SIKWADHI: Let's uphold democracy to achieve lasting social harmony

The President must listen to people's grievances by opening a democratic space for dialogue.

In Summary
  • Some of the problems that people voice as their concerns that Kenya Kwanza has ignored include high cost of living and denial of peoples voices.
  • Others are imbalance in appointments and lack of accountability/openness in forming of IEBC.
Protesters along Nyalenda ringroad in Kisumu on July 21, 2023.
Protesters along Nyalenda ringroad in Kisumu on July 21, 2023.

While I appreciate one of Nyakwar Rachuonyo’s grandson of Nyipir (Adero Nyalang’o) Dr Raymond Omollo’s thanksgiving ceremony for being appointed as PS, I painstakingly comment that this commemoration ought to have been postponed to a later date.

It would have enabled those going through the dynamics of grief over deaths and injuries inflicted by police brutality during the protests to finish the unfinished requisite rituals.

Generally speaking on matters of anti-government protests, I have thought about ways to avert crisis that is being experienced under the Kenya Kwanza abuse of the constitution and current impasse of unwarranted disproportionate and excessive force from police supposed to provide protection to protesters.

First, the President and the Cabinet Secretaries must listen to the people's grievances or complaints by opening a democratic space for dialogue. For example, one of the lessons I have admired in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet policy reforms that he launched is his idea of glasnost (openness), which he crafted as a way of listening to citizens problems.

Gobarchev’s philosophy of glasnost(openness) and perestroika (restructuring) that increased freedoms of associations, speech, religion, press, and increased economic restructuring/productivity. He championed a policy of increased openness and transparent debates oabout socioeconomic, cultural and political issues in government.

Let me humbly say that I applied this philosophy of openness in handling grievances when I was appointed as a founding Dean of Students Affairs of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science of Technology. This led to success in my leadership since we never had any strikes during my tenure.

We used to have therapeutic listening sessions (baraza) about any polemical social, educational and personal complaints of students. If leaders can take a cue from this model of ‘listening therapy session,’ such a strategy would create amicable medium for people to ventilate issues affecting them. This would sort out many bottlenecks or outcry of people without creating pressure on police, closing schools/institutions, shops, markets and stampedes in cities and towns.

Second, let us recognise and accept that protests are permissible in the 2010 Constitution. The right to assemble, protest, picket peaceably and unharmed, present petition/ grievances to public authority concerned has long been enshrined under Article 37 of the Constitution. The idea is to recognise and accept such constitutional provisions in order to reduce the sweltering temperatures among any would be protesters or parties concerned

Third is to ensure that protests are guided and controlled by their own leaders to promote autonomy in their own self-regulation except in cases where the parties need police escorts. Normally, it has been observed that police appear with condescending attitude of confronting and intimidating protesters, then they shoot and teargas people unharmed. This end up causing commotion and chaos.

Fourth, police should be made to understand their role as that of non - confrontation to that of co-operation and protection of any individuals, and civic society which they deal with.

Some of the problems that people voice as their concerns that Kenya Kwanza have ignored and glossed over are high cost of living, neglect of educated unemployed, blocking of the legal rights of people, denial of peoples voices in shaping statecraft, a regime not committed to press freedom and the inability of Parliament to address matters affecting citizens.

Others are imbalance in appointments, those with criminal record and graft that are given public offices, lack of accountability/openness in forming of IEBC and lack of consumer price protection, amongst others.

The problem is put in a rhetorical question “how do we solve this critical issues facing our country today?

First, the enumerated problems must be understood and tackled within the confines of Kenya Kwanza policy blueprint but now it is almost a year and little has been done along such lines to improve on such concerns of the peoples.

For example, there is an urgent need for the youth employment which should not be delayed even if it means putting off 50 CASs to employ the educated unemployed. Also it is shameless that most of those employed earn slave wages except the top fat cats who only make advocacy for their own wages only without considering others. Even the Cotu that should be helping such cases has been given an opium to be silent on workers intolerable conditions (hygiene and motivating factors).

Secondly, excessive force by the police on protestors can be witnessed in videos here and there. Other real facts are that President and his KK group have refused to listen to the voices and concerns of citizens. It is sad to listen to some people holding important positions and their sycophants try to label protesters as terrorists when the police are the ones who are terrorising people with gunshots, teargas and other weapons.

For instance, the following incidents narrated here can provide prima facie evidence against actual terrorists. The former President Uhuru Kenyatta farm was invaded by unknown people in broad daylight, they broke into the farm and raided animals from the farm. The raiders might not be unknown given the media and video coverage.

It is unfortunate that those who covered this were terrorised. Similarity, Raila’s East Africa Spectre farm was also invaded and the property therein were destroyed. In addition, there have been clashes between the police and protesters leading to shootings, teargas on school children and industrial centres. 

Those who are not honest, perhaps because they have been bought and poached or act out of malice, may go public to say Uhuru, Raila and others invaded their property plus themselves. Some people who have eaten kitu kidogo or are poached tend to be full of lies and are logically fallacious (i.e argue reductio ad absurdum).

Some of these people are like Okondo who revealed their intent to cause harm before the damage is caused. For this matter, people I met debate that if police can be detached from the protesters the damage and loses being experienced may end.

Thirdly, Ruto and his Cabinet seem not committed to press freedom and freedom of protestors, even though he has many times articulated his party’s strong position to strengthen democratic principles, governance and constitutional rights.

Of Interest, Odiwuor and Raballa on Daily Nation (July 14, 2023) reported some proponents of UDA ideology and mindsets, namely, Kiriara secretary general and leader Melida Auma. They made a remark that “criticised Azimio leaders for leading protests against the government. They told Homabay residents not to participate in street demonstrations….”

It is unfortunate, from my epistemological check, to find that some leaders have prejudiced knowledge, non-enlightened and misinformed critique incongruent to the provisions of both the Magna Carta and the Kenya 2010 Constitutional provisions. The Magna Carta was promulgated in 1215 (908 years ago) and became the first legal entity to enforce the principle that the king was not above the law.

Interestingly, the Magna Carta affirmed three important edicts. One, that all free people have the right to justice and a fair trial with a jury. Two, that the king doesn't have absolute power. Three, that the law has application to everyone equally. For that matter, some of the KK members should be asked to unlearn and discard some rigid outdated and dogmatic rules not within the boundaries of the 2010 Constitution.

So when we look back on the Magna Carta, without prejudice and misinformation, the constitution, in similar manner, assert that all citizens have rights and the king or President must obey the law.

Here, therefore, the most important significant implication of both documents is that they both protect legal rights of the people to protest as and when there is need like the one calling for addressing the high cost of living and other grievances. In Kenya, we can notice with caution that the professional and legislative independence have been sacrificed at the altar of sycophancy, making institutions of governance and presidency to disavow the constitution.

Some colleagues I met recently opened discussion over what would happen to MPs who have decided to insulate themselves against Azimio protests over high cost of living, poaching of opposition legislators, forensic audit of 2022 IEBC presidential servers and reinstatement of four IEBC commissioners who rejected presidential results, among other grievances.

They ended up saying that such insulation against the outcry and plight of the people about high prices of goods is a big risk which may not pay off in the immediate period and in the next election.


The writer is a university lecturer at Moi University

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