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INSULTING RHETORIC

Trumpet peace, don't beat drums of war

Anybody threatening that co-existence and harmony must be treated as an enemy of the state.

In Summary
  • Using vulgar language and throwing expletives at the ‘enemy’ seem to be core competencies for one to secure an elective seat.
  • Many politicians have realised this and the hateful speeches we have started witnessing are simply a curtain raiser for the main concert as we approach 2022.
While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even fully in your heart
St Francis of Assisi

After a period of serenity occasioned by a political hiatus due to Covid-19, the honeymoon is over for Kenyans. Politicians are back with a bang, dominating airwaves, social media platforms and any other avenue that can give them publicity.

As usual, Kenyans are cheering and jeering them, depending on one’s political persuasion. The political arena has been converted into a theatre of the absurd, with politicians trying to outdo each other to gain the all-important public sympathy, trends on social media, and a slot on the newspaper headlines or prime time news. That’s understandable seeing that politicians crave for publicity to connect to their voters.

Two major political formations have emerged; one led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga christened the ‘handshake team’ and the other led by Deputy President William Ruto christened the ‘hustler team’.

The 2022 succession is already shaping up into a contest between Ruto and Raila (though the latter is yet to declare his candidacy). While it is perfectly okay to trade barbs with a political rival, our politicians seem to be abusing their constitutional freedom of speech by uttering words that may cause social unrest and animosity. They need to be stopped in their tracks.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission, in my opinion the most useless statutory body (no need of sugar coating), ought to be disbanded and its functions transferred to the police. It beats logic how the commissioners and secretariat can continue to draw salaries and allowances from the public purse without doing any tangible work save for periodic media appearances to ‘warn’ inciters and peddlers of hate speech. If they have a conscience, they would resign and apologise to Kenyans for failing in their core mandate.

Despite being independent for 57 years, Kenya, like many African states, is still fragile. It is a cocktail of communities who need to be carefully nurtured to fully gel and identify themselves as part and parcel of one indivisible state.

Even as we condemn the politicians, we ought to look in the mirror for deep introspection; these are our choices. Leaders are a reflection of society. Using vulgar language and throwing expletives at the ‘enemy’ seem to be core competencies for one to secure an elective seat. Many politicians have realised this and the hateful speeches we have started witnessing are simply a curtain raiser for the main concert as we approach 2022. If Kenyans truly care for peace, then they must call out and ostracise warmongers and inciters.

The state ought to be firm and should not allow ethnic mobilisation and profiling to be used as political strategies. We must never again as a country get to a point where political choices become a matter of life and death. It is indeed a sad state of affairs seeing that our political leaders rather than preaching unity and harmony are, by their utterances and actions, an existential threat to our statehood.

Despite being independent for 57 years, Kenya, like many African states, is still fragile. It is a cocktail of communities who need to be carefully nurtured to fully gel and identify themselves as part and parcel of one indivisible state. Anybody, regardless of social status or political persuasion, threatening that co-existence and harmony must be treated as an enemy of the state.

Lastly, Uhuru, Raila and Ruto – being the political leaders with the largest following in the country – have a huge responsibility to control their allies. As the good book says, to whom much is given, much is expected. The Deputy President, to his credit, through his social media platforms condemned the utterances of his allies. He will have to do more as the election season approaches.

As for Raila, to further cement his stature as a statesman, he must not tolerate those who stoke the embers of violence and hate among his party’s rank and file. Uhuru, as head of state, is a symbol of national unity. As such, his is not just a duty but a higher calling to unify the country through words and deeds. He must ensure that state agencies, especially the coercive apparatus, act justly to all, whether his supporters or critics.

Currently, the perception is that the hustler’s team is being harassed by the state while the handshake team escapes with a slap on the wrist. Such actions breed resentment and lead to outbursts, threatening the peace. Let all Kenyans cultivate a genuine peaceful culture. As St Francis of Assisi quipped, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even fully in your heart."