With just over four months before the next general elections, it is incumbent upon all leaders, political and otherwise, to promote peace and tranquility among all Kenyan people.
The National Cohesion and integration Commission is the statutory body charged with the responsibility of ensuring that no one engages in hate speech and talk that may divide Kenyans along ethnic and other sectarian fractures.
In 2010, I presented a complain to NCIC when Prime Minister Raila Odinga warned the people of Rift Valley not to be seduced with ‘peremende’ (peppermint) by ‘those we were fighting with in the last general elections’. Although NCIC dismissed my complaint, it was the first case ever to be presented by NCIC.
Two and a half years since then, one would hope that NCIC has learnt the lesson that it is not only the direct and literal meaning of speeches that should be taken into consideration.
Subsequent cases that have been reported to NCIC involve much more subtle and mundane talk than the ‘peremende’ comments. It is almost a consensus that the nuance and tonality of speeches, the implied and general import of leaders’ talk is much more important than the express meaning.
In the recent weeks, the Prime Minister has been consistently using language that is of concern, During the last weekend rallies, Raila’s speeches made three references which, in my view, should attract more than cursory interest from Mzalendo Kibunjia and his team at NCIC.
Addressing women leaders in Narok County, he asked ODM supporters to vote in a uniform ‘6-piece’ fashion and get rid of ‘madoadoa’ (spots) . There is nothing wrong in voting in a uniform fashion.
The usage of the term ‘madoadoa’ is another matter altogether. Even as unreliable and discredited as they are, the two Kenya National Commission on Human Rights conflicting reports of July and August, 2010 were unanimous that the usage of the term ‘madoadoa’ contributed to a significant extent to the post-election violence of 2007-2008.
Any leader with the interests of the country at heart would think twice before using the term ‘madoadoa’. The risk of misinterpretation by overzealous supporters far much outweighs the communication value that one might argue was the intention.
Later the same day, while addressing a public rally in Narok stadium, Raila Odinga asked his supporters to arm themselves with IDs and voters cards which will be the ‘guns and bullets’ in the coming elections.
‘’When I say ‘Fire!’ you fire”, Raila said. Again, he may claim that his was a benign call to encourage voters to acquire ID’s and register as voters.
But why use such kind of extreme language? In normal circumstances this would pass as ordinary talk. This is not a ‘kawaida’ (normal) general election.
This is the first general election after Kenya went dangerously close to the precipice of an abyss in the last general election. The analogy of violence, of guns, of bullets, of ‘madoadoas’ is such a stark reminder that whilst as a nation we have made strides in reforming this country, the more Kenya has changed, the more Raila Odinga has remained the same.
Then came the following day. Addressing a public rally in Dandora, Raila was at it again, this time referring to The National Alliance as snakes.
It is not the first time he did so. After the launch of TNA in May this year, Raila referred to TNA as the snake. After the recent by-elections, Raila was busy pinning different tags on various leaders.
History has proven again and again, that the easiest way to create a genocide-compliant environment is to resort to insults and use of figurative images with animist caricature. In Hitler’s Nazi regime, Jews were referred to as rats. The end result was not a Christmas party.
Earlier this year, when I reported the incitement spewed by Friends of Raila (FORA) Vice-chair Hassan Omar Hassan, NCIC found him guilty as charged. The punishment? Omar was given ‘cease orders’, which is a euphemism for a feeble warning letter.
NCIC will be judged harshly by history if they keep ignoring these obvious signals. NCIC can no longer ignore the speeches by any politician, including Raila.
Given the kid gloves with which NCIC has treated Raila Odinga and his allies, it is no wonder that they repeat these speeches with reckless abandon What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If justice be our shield and defender, let the law apply equally to all, Mr. Kibunjia.
The writer is a strategy advisor to The National Alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta 2013 Presidential Campaign