Most of us know about the Rwandan Genocide. It was politically instigated violence in the small nation between the two main communities – Tutsi and Hutu - that was so intense, in 100 days close to one million people were killed.
However, the genocide did not just happen. It was caused by careless ethnic vitriol and political utterances by the then Rwandan political and military leadership. It was also caused by the inability of other Rwandans to aggressively challenge these utterances and statements in time. Finally, it happened because of inaction of Rwandan legal institutions on obvious acts of criminal incitement.
In Kenya after the 2007 general election we nearly went the Rwandan way. As a religious person would say, it was by the Grace of God that we did not. However 1,200 Kenyans still died and the country lost billions of shillings from its economy. The causes were the same. Politically instigated violence based on inter-ethnic incitement. Again, the inability of other Kenyans to aggressively challenge those making these utterances and the inaction by Kenyan legal institutions at the time got us to that point.
However, because we had an internal conversation, we realised that the catalyst to the violence was an inadequacy within the institutions mandated to handle elections, and solve any related disputes. In 2010 we promulgated a new Constitution that has dealt with these and many other issues around how Kenyans relate to each other, and to the state. The Constitution is touted as one of the most advanced in the world.
We now have the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission as the only institution that can announce election results. We have the Judiciary as the only institution that can solve election disputes. Both institutions have the constitutional protection to deliver their mandate. The Supreme Court was set up specifically to determine disputes at presidential election level.
This August Kenya heads into another general election. However, we are facing a real possibility of retrogressing to where we were before 2007; or where Rwanda was before April 1994. This is mainly because unlike President Uhuru Kenyatta who has publicly declared, unconditionally, that he will concede defeat should Kenyans vote for someone else, Raila Odinga – the main opposition presidential candidate now and in 2007 - has declared he will not accept IEBC results if they do not agree with the results of his own private tallying centre. He has also declared that he will not take an election dispute to the Judiciary.
Essentially, Raila has positioned himself to be the sole determinant of whether the August election is free and fair. If he believes the results are not correct, he will then determine the next course of action, but it will not be the legal course of going to court. The words ‘Kenya will burn’ have been used quite liberally by his team. Clearly, we might need to prepare for the possibility of election-related violence, at least in some areas in the country – unless we do something about it.
First, I think we need to all declare that a political conflict between two individuals, or two political parties, cannot be used to justify violent upheaval for 45 million Kenyans. Kenyans from all walks of life, local and international NGOs, and the international political community must insist that any such conflict must be taken to court. Period!
Second, we must start pointing fingers at those we will hold politically and/or criminally responsible should there be any death, loss or destruction this August due to election-related violence. Personally my finger is pointing at Raila, and I am willing to defend this position anywhere in the world.