The country is going through tumultuous times that call for a sober and reflective leadership. Both the government and the opposition must avoid actions or statements that provoke public anger and needlessly create tension.
We are concerned that the opposition is insisting on mass action, which is prone to violence. Several deaths, injuries and losses have been recorded since the demonstrations started a few weeks ago. Given the rising tensions, the protests are likely to get out of hand and precipitate a major crisis, which we must avoid at all costs.
But the government is not making it any better. By banning demonstrations in the central business districts of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, it is opening another front for confrontation.
Although the intention may be to pre-empt violence, this is the wrong way to deal with discontent.
Such a hard-line stand can only provoke more hostile reactions and degenerates into violence.
We have repeatedly called for an end to the mass protests organised by National Super Alliance to push for electoral reforms as they have led to violence, deaths, loss of property and disruption of business. Demonstrations are not the only avenue for expressing grievances. In a civilised society, people negotiate, make compromises and resolve even the most vexed of issues.
Even so, the law gives citizens the right to peaceful protest and enjoins the State to protect them. Therefore, it is not right for acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to outlaw protests.
It is a show of bad faith by a government intent on curtailing rights and ruling by decrees. The extreme positions taken by Nasa and the high-handedness of the government do not augur well. They could trigger violence, which we all abhor.
If Nasa supporters want to demonstrate, they must do so peacefully and without trampling on the rights of others. But those committing offences must be punished.
Also, since the protesters have made their point, shouldn’t they stop now? Reforming the electoral system cannot be achieved on the streets, but only through negotiations.
For its part, the government must avoid draconian rules meant to curtail citizens’ rights.