POLITICAL INTOLERANCE

Love for Kanu tactics terrifying

Kuria’s arrest reminds one of harassment of opposition leaders back then.

In Summary
  • The President must ensure that his legacy does not include the return of political intolerance.
  • True, practically all our political leaders are products of Kanu, but they also swore to defend the 2010 Constitution.

Following the arrest of Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro in September last year, these pages pleaded with the authorities not to ‘roll back’ the constitutional gains that have been gained since the return of multi-party politics and urged Kenyans to be wary of the creeping back of the dreaded Kanu days.

I partly wrote, “While a return of the 1980s and 1990s in dealing with political opponents would send chills down the spines of many, of late we have also witnessed a police force and a DPP that is hungry for media attention, resulting in night and over the weekend arrests of prominent Kenyans under the glare of cameras. Most of these arrests are done on Friday, ensuring that the victims spend the weekend in custody before been accorded bail hearings the following Monday.”

The authorities appear to have achieved the apparent desired effect of “you-have-been-warned”, a message some suspected was being sent through the ‘kamata kamata’ Fridays, and the frequency of the arrest has significantly reduced. However, the uncertainty created by the divide in government by the forces allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on one hand and Deputy President William Ruto on the other, has heightened tensions in the country.

At the burial of Second Liberation icon Charles Rubia, a man who played one of the biggest roles in ensuring the good old days were buried ‘katika kaburi la shahau’, MP Alice Wahome expressed the fear of the terrifying old days sneaking back and urged Uhuru to jealously guard the freedom  of Kenyans.

The President said the freedom of expression was guaranteed and even implied that exiled Miguna Miguna, who crowned his (president’s) newly acquired partner Raila as a people’s president, was free to come back to the country and continue with “his rhetoric”.

Kuria’s arrest reminds one of harassment of opposition leaders during the one-party Kanu dictatorship. There were many such arrests and without going to the archives, the name of former Nakuru North MP Mark Mwithaga springs to mind. He was dramatically arrested for an alleged assault on a close relative, an offence that had been committed years before.

However, instead of allowing Miguna to freely reenter the country, the government has been playing ping-pong with him: Issuing alerts warning airlines not to fly him in, while announcing that the self-declared leader of the NRM was free to come back. Old Kanu tactics indeed!

Then on the scene happens Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria demanding that Miguna be accorded his constitutional and human rights through the government facilitating his reentry into his country of birth.

A day later, Kuria is arrested (on a Friday) on charges of assault, an assault that allegedly took place early last month. The merits or demerits of the allegations aside, the question is; why now? Why has it taken a month to arrest and charge the MP?

Conversely, one month is long enough for the police to investigate a simple assault, so why not charge Kuria the same morning they arrested him? Who wants to feel good by keeping him in the police cells over the weekend? Is he being intimidated? Has his arrest got anything to do with his new found support for the deputy president?

And when a court order demanding the release of the MP was produced, the police claimed they were waiting for orders from higher authorities? Who are these higher authorities? Again, this is vintage Kanu style. That Kuria was released on Saturday evening on police bail does not make his confinement for two days less repulsive.

Kuria’s arrest reminds one of harassment of opposition leaders during the one-party Kanu dictatorship. There were many such arrests and without going to the archives, the name of former Nakuru North MP Mark Mwithaga springs to mind. He was dramatically arrested for an alleged assault on a close relative, an offence that had been committed years before.

The worrying thing are allegations by some politicians, that the minister in charge of security, the PS in that ministry and other government functionaries are persecuting politicians allied to Ruto.

It would be very perturbing if these allegations were true, and the President must ensure that his legacy does not include the return of political intolerance. True, practically all our political leaders are products of Kanu, but they also swore to defend the 2010 Constitution.