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That we tolerate Kuria points to a society in deep crisis

Saturday September 9 2017

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria in a Nairobi court on April 13, 2017 during the hearing of an incitement to violence case filed against him. He has been cited previously for hate speech. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LUKOYE ATWOLI
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This past week we were treated to a most unedifying sight in one of the suburbs of Nairobi.

An elected MP was recorded spewing the most unpalatable bilge anyone has had the courage to spew in a public space.

Speaking in vernacular, he used the most derogatory language he could muster against the opposition presidential candidate and his followers, including making overtly genocidal comments about his community.

HATE SPEECH
This legislator is not new to this kind of controversy.

He has been cited previously for hate speech, and even went through the motions of apologising and vowing never to repeat that behaviour.

He however seems to have difficulties controlling himself, and whenever he sees a crowd from his ethnic community, he feels the urge to insult members of tribes he considers inferior.

He delights in arguing circumcision is a marker of some sort of greatness, and that communities that do not practice it must not be allowed to produce national leaders.

VOTERS
One would have to be extremely naïve to be surprised by this man’s utterances, given his history of foul-mouthed vituperation even before he was elected to represent the President’s own constituency.

This week he however went a step further, posting on social media that a manhunt was on for the 200,000 people who did not vote, as well as those that “voted for that other demon”.

It must be pointed out that, as long as we allow this parliamentarian to speak as he does, we do not have the moral standing to condemn the thieves and murderers in our midst.

VIOLENCE

We cannot condone this genocidal talk and at the same time go to our places of worship and claim moral purity.

We cannot claim to have institutions that work in this country when a public figure is allowed to prepare his followers for the extermination of others on the grounds of ethnic and presumed political differences.

Over the months leading up to the elections, the government engaged in manoeuvring that suggested members of a tribe or collection of tribes had been profiled as potentially violent and therefore marked for “pacification”.

LUO

The pacification involved deploying armed officers in neighbourhoods hosting these tribes, and engaging in what can only be called “pre-emptive violence” against them.

After the election results were announced, these pre-emptive attacks resulted in several deaths, including the killings of young children not involved in any of the violent confrontations.

Moses Kuria’s outbursts are only the latest in the re-designation of members of Mr Raila Odinga’s community as something less than human, making it easier for any citizen to attack and kill them without remorse.

SPEAK OUT

The goal of this mobilisation is to set the tribe aside and mark them as different in fundamental ways from “normal human beings”.

They are being called dogs, demons, wild animals and all sorts of epithets that students of history will recognise as being common during genocidal mobilisation.

The rest of us are equally culpable if we remain quiet and let the plans continue to their logical conclusion.

When the killings and displacement begin we shall be just as culpable as the goon who picks a machete and goes hunting for those despicable animals that will not give us peace!

ETHNICITY

It is often said politics is a dirty game. I would retort politics is only dirty when the players engage in dirty activities such as genocidal mobilisation in the name of politics.

In Kenya, our politics is dirty because we tolerate hate speech such as that spewed by the likes of Moses Kuria.

Although we have created constitutional institutions to check madness such as this, we have filled them with anachronistic relics whose idea of dealing with hate speech is to count how many tribes are represented in public institutions.

There is no neutral ground on this matter, and to quote Dante Alighieri, the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Atwoli is Associate Professor and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine [email protected]