Electoral violence and intolerance will tear Kenya apart
By Adhere Cavince
It appears that Kenya is still under the deep throes of political violence, intolerance and lawlessness, if the incidents reported during the recently concluded by-elections in Matungu and Kabuchai constituencies are anything to go by. The country witnessed electoral officers being assaulted as journalists got injured in the fracas that also played out during ward mini-polls in Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties.
Happening only eighteen months to the next year’s general elections, the new indicators of democratic reversals does not forebode well for the country. Kenya is already plunged into campaign frenzy with the upcoming referendum. Yet despite the demands of sobriety, harmony and peaceful coexistence, some elements within the political class believe that violence is the best avenue to achieve political power.
The culture of political intolerance has indeed been building in the recent months. We have seen political gatherings pelted with stones; leaders have been spewing hate words and labels of all sorts have been flying around. When offenders are summoned by investigation agencies, we have also witnessed them fall back to their ethnic and political enclaves to seek both sympathy and protection from the law.
The country for instance witnessed a politician castigate the police, claiming that he was merely visiting the police station and not under any duress whatsoever. A number of supporters singing his praises were seen escorting him to the police station. On the contrary, the politician was taken into custody to answer to charges of intolerance and violence.
It appears we have reached a level where some Kenyans no longer play by the same rules of law and order that define the lives of ordinary citizens. A section of the political class use voters as human shields against prosecution, whenever they are found on the wrong side of the law.
What is even more disturbing is that such opportunistic leaders leverage naivety, and economic helplessness of young people to orchestrate violent acts. The Kenyan youth are increasingly becoming pawns in the game of political antagonism in which they are both perpetrators and victims of the chaos.
As a country, we cannot afford to heighten intolerance, violence and divisions on the basis of political contest. All leaders keen on this dangerous path should be called out and where found culpable should be subjected to the full force of the law.
The recent move by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to compile the list of shame, featuring leaders whose behaviours do not match their oath of office is laudable. Additional efforts to stop the culprits from seeking public and political offices are all aimed ensuring that we inject decency into our political and governance discourse.
Young people should be weary of politicians keen to use them for selfish and destructive ends. The youth deserve decent and sustainable livelihoods, not short-terminism laced with deadly flavours of violence and political intolerance.
The media should equally deny randy politicians the much needed airtime. Badly behaved leaders are an eyesore to young people in their formative years. To broadcast violence only reinforces the ideas in the minds of young people who aspire for future political office.
It remains the responsibility of all Kenyans to send a strong message against electoral related violence. Kenya has had very dark episodes characterized by loss of lives, destruction of property and ethnic disharmony, as a result of poll-related chaos. We cannot afford to sacrifice our civility again.