As doing courageous, good things is infectious, so is doing evil and cowardly things.
It started in Migori where rowdy youths succeeded in disrupting a meeting of the President in fear he was there not just to sell his ruling Jubilee coalition but also to oppose the referendum that Raila is championing. Many Kenyans opposed this political intolerance, came to the defence of the President and many residents of Migori have now apologised to the President for the rowdy youths.
As if in competition not just to defend his own but also strike a blow at democracy, the following week the governor of Nakuru, instead of reassuring people that unlike Migori, the multiethnic Nakuru would be a paragon of democracy and political tolerance, Governor Kinuthia Mbuguarushed to exhibit the same political intolerance that the rowdy youths of Migori were being condemned for, making him exactly like them. The governor even beat the purely Kikuyu counties like Kiambu and Nyeri in offering the President purely ethnic support that seemed to motivate his political ban.
And though the action of the Migori youths and that of the Nakuru governor look different or even politically opposed, they are one of a kind in their undemocratic nature, and so Kenyans should condemn both in equal measure.
Most Kenyans who observed the misbehaviour of the Migori youths condemned it not just as rowdy but also dangerous, and blatant assault on Kenyan fragile democracy, constitution and freedoms of expression and assembly.
Consequently, if many Kenyans would not allow the rowdy Migori youths to intimidate President Kenyatta from visiting Nyanza without Raila or opposing the referendum from there – in fear of being provoked into unleashing a bloodbath – equally Governor Kinuthia should not be allowed to ban Raila Odinga and his team from debating the merits of the referendum in Nakuru where the demerits of the referendum are openly championed. Opposing debate always seems to be more a sign of weakness and lack of confidence in one’s ideas rather than strength and confidence in once position.
But while the rowdy behaviour of Migori youths could be excused because of their youthfulness and temptation to do anything for a buck or two, not so that of Governor Kinuthia who is well paid and an elected servant of the people who is not only expected to do what is right, fair, just and legal, but also be a role model for the youth not just of Nakuru but Kenya, and not an imitator of their rowdy behaviour.
After the issuance of the banning order, many people wondered where the governor got the legal authority to issue the order, and on whose behalf he had issued the order.
Regarding the legal authority, clearly, the governor’s order was null and void because it was not authorised by either the constitution or any other law. Having made the ban without the backing of the law, the governor had functioned as a dictator when he issued the order.
As on whose behalf the governor had acted, clearly the governor was not acting on behalf or in the interests of President Uhuru who had just publicly stated that, though he did not support the call for a referendum, Jubilee government would protect Raila and his team in their business of popularising the referendum primarily because the constitution and the law permitted and protected all political activity that is legal.
Understandably, the governor would support what he thought and believed was the President’s best interests but he must do so within the law or he would unknowingly be hurting the President politically.
The need for the government to observe the rule of law is particularly necessary in Nakuru, which has a double history both of acute state repression of the people and people’s heroic struggle for liberation from the tyranny of both Presidents Kenyatta and Moi.
That the county has had a history of struggle for liberation and a shameful one of supporting dictatorship tooth and nail puts people on notice that unless they are extra vigilant, yesteryear perpetrators, architects and supporters of dictatorship can easily resurrect tyranny in the county under the guise of protecting the government or the president.
Many will remember that in the heyday of Kanu rule, Nakuru had Kanu honchos like Kariuki Chotora, William Lasoi, William Lasoi, Ng’ang’a Kihonge and Mburu Gichua who were free to do anything in the name of safeguarding the state including cutting off two fingers of the opposition victory sign. These people are not dead and if they are, they have their supporters and beneficiaries of their misrule who will hardly mind taking Nakuru county to the bad old days of ethnic conflict and state tyranny that were championed by provincial administration, political police and fascist politicians.
Without resurrecting the debate on elections in which people voted in Kinuthia Mbugua as governor of Nakuru, we cannot forget that old habits, political or otherwise, die hard and Governor Kinuthia served in the provincial administration as DC of Nakuru at the height of its worst repression of the people, and the governor, therefore, needs to work extra hard to avoid slipping back to repression as a tool of governance.
The truth is that, if we embrace repression against Raila, we shall also be embracing the same repression against ourselves.
Governor Kinuthia should renounce his order banning Raila from Nakuru and apologise to Kenyans. Only political tolerance will make Kenyans free.