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May 27, 2018

The dangers of political games on our constitutionality

A vandalized Kenya Coat of arm being passed across the NASA supporters at Uhuru Park amid the swearing in of Opposition leader Raila Amollo Odinga at Uhuru Park on January 30,2018.Photo/Enos Teche.
A vandalized Kenya Coat of arm being passed across the NASA supporters at Uhuru Park amid the swearing in of Opposition leader Raila Amollo Odinga at Uhuru Park on January 30,2018.Photo/Enos Teche.

On January 30, NASA held the oathing of Raila Odinga, which bore the political symbolic images of an inauguration ceremony.

The prefix ‘political’ is applied to explain something I feel the Jubilee operatives mis-conceptualised.

Since 2013, NASA has always sustained its opposition activities, sometimes in a manner that fails to conform to the law. Such acts, through regrettable, define the political scene. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, when in opposition, applied all manner of political games and theatrics to have their voice heard.

Indeed, after the 2002 General Election, Uhuru was the opposition leader and was involved in street protests. One memorable event is when he was teargassed when he and other Kanu leaders demonstrated to force the de-registration of officials of a rival Kanu wing.

“What has happened today is a travesty of justice and we shall not relent until we, the bona fide officials of Kanu, are recognised,” Uhuru said.

His many interviews depicted an opposition leader keen to pass his messages across. In all these duty-calling activities, the media gladly facilitate all the attention he required. The electoral process of August 8 last year remains controversial, following nullification by the Supreme Court.

NASA did not participate in the repeat polls and the same Supreme Court upheld Uhuru’s win. NASA’s ceremony was just a political event.

Raila, as writer and Nation columnist Rasna Warah shared on Monday, did not take up any executive or administrative authority. In fact, Raila may have largely turned up for the event as a way of keeping his political constituency intact. The pressure to turn up was equally high and a no-show could not make the cut.

Visibly, the three ‘co-principals’ who skipped the exercise have significantly lost a huge chunk of political capital in the last week, if the reaction in their strongholds is anything to go by.

Without understating the need to have electoral justice in this country, Jubilee should have indulged in political reactions. There was the chance of mobilising their counter-rally in the same grounds.

They could also rework their bases as an activation strategy. Tragically, the response by the ruling regime hurt the entire country through actions reminiscent of the dark days of Kanu. In shutting the four leading TV stations, Jubilee cited consistent ‘irresponsibility’ and political complicity, as far as NASA’s activities were concerned.

However, it is very clear the intention was to punish the outlets simply for covering the political event.

Radio host Fred Machoka, in his advice to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, last week shared an interesting but obvious logic.

The principal function of mass media is to report. Simply, gather information and pass it over to the masses. If there is bad news, the media reports it as such.

Should the information of the day take a positive shape, the media informs so. It is a basic mirror duty that cannot be bent to acquire a given path.

Therefore, extending Jubilee’s political panic and passing the consequential panic to the media houses was one of the most retrograde actions of our times. The media houses had an information debt on the ‘swearing-in’ event to pass to their followers.

The actions by the Jubilee top leadership that do not meet substantive governance criteria or conform to the spirit and letter of the laws of Kenya.

Most countries across the globe, especially those with advanced democracy, yearning to achieve sustainable development cannot, in any way, interfere with the activities of the media.

They are consciously aware that no society can grow and thrive in an information gap.

The Kenyan media has taken its merited position as Africa’s most robust through sheer hard work, a high level of ethics and a highly non-partisan perspective. I am aware there are challenges with some outlets here and there, but the majority in Africa would say Kenya leads in media growth.

In that case, Jubilee ought to respond to political issues appropriately and leave the media out of it.

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