Like many countries across the globe, including our own, the US was formed as a revolt from British rule and domination.
The founders of this country let it be known that each person is empowered, self-determining, with every right and conviction to challenge authority and fight for what’s theirs, in this case Independence. The founders also let it be known that the same individual is bound by the utmost reverence for collectivity, peace, power and the rule of law.
These seemingly contradictory ideals have co-existed in the US since its formation, mostly harmoniously, but the country’s history is replete with examples where circumstances have led to chaos and violence chief among these and most recent egregious example being the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
The LA riots were the product of a long-standing and deep-seated enmity between the Black population of Los Angeles and the majority White Los Angeles Police Department. The riots began not after airing of the famous recording of the beating silly of one Rodney King by White police, but after the four officers responsible were found not guilty, in what many considered a miscarriage of justice. Rioting began and wouldn’t stop for almost a week, when not only the National Guard but also the Army and Marine Corps were forced to intervene.
By the third day, George H W Bush sent in the army and the marines, boosting the military presence to 13,500 troops. By the time the riots were over, 53 people had been killed, over 2,000 injured, and over 11,000 arrested. The property that was damaged was estimated at over $1 billion (over Sh100 billion), making it the largest scale American consequential riot since the 1960s.
The LA riot and nearly all other major riots in the US have one thing in common: Triggered by police action with social strife, racial inequality and high youth unemployment in the Black community serving as the propane gas lit by the cops’ action.
Indeed, the relationship between police and the Black community continues to be tense, despite efforts by many to defuse the tensions as high up as the presidency itself — the last President, to be sure.
One contributing factor is increased militarisation of the police, where wearing helmets and masks, toting assault rifles, and riding in mine-resistant armoured vehicles has become common, unlike any other time in the US history. As the country’s major civil rights organisation ACLU has noted, the change in equipment is too often paralleled by a corresponding change in attitude, whereby police conceive of themselves as “at war” with communities rather than as public servants concerned with keeping their communities safe.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has not so quietly armed the police with all manner of anti-riot machinery and gear to keep our communities safe, but in efforts to prepare and quash any mass action that could and would ensue were he and Jubilee to yet again rig the election. This is simply unacceptable and cannot be allowed to come to pass were they to try.
The militarisation of police in the US is primarily to protect cities against criminality and other forms of hooliganism, not to ensure the President clings to power—militarisation of police elsewhere is to ensure those in power cling on, which is, again, simply unacceptable.
The right to be governed by those who have won the hearts and minds of the majority of voters is and must be unassailable, unfettered and sacrosanct. To do otherwise is the very definition of anarchy, chaos and violence, none of which anyone would want for our country.
Put another way, history teaches us you can only oppress and suppress the people only so long; in time, those very people say enough is enough and that the time is upon us. Uhuru and Jubilee have a choice to let the country vote peacefully in a fair, open and transparent election or go the route they’re clearly preparing to — predictable consequences.
The wise choice is obvious for those who love and care about our beloved country.
Omwenga is a legal expert and political commentator in the United States