DIVISIVE POLITICS

Calm down, politics won't put food on the table

No one should be focused on impeachments or accusations, especially with elections only two years away.

In Summary

• Differences of opinion are a norm in a vibrant democracy such as ours but not when they might lead to chaos leaving behind deaths, injuries and destruction of property.

• We have seen this happen since the 1990s as Kenyans pushed for multi-party democracy.

Tone down on politics
Tone down on politics
Image: OZONE

Once upon a time, Cranes invaded a Farmer’s field. For some time, he was able to scare them off with an empty sling but the Cranes noted that there were no stones and stopped running away.

On realising that his strategy had failed, the farmer started using stones and killed many of the unassuming Cranes. That’s when they learned and left.

This fable is used to teach that threats can actually be followed by real action and Kenyans know this very well given the history of political violence in the country.

 

And for the past week, the political climate in the country has been charged, with accusations and counter-accusations flying in all directions. A visitor to the country might be forgiven to think elections are around the corner.

This started off with former CS Rashid Echesa saga on the alleged fake military tender deal. This was followed by the murder of sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, who worked at the DP’s office.

During Kenei’s funeral, Deputy President William Ruto made comments that pointed to agitation and anger. This was followed by two charged press conferences by MPs which showed how divided the country is.

For many Kenyans, the current situation could appear like déjà vu. Kenya has been here before and things were not that pretty. It is obvious that Kenyans would not want to go back there.

 

Differences of opinion are a norm in a vibrant democracy such as ours but not when they might lead to chaos leaving behind deaths, injuries and destruction of property. We have seen this happen since the 1990s as Kenyans pushed for multi-party democracy.

At this time, Kenya was heavily divided, with those agitating for reforms on one side and Kanu loyalists on the other. In 1991, at the Saba Saba rally to demand multi-party politics, police forcefully dispersed the crowds leaving 28 people dead.

After this, the elections in 1992 and 1997 were marred with ethnic and politically motivated violence. There was also a seed of hatred between Kenyan communities that was sowed by this and we have been fighting it since then.

 

Then came the big one. The referendum campaigns in 2005 divided the country heavily, especially with reforms failing to go through. This led to a very vicious war of words between politicians on the campaign trail towards the 2007 elections.

The 2007 campaigns may have been the country’s most divisive and even as we went to the ballot, it was clear that all was not well. Political emotions were as high as we are witnessing today with the country divided almost down the middle.

The aftermath was the 2007 post-election violence that spilled over to 2008 until around February, when things cooled down following a peace deal between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga at the steps of Harambee House.

But the violence nearly brought this country to its knees. It was at that moment when Kenyans turned against each other leading to the death of 1,500 people, the displacement of 650,000 and destruction of property worth billions of shillings.

We were almost at this same point just before and after the 2017 repeat presidential election. The country was going through a difficult moment where we had Raila take an illegal oath of office.

But yet again the steps of Harambee House came to our rescue when Uhuru and Raila made a pact to unite the nation and work towards its future. The country was once again back to its calm self, with Kenyans anticipating sobriety among politicians.

However, here we are. Politicians engaged in a vicious war of words at each new day as if we do not have a country to build.

No one should be focused on impeachments or accusations, especially with elections only two years away. Times are tough, and politics will not put food on the table or money in the pockets of Kenyans. Let’s all focus on transforming our nation.

The writer is a political and communications consultant. @MachelWaikenda