The stark choices our leaders face ahead of 2017 elections

Saturday March 26 2016

Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of National Government, Joseph Nkaissery who on April 7, 2016 said amendments made in the National Police Service Act on the procedure for appointing a Deputy Inspector-General is lawful. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of National Government, Joseph Nkaissery who on April 7, 2016 said amendments made in the National Police Service Act on the procedure for appointing a Deputy Inspector-General is lawful. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAINA KIAI
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The political temperature is starting to feel like the sweltering heat of the past weeks.

And just like prolonged heat and dry weather invariably leads to drought, famine and death in Kenya, the rising political temperatures can only mean troubles ahead.

But it need not be so. We now have the means to ensure that heat and drought do not lead to famine and death with proper planning and preparations, and we also have the tools to ensure that the political temperatures do not lead to chaos and crisis.

But that takes real political leadership especially from those running the state.

Given our recent history of violence, tribalism, intolerance, and corruption, if ever we needed sense, rationale, and calm from those in power, it is now.

WAYS TO GOVERN

There are basically two ways to govern as we head to elections: The first is the bullying, repressive, intimidating way that seeks to silence dissent, hoping that the show of force - real, imagined or threatened - will ensure subservience to enable those in power to lord it over us, whenever they want.

More often than not, this approach means that devious, illegal and unpopular tactics are planned that require a subservient population.

This was the favoured tactic of the Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi regime, facilitated by the old dictatorial Constitution.

It resulted in a Kenya that was cowed, brutalised and cannibalised as thieves and killers took prime positions of power and influence.

Then there is the second way, which operates on the basis that Kenyans need and deserve respect, and which emphasises their humanity and centrality to the nation.

This way appreciates the ‘service’ part of public service, and highlights transparency, accountability, and humility, as the 2010 Constitution demands.

It is the way that seeks to ensure confidence and respect, not fear, in state institutions like the police, the election body, Judiciary and anti-corruption body.

The choice that those in power make is especially important during the elections period, which we have already started.

What they opt for speaks volumes on what to expect in the coming months, including how the elections will be conducted.

A heavy handed approach tells us that the elections will be messy, probably rigged and pre-determined; for the heavy handed way is not just about intimidation, but also to prepare for a further militarisation or securitisation process that limits our basic rights to expression, association and assembly.

NKAISSERY STATEMENTS

The recent bellicose statements and actions by Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery on Governor Hassan Joho’s guns fall smack into this negative outdated first way complete with a total ignorance of the law.

And then you add in his unbelievable remark that only four percent of police and immigration officers are corrupt.

Either CS Nkaissery does not live here any more, or he is imbibing something.

This approach and the police actions against the opposition at the coast following the Malindi by-elections only adds fuel to the fire.

It could well be that one or more of these leaders bear some responsibility for some of the violence witnessed in Malindi, but when there is total police silence on the vote buying, intimidation and incitement by Jubilee you know where we are headed.

And so too with the IEBC, which rejected signatures from the Okoa referendum.

Again, they could be right in this decision, but given its huge lack of credibility and perceived bias for Jubilee, why did they not simply conduct the verification exercise transparently, on camera and with agents and observers present?

This approach of secrecy will not help IEBC or ease the growing tensions in the country.

There are many other examples of this almost reflexive tendency to secrecy, force and intimidation.

But those in power should realise that we are no longer in the 1980s when fear was the norm. If this approach continues, prepare for a “fight fire with fire” reaction. And that will not be good for Kenya.

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Meanwhile, let us spare thoughts and prayers for Mama Lucy Kibaki who has been taken ill. She was genuine and real, warts and all.

Never was her name uttered in any corruption, poaching or thieving scandal in a country where proximity to power always means unimaginable ill-gotten wealth.

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