Why anti-poll rigging alarm must not sound like call to war

Monday July 3 2017

Nasa leader Raila Odinga addresses a delegation from Kiambu County

Nasa leader Raila Odinga addresses a delegation from Kiambu County at the coalition's secretariat in Lavington, Nairobi, on July 3, 2017. Mr Odinga and his minions must be more cautious in their utterances. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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You can smell, taste and feel the threat of election violence in the air.

It’s not as palpable as the aroma of nyama choma when walking by Nairobi’s Kenyatta Market, or the shouts of football fans from City Stadium.

It is something much more subtle, and much more sinister, but you sense it in the wind, in the stillness of night, and right down to the bones.

HIDEAWAY
Amidst all the noise and drama of electioneering, you sense people begin to talk in whispers, exchange suspicious glances and quietly start making contingency plans for when the shit hits the fan.

The rich, often the chief instigators, might be quietly making plans to send their pampered children on holidays in London, Paris, Dubai or wherever it is they salt away the money they steal from us.

The majority who don’t have the luxury of such hideaways will be surveying their neighbourhoods and wondering whether it might be wise to move to places where they might be more secure amongst ethnic kith and kin.

ETHNIC CLASHES
Religious organisations, civil society, youth groups, the business community, media and many other groupings and individuals can feel the tension, and are beginning to sing and preach peace.

Peace is good, war is bad. All of us agree on those simple precepts and we'll say never again to the kind of bloodletting witnessed in the wake of the disputed 2007-2008 presidential elections.

No person of right mind would contemplate Kenya again descending to such primordial depths simply because Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga must carry on the family blood feud started by their fathers in the early years of our independence.

PEACE
That is why the rest of us must stand together as one to ensure that our fellow Kenyans never again pick up arms against one another.

It is senseless and foolish to fight on behalf of two privileged individuals as their mindless mobs tear into one another with atavistic cruelty.

So we sing and pray for peace until the gods look upon us kindly?

Nonsense. Peace does not come from songs and processions and media campaigns.

Peace does not exist in a vacuum. It comes from consciously addressing the violent environment.

DEMOCRACY
In our case, it should be a simple matter of ensuring free, fair and credible elections.

The mind-numbing songs of peace we are hearing are not actually calls for peace, but a campaign for the retention of the status-quo.

It is a campaign that harks back to the independence party Kanu dictatorship when illusory peace became the antidote to all campaigns for democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, association, assembly and all the other rights we now take for granted.

Our National Anthem says “Justice be our Shield and Defender”, but President Jomo Kenyatta and his successor, Daniel arap Moi, discarded the ‘Justice’ bit and instead emphasised peace and love.

RIGGING
Mr Moi fought the early 1990s democracy movement on the narrative that anarchy would reign if Kenya restored multi-party rule, and then went about ensuring his self-fulfilling prophecy by orchestrating ethnic-cleansing in the Rift Valley that still haunts us to this day.

The lesson of history tells us that incumbents will habitually steal elections, and now we are busy demonising as trouble makers those who raise the alarm on the threats to free and fair elections.

Unbeknown to many innocents, some of these peace crusades are secretly sponsored by the government with the aim of silencing the voices demanding a level electoral playing field.

PROPAGANDA
But then the opposition does not help its cause when it appears to be preparing the ground for the rejection of the election results, and providing advance justification in the event of violence.

All the participants have the sacred civic duty to raise the alarm if they spot any chicanery in the election preparations.

There is no higher patriotic calling than safeguarding democracy.

However, the alarm bell must only be rung on solid evidence of clear and present danger, not for mere political mischief, and never must it sound as a call to war.

Mr Odinga and his minions must be more cautious in their utterances, for all they are achieving is confirming the Jubilee propaganda that they are afraid of elections, will not accept defeat, and are preparing to unleash mayhem if they lose.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho