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World Forgiveness Day: Celebrating Saba Saba in Kenya

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Saba Saba in Kenya is well known in Kenya with reference to the 7th day of the 7th month of July 1990. On this day, demonstrations against the silencing of Kenya’s political opposition at the time reached the climax. These had begun on July 4 of the same year in various parts of Nairobi but spread to other areas in Kenya like wildfire in a few days. This angered then-President Moi who ordered the arrest of involved advocates including ministers, lawyers, and former detainees. The police force set out to disperse the demonstrating crowds. Unfortunately, the police were brutal in the exercise leading to the death of at least 20 individuals, the injury of hundreds of participants, and the arrest of more than 1,000 people.

Coincidentally, World Forgiveness Day is celebrated on 7th July.  The aim of the celebration is to rid people of pain and guilt that may have been caused by others or by themselves. It helps create awareness of the healing power of forgiveness. Forgiveness helps to restore peace and makes people healthier and happier. In connecting forgiveness and the Saba Saba day celebrations, this article presents an appeal by the African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP), to the Kenyan public to mark the day with forgiveness even as we remember those who suffered and/or died to promote democracy which we enjoy today. While Kenya’s democracy is still wanting, it is certainly much more advanced than it was in 1990. ACIP is a mentorship community participatory development program that accompanies early adolescents with knowledge, skills, and values to successfully transition from childhood to responsible adulthood.

There is need for us as Kenyans to forgive the perpetrators who imprisoned, hurt, and killed some of the protesters. Regardless of the years that have gone by since the scenario, we recognize that this may not be an easy task, but is needed. As Robin Sharma once said, “Forgiveness is not approving what happened but choosing to rise above it.” This is the main reason for the day becoming one in which we remember our ‘fallen soldiers’ while advocating for the respect of the constitution that upholds human dignity through human rights and allows for the freedom of expression.

The Kenya Constitution (2010) calls for democracy and allows for multipart, which we owe to the efforts of our countrymen over the years, including those associated with Saba Saba. Therefore, as ACIP appeals for forgiveness and the need for peace, it advocates for an end to police brutality against the Kenyan public. It is sad that these acts are still rampant today. Some of our victims may no longer have a voice, as some of them are long gone but we can unite and shout on their behalf. Speak against this police brutality so that this vice is heavily condemned and perpetrators of such injustices are brought to book.

Forgiveness is an everyday activity that involves learning and relearning. Some of us may be reluctant to let some burdens go at some point.  Some of us may be willing to drop others fast at other times. It is different for everyone. We all just need a little more grace and patience as we walk the forgiveness journey. This is a reminder to take it easy on yourself.

On this Saba Saba day, ACIP also advocates for a favorable ethical, legal, and policy environment in Kenya that allows victims of injustice to get peace and healing through compensation and the arrest of perpetrators. ACIP affirms that just and fair systems propel forgiveness and healing.


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