It’s time to get rid of abusive and intolerant political leaders

Sunday June 16 2019

Kenya Constitution

The Constitution notes aptly that a State officer should behave in a manner that is consistent with the purpose and objectives of the law. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP 

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When political leaders use platforms to insult each other, the crowd often cheers in excitement, hurling additional insults.

This, they say, is “politics” — where leaders use derogatory words to demean each other.

Furthermore, the insulted opponent is never supposed to show disgust because politics is for the thick-skinned. It is the place where rules of civility and decorum don't apply and anything goes.

Unashamedly, we've watched politicians go at each other, using derogatory language casually.

Instead of shunning those fanning the behaviour, Kenyans encourage them. By electing such characters, voters have made it a requirement that anyone seeking to flex political muscle must demonstrate their verbal abusive power.

Respect within public dialogue is thus non-existent among politicians.


There are numerous examples of political leaders using soiled vocabulary to address one another, not just in Kenya but even in the West.

Almost everywhere there's some sort of universally accepted principle that politics should not be for well-behaved, mature and respectful adults.

The question then is, when will we get tired of bad behaviour as a political culture? Why do we continue to give badly behaved people space to publicly embarrass themselves and more so, us?

The 2010 Constitution outlines the conduct of a State officer. It's therefore deeply disappointing that most leaders care less about their conduct and get away with being awful humans right before our eyes — yet we can't do anything about it because somehow bad behaviour excites most of the electorate.


The Constitution notes aptly that a State officer should behave in a manner that is consistent with the purpose and objectives of the law, demonstrate respect for the people, bring honour and dignity to the nation and promote public confidence and integrity of an office.

The law has always been clear even on how leaders are expected to behave, but we accept mediocrity. We can't be letting terribly mannered leaders — elected or not — to keep ignoring civility.

At some point, decorum must be inculcated into the political culture. It is shameful that some in society think that derogatory language is the way of politics.

Public humiliation of political opponents is not a spectacle for comical consumption but evidence of a rotten society.


Politics should be about debating issues and when disagreements arise, they need to be handled without engaging in verbal conquest.

I refuse to accept that the only way that we can engage in political discourse is by displaying ghastly manners.

However, there is no doubt that many of the badly behaved people have held political positions for a long time and have in turn made this unacceptable behaviour seem okay.

Such leaders don't just get to these positions. We elect them. As a society, we need to examine the role we play in elevating uncultured individuals to power.

We must start demanding to be represented by leaders who respect themselves so that we the people they represent can equally feel respected.

The writer is a policy analyst; [email protected]