“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Before December 27th, 2007, Kenya was seen as “the pride of Africa, a bright spot in a conflict zone,” says Tabish Bachani, and on that day, Kenya held its most democratic event, the election of its national leaders. With relatively non-violent elections since it gained independence in 1963, Kenyans saw themselves as having made the kind of progress Tabish’s quotation describes, although the clashes among its seventy ethnic groups kept unrest simmering as the top five groups jockeyed for dominance.
Tabish’s family lived in Kenya, but she was attending college at Fatih University in Istanbul, Turkey, majoring in international relations at the time. The election results were disputed, and highly coordinated rioting and violence erupted. “Respect for law and order dissolved as enmity and tribalism increased,” Tabish says. Property was destroyed, businesses shut down, and the vital port of Mombasa, a lifeline to the whole region, was endangered. Kenya’s stability had offered a protected hub to foreign investors, so vast segments of the economy beyond Kenya were at stake as well.
People sought sanctuary in their homes, and the country seemed on the verge of a deadly ethnic conflict. The film Hotel Rwanda had just reminded the world of the ghastly potential that could descend upon Kenya. By the following January, world leaders like UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Kofi Anan, Desmond Tutu, several African heads of state, and other mediators brokered arrangements that pulled the nation back from the brink of a holocaust.
Over a thousand people had been killed, and as many as 500,000 fled their homes, many leaving Kenya, a country that had sheltered huge refugee populations from other horrific African conflicts. Tabish’s family was safe, but the aftermath left people badly shaken, stressed, and frustrated. Cooperation levels were greatly diminished, and production output levels decreased. A coalition government evolved, however, “ethnicity still rules,” Tabish says.
It would be understandable if a sunny, bright, and smiling young woman like Tabish would want to distance herself from the potential menaces of her homeland. Instead of retreating into mere self-preservation, however, her faith in the power of negotiation intensified. She is someone who uses humor to build consensus and believes that differences create exciting diversity and endless possibilities. She admires Getting to Yes author William Ury, who said, “Effective negotiators listen far more than they talk.” Tabish is eager to listen and be able to ask the right questions. Speaking of her enthusiasm and optimism, she asks, “Did I mention that it is contagious?”
She is very passionate about community service and would love to work in poverty-stricken areas and ghettos. Creating awareness and opportunities that enable people to sustain and develop themselves, exploiting their own talents and leadership potential are her main goals—working together, building success. Active in Global Youth Movement – United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (GYMAOC), her highest ambition is to one day represent Kenya in the United Nations.