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The high level of intolerance against Miguna harks back to the Moi era

Thursday July 19 2012

 

By MUTUMA MATHIU

I am sickened, disappointed, disgusted, horrified, disillusioned, shocked. This past week has convinced me that in our hearts and minds, we have made no progress in adopting open democratic beliefs, we are tolerant of deviance.

But we have been very good at conning each other that we have “reformed” the country, that we have a Constitution that will “transform society”, and that we have crossed the Rubicon of decency.

In truth, in terms of our political values, we are still squatting in our smoky caves, roasting the entrails of corruption and fondling the thick, meaty umbilical cord that joins us to tribalism.

I think we have been listening to too many illiterate lawyers, politicians and NGO activists. We have been conducting ourselves as if social change is an objective thing, something that exists outside of us.

Even the most complex of social institutions is actually little more than a pattern of simple interactions; it is built of behaviour. Change occurs when we respond differently to stimuli. In other words, the template that governs our behaviour is what drives all the big changes.

The response to Miguna’s rather dramatic allegations demonstrate that if anyone tells you this country has changed, they are fooling you.

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It is as preposterous as dressing up Moi-era tribalists as reformists.

People responded to Miguna’s robust accusations first, by going foetal, followed by an attempt by his friends to throw him under the bus, then an effort to frighten the press through whispers of lawsuits and the use of a law which is a close relative to detention-without-trial, the law of criminal libel, the most odious, most single-party, the most colonial legislation to disgrace our courts.

And I keep asking myself: isn’t the rational thing to do to first establish whether the man was speaking the truth before going into the paroxysms of insults?

I am insulted as a Kenyan taxpayer, whose money may have been stolen, that there is no publicly acknowledged attempt at self-investigation, no effort to search souls and to demonstrate that public money was used well, just a sullen fury. Why is it wrong to investigate Miguna’s corruption allegations?

I got a sense of the 1980s single party intolerance when I saw villagers, whipped up by their MP, burning Miguna in effigy and burying him.

There was a time when Kenyans did a lot of that to show loyalty to some tinpot dictator. I thought it was unforgiveable to intimidate Miguna’s relatives, the whole threat of violence, because of his actions.

The freedom of expression means the freedom to express an odious, bad, uninformed, stupid opinion. It does not mean the freedom to sing lyrical praise to the political deity or to express an opinion that you agree with.

The fact that Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko had, with alacrity, sent the police after Miguna, was to me evidence that the State is still determined to harass those who have fallen out of favour with the political maggot elite.

Had Miguna been in the country, he would have been the subject of police harassment and probably the victim of violence. And like John Githongo, he may well end up in exile.

The way Miguna has been handled is exactly the same way retired President Moi would have handled him: send sycophants and side-kicks to savage his character, send thugs after him like was done to the Rev Timothy Njoya during the fight for multipartyism, and finally send the police to harass and possibly harm him.

As the icing on the cake, use the Nicholas Biwott template: the courts.

So I ask myself: Where are the reforms? Where are the reformists? Where is the democracy? Where is the new Constitution?

I remember something that Makau Mutua once told me: It’s not the good guys who need friends. It sums up the whole philosophy of decency and standing up for principle.

The nice people don’t need friends, they are never in trouble. It is the trouble-makers, the insufferable, arrogant, self-righteous pompous, loud-mouths for whom we have to stand up.

And it infuriates me that no one in this country is standing up for Miguna’s right to be disagreeable, to speak his mind, to blow the whistle on people he thinks are corrupt, and to call his former boss names.

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