Campaign for peace but not at the expense of free and fair poll

Monday February 27 2017

Wafula Chebukati

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. Ballot boxes used on August 8 will have to be preserved to three years. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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The Catholic Church has dedicated the Lent period, the 40 days leading to Easter, to prayers for peaceful and credible elections.

The initiative joins similar moves by various groupings that are all lending their collective voices to the push for peace before, during and after the August 8 General Election.

The most notable is the Daima Kenya initiative fronted by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), which seeks to incorporate the media, civil society, religious bodies and official or statutory organisations into a unified and all-inclusive peace campaign.

These are noble initiatives that, no doubt, are inspired by the lessons of the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

It should be incumbent upon every Kenyan to support the peace campaigns, and do everything possible to help ensure that this country never again goes down that dangerous path towards political-ethnic warfare and national destruction.

Had we not been pulled back from the brink, thanks to the powerful intervention from our international friends, we would probably have been condemned to perilous existence in a lawless failed state.

Think Somalia next door, or Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, Rwanda and other countries on the continent that have at some time or other descended into the bloody anarchy of ethnic warfare.

This is why we must say Never Again!

IEBC TAKE CONTROL

However, some of us would caution against vacuous peace campaigns that do not address the real issues.

All too often, peace campaigns serve regimes that do not want disruptions to the status quo.

It was with utter shock that some of us in the media learnt that the peace crusade we so readily subscribed to in 2008 was secretly funded by the government.

Sustainable and durable peace will not come from empty calls, but from tackling the root causes of ethnic-political conflict.

To start with, elections must be free and fair.

It is incumbent upon the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to manage elections where the outcome will be so credible that no individuals, political parties or any other groups will have cause to complain.

The election management body must not close its eyes to election offences such as voter bribery, intimidation and threats.

It surely is a grave offence for a candidate to bring out witchdoctors to curse supporters of his rival, as we saw recently in Meru.

It is also an offence for chiefs, Cabinet secretaries, and other senior public servants to be deployed and funded as part of the governing party’s voter mobilisation machinery.

If the IEBC cannot see these offences, then serious issues must be raised about its neutrality and competence.

The same applies to other State organs, such as the National Police Service, that seem to be playing blind to violence and intimidation related to political campaigns.

NO FAVOURITES
Just the other day, we witnessed a bizarre incident in which a bunch of so-called Kikuyu elders purported to place a curse on Royal Media Group boss Samuel Macharia for daring to disrespect the supposed ethnic political chieftain.

I may have missed something, but nowhere have I read that the fellows who performed the ceremony have been arrested and charged.

These are the kinds of things that must be fixed.

The Jubilee Party is just one of the competitors in the coming elections, and cannot be allowed to operate as if it is above the law, and as if the IEBC, the police and other national organs are subservient to it.

The opposition parties are also competitors, and they, too, must be put on notice that violence and intimidation will not be tolerated.

Threats to disrupt elections or to reject unfavourable results are a recipe for chaos.

But still, peace will depend on fair and credible elections, not empty calls to peace or the “accept and move on” mantra.

The one-party Kanu dictatorship daily assaulted our ears with the dubious Nyayo Philosophy of Peace, Love and Unity.

However, the authors forgot to incorporate Justice as the cornerstone of everything.

JUSTICE

This said, we can pen off with the immortal words of Peter Tosh:

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes;

None is crying out for Justice;

I don’t want no peace,

I man need equal rights and justice.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho