Leaders must move fast to end violence

Saturday August 12 2017

By EDITORIAL
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Sporadic violence that has hit parts of the country following the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the presidential vote must be brought to an end immediately.

It is becoming a sad statement of our national psyche that every election cycle is followed by violence and mayhem. We must reverse this trend.

The violence is taking a heavy toll on the nation. Already, reports indicate that some people have been killed.

Business is paralysed in Nairobi and other towns. People are marooned in their homes.

Transport has been disrupted in some places and food supplies are dwindling.

Tension is in the air and people are unsure of their security. Unless quick action is taken, things are likely to get out of hand.

CHOICES

Elections are about choices; candidates win or lose. And people have a right to celebrate when they win or protest to express their disappointment if they lose. But losing does not mean people have to fight. What is happening is wrong.

Some people have resorted to criminal activities, threatening others or looting under the disguise of protesting vote loss.

Also, reports abound of police using excessive force, in some cases breaking into homes, and beating up innocent citizens in the guise of dispersing rogue crowds. All these must stop.

The government, through Acting Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i, has pledged to quell the riots and return the country to normalcy.

Protecting life and property is a constitutional duty of the State and it must use whatever means within the law to do that.

However, cases have been reported of police brutality, which goes against the law and human rights.

VIOLENCE

It is unacceptable for the police to invade homes, as we have seen, in urban slums and torture residents and explain it away so casually that they are tackling looters and criminals.

Dr Matiang’i, who has stridently denied the reports, needs to investigate these and take quick action. Such acts aggravate matters and spur further violence.

At this point in time, the country has to go through introspection and reflection.

The reason elections have become a trigger for violence is the relationship between power and prosperity.

Those who ascend to power have access to State resources to the exclusion of the losers.

It is a zero-sum game and winning becomes a life-and-death matter; hence losing is not an option.

NASA

National Super Alliance (Nasa) leadership has an obligation to guide and socialise their supporters to avoid the violence.

The leaders must come out and unequivocally declare their objection to the use of street violence to protest electoral loss.

Thus far, the statements they have made send mixed signals; they call for calm and at the same time declare they will not contest the results in court.

The subtle statement is that they have something up their sleeves and the supporters easily interpret that to mean street protests which, unfortunately, have the propensity of getting out of control.

Kenya has a long history of electoral violence dating back to the early 1990s.

LOSS OF LIVES

However, the most tragic was in 2007, when many lost lives and property. We have to guard going that route.

For this reason, the political leaders must come out strongly and stop their followers from violent street protests.

Importantly, the police have to restrain themselves and avoid actions that can provoke violence.

The elections are over; we have to pull together, repair relations and rebuild the country.

We call for quick cessation of acts of hooliganism that threaten to undermine peace and stability of the country.