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December 12, 2018

'Steakholders' plotting violence?

Predictors of violence are the very ones that should protect the peace. /THE STAR
Predictors of violence are the very ones that should protect the peace. /THE STAR

Pessimists anticipate violence when peace should be the foundation for democracy - even in struggling polities. There is no such a thing as ‘violent’ elections, unless doomsayers have hideous plots that could undermine the peace.

Who is sponsoring this threat to democracy to justify the frantic clamour for a peaceful election? What are elections for if not a democratic way of choosing leaders? Who wants to subvert the will of the people?

Ironically, the preachers of ‘peace’ do not advocate a free and fair election. They should know peace would be secured by a free and fair electoral process. Kenya needs a democratic election, not predictions of violence.

Some areas have been classified as ‘flash-points’ of democracy related violence. There is heavy deployment of security forces in those areas to contain the anticipated violence. But the plotters of the violence have not been identified.

Nationally, pessimists anticipate violence because of the ‘hot’ contest for presidential power. There is an organised opposition campaigning to acquire state power. There is also the Jubilee establishment that does not want to be a one-term regime.

National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga is on an all-out campaign to win the presidency against Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta. There is also a disillusioned electorate looking for change.

The predictors of a violent election base their conclusions on the mistakes of history, which wielders of state power have not addressed. Possible causes of violence, like during the 1992 and 2007 presidential elections, are active. The so-called historical injustices remain unsettled. Land issues remain unresolved.

The hideous hold on power by special interests groups worries, even as optimists wish power were exercised solely in the service of the national interest. The rule of law is often ignored as hideous interests cloud national thinking.

The courts are reprimanded when they interpret the rule of law. The anticipated violence then is a product of wild desires of individuals who see the law as a barrier to their intrigues. Aristotle is blunt. “...he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and reason alone rule, but he who bids men rule adds the element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even if they are the best of men.”

Democracy works when the majority have their way, and the minority have their say. Democracy fails when special interests abuse their mandate to perpetuate the whims of a power clique. This, sadly, has been the case in Kenya, where individuals use state power to defend vested interests. Such individuals undermine the will of the people to protect personal interests.

Writer Alexander Chase says: “In a democracy the general good is furthered only when the special interests of competing minorities accidentally coincide - or cancel each other out.”

The vote should decide winners and losers in an electoral contest. The majority should have the freedom to make choices, even as the minority are allowed to have their say.

The rising anticipation of election-related hostilities shows Kenya is yet to harmonise competing ethnic, class and political interests. The same way it was in 2007, when a power clique subverted the popular will.

Shadows of a captive Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Samuel Kivuitu still lurk. The cornered man is led to declare the winner of a controversial presidential election. An Internal Security minister and his Justice and Constitutional Affairs colleague were lead actors in a plot that drove the country to violence. Ten years later, one hopes lessons have been learnt.

The predictors of violence are the very people and institutions that should protect the peace. If, indeed, they have information, this should be distilled into actionable intelligence. Anything short of preventive action is deliberate scare-mongering to disenfranchise a section of the electorate.

The challenge is on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to ensure these competing interests are mediated in a way that advances the course of democracy.

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