Elections: What we must do right to prevent a 2008-style meltdown
Posted Thursday, February 14 2013 at 20:26
- On the positive side, this really is a test of our resilience and strength as a country: if we can survive a close election between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, then we shall be tougher and stronger as a democracy than many of our neighbours who, secure in the strong arms of party or African big man dictatorships, are yet to dip their toes into the hot water of democratic chaos.
How I wish that Prime Minister Raila Odinga was deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s political valentine.
Then we would be able to look at the two men without the blinkers of the conflict between Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga obstructing the view.
This election brings out the worst in us.
It provides the perfect excuse for half the country to retreat into one tribal grouping and the other half to the other.
All the tribal prejudice, all ancient grudges and feuds, all real and imagined slights, all dislikes and hatreds, everything is out walking the streets like hordes of thirsty undeads looking for innocents to devour.
On the positive side, this really is a test of our resilience and strength as a country: if we can survive a close election between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, then we shall be tougher and stronger as a democracy than many of our neighbours who, secure in the strong arms of party or African big man dictatorships, are yet to dip their toes into the hot water of democratic chaos.
Personally, I believe, and I have no facts, just a sense, that the election will not be entirely peaceful.
There will be pockets of rioting in the strongholds of the candidate who loses.
The scenes witnessed in Nyanza and some parts of Kiambu and Nyeri suggest to me that the followers of Mr Odinga particularly and Mr Kenyatta, to some extent, will find an unfavourable outcome hard to accept.
There are a couple of things that can be done to prevent a 2008-style meltdown.
First, the military, police, provincial administration and the intelligence people must establish a rapid-deployment and heavily armed taskforce with clear orders to stamp out violence wherever it breaks out.
I am sorry but the use of violence – rioting, burning things and blocking roads – as an expression of democratic rage is unacceptable and must be stopped.
Secondly, the candidates must help in managing their supporters’ expectations.
I know when you go into an election, you are advised to act presidential and to conduct yourself with the arrogance of inevitable victory.
First, we need a couple of good opinion polls to tell us where things stand.
There are many people, fired up by fealty and kinly fervour, who blindly believe in victory.
Secondly, candidates must prepare themselves and their followers for possible defeat.
They and their key supporters must hold night meetings to agree how the future will look for the loser.