I fear for this country. I fear not just for our lives, but for the future that lies ahead of us. I fear for the path we are slowly taking as a nation.
The past few weeks and months have been riddled with high political activity in the country, and especially its capital, Nairobi. Calls for the disbandment of the IEBC as presently constituted continue to grow louder by the day. But it’s not these calls that I fear for. It’s what they seem to achieve, though partly noble, but dangerously discordant.
It started with the 2013 elections, then followed the Presidential petition. Chickengate scandal came a year later, and on the line, followed the OKOA Kenya referendum push. What would have brought to life article 255 on the amendment of the constitution soon became a pie in the sky for the CORD brigade. As a matter of fact, the CORD coalition suffered a mockery out of the push. We all remember the dogs and rabbits that sat on the OKOA Kenya signatures. Or were they hyenas? Well, that’s not the point.
The call for demonstrations by CORD (and now KANU) is firmly within the rule of law. That’s an inalienable right for them, as is for every other Kenyan, including the President and his Deputy who have been loud about ‘abiding by the law’. Everyone has a right to, “peaceably and unarmed, assemble, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities…” (Article 37). Every Kenyan has a freedom of expression firmly protected under the constitution in article 33. However, this right to freedom of expression does not extend to; “propaganda for war, incitement to violence, advocacy for hatred or ethnic incitement”. (Article 33 (2))
This, fellow countrymen, is where my fear is founded.
I have gone through various commentaries on the IEBC issue both on Facebook, twitter and generally the web. Most of them reek of bile and a deep sense of intolerance. Few leave the space for reason, or seek to endear support to their end. The few Kenyans found in the Civil society, the religious spaces and others spaces of influence have either taken stiff positions determined by their political inclination, or personal interest. A majority of them, despite their awareness, have refused to think beyond what their respective tribal lords deem to be the absolute truth. This leaves the majority of illiterate Kenyans who depend on the acquiescent middle class, clueless and waiting to pounce on the next available bait. Never mind that this might actually be a human being. If in doubt, go back to 2007/2008.
The Kenyan Democracy
One might ask, what constitutes a Democracy? Is it just a credible electoral team or there’s more? Of course liberal democracies believe in other factors such as a free media, independent courts, a strong constitutional framework among others. But electoral democracies such as ours believe that only free elections constitute a democracy. This is one of the fallacies the CORD team is selling to unsuspecting Kenyans (read supporters).
No country on earth lacks opposing interests. This why we have governments and oppositions in multiparty democracies. Democracy therefore, is that amorphous form that seeks to create a balance between these warring interests. Also, no country lacks a certain amount of heterogeneity. And this is why most of the support for the disbandment of the IEBC is coming from Nyanza and Coast regions, while the opposing voices largely from Central Kenya and the Rift valley. The recently held survey by the Daily Nation pays credence to this claim.
But our definition of Democracy is fast becoming misrepresented. It is suffering a fatigue, by being reduced to elections only, instead of including factors such as the tribulations currently facing the Supreme court which is equally a condition for a proper Democracy. Political parties and interest groups across the political divide seem to be working towards the 2017 election with no permanent solution to address these present challenges.
A brewing Revolution?
So, is the country headed for a revolution? Yes and No. This is why.
Building comparisons with the Arab spring that sparked off in Tunisia, we have the conditions necessary for a revolution here at home. More than 60 per cent of the population is made up of youths. Unemployment rate is high, with close to 80 per cent youths between 18 and 24 years jobless. There’s a general feeling of frustration among Kenyans across the board and irrespective of their ethnicity. We are talking high power macroeconomics, but failing in microeconomics. The average Kenyan is living from hand to mouth. What other spark do we need to blow off the system? An enlightened and prepared middle class. A group of Kenyan so frustrated with the current state of affairs, that they are willing to leave their comfort zones, and take action. And here’s where the call for the IEBC disbandment becomes an opportunity.
This seems to be the strategy behind CORD’s push for the disbandment of the electoral commission. And while it might actually work (highly improbable), it must just set this country on fire.
My biggest issue goes out to the ruling duet. For a campaign dedicated to an emphatic use of propaganda, force is not the way to go in addressing this deadlock. Neither is the arrogant and bullish reaction coming from its top brass of leadership, that leaves one with little doubt as to whether really the Jubilee government is keen on addressing the deadlock, or most importantly, saving the country.
Today, the scope of discussion is slowly including extra-judicial remedies that touch on police reforms, a thorn in the flesh for most Kenyans. The pictures doing rounds in social media paint an image of a radicalized and brutish Kenyan police force who have little or no regard for human rights. This is of course debatable, but one thing is certain; that the CORD squadron is fast accruing supporters, albeit silent in their push for the IEBC disbandment. Its time Jubilee government employed reason, and found a compromise ground in addressing this issue.
Let us give Dialogue a chance
Going back to the precepts for Democracy, the CORD coalition and other members of the civil society and religious groups need to be honest with Kenyans and give reasons for their call that go beyond mere political mischief. A case needs to be made on why the entire commission, and not its specific members must go home. The release of the audit report for the 2013 elections, which seems to be the real major (hidden) issue especially from CORD needs to be approached and addressed in an amicable way that averts the spirited passions currently on display. It is a fact that IEBC has serious issues, but are we addressing these in the right way?
We must remember that we have other serious issues, such as the transition occasioned at the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga’s retirement and the corruption allegations at the Supreme court that require an honest national and multi-sectoral dialogue as opposed to the altercations currently taking place. But the IEBC quagmire is already here with us. If we mess this up, we will probably end up messing every other issue lined up for our national attention.
The other (easier) option for the various interest groups, notably Jubilee and CORD coalitions is to continue whipping the emotions of frustrated Kenyans who lack an outlet for their weariness, while at the same time evoking ethnic intolerance which in the end may land us back to that ugly and hideous drawing table we once found ourselves in 2008, giving birth to among other things, the National Accord. And those of us who were around then, know how it all went.
Unless of course this too, is part of the larger plan.