henry’s incidents, the protagonist had a narrow view of winning. Winning is long term and involves everybody. Winning addresses the causes of conflicts that could trigger another war. Absence of war does not mean peace.
As it is, the Handshake has yielded the two political factions; Tangatanga and Kieliweke. The two factions are now engaged in vicious wars over 2022 succession politics. The cease fire born out of the Handshake has not addressed electoral processes and historical injustices. It has only given us time to re-strategise and hold our peace for a period of time.
Handshake did not address any issues that potentially caused conflicts. It only bandaged our political wound. Beneath the handshake and the bandage are the real issues. Pretending that the handshake will resolve our issues is shortsightedness that we leave in and wait for issues to resurface every five years.
The Handshake’s Building Bridges Initiative should come out in full throttle to address our issues so there can be winning of both the war and the battle. Unless this happens, we will continue living the lie of the handshake.