‘Kenya we want’ talks can save country from chaos and death

Monday October 16 2017

Anti-IEBC demonstrators

Anti-IEBC demonstrators light bonfires at Kondele roundabout in Kisumu on October 16, 2017. Simply put, Kenya cannot afford to go to the repeat poll while so fractured. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Time is running out. We are just nine days to a contentious repeat presidential election that could lead us inexorably down that dark and dangerous slope of political violence.

An election in which one of the key contenders has pulled out because the electoral management body has refused to institute reforms that would guarantee a free and fair poll cannot have a winner.

Mr Raila Odinga’s decision to skip the repeat election — despite having secured a historic Supreme Court annulment of the first rigged poll — has cleared the way for President Uhuru Kenyatta to romp home virtually unopposed, save for a few token challengers.

The President may win an overwhelming 99.99 per cent of the vote in the fashion of all African dictators, but that still will not amount to a clean mandate.

He will thus embark on his second and final term suffering a crisis of legitimacy, President of the Jubilee coalition rather than the President of the Republic of Kenya.

There’s no telling how the post-election scenario will pan out, but it should be clear to all that the future does not look rosy.

Violent and brutal repression, the method favoured by acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i might contain opposition protests for a while.

History, however, shows us that not even the installation of a dictatorship — as floated by President Kenyatta’s right-hand man at the Jubilee Party headquarters, David Murathe — and a police state can put down the people for ever.

Simply put, Kenya cannot afford to go to the repeat poll while so fractured.

It may be too late to postpone the election, but it is not too late for Kenyans of goodwill to reason together and work out a settlement that at least cools tempers, as a prelude to a serious discussion in the coming weeks and months on long-term solutions to the obvious ills that drive Kenyans to ethnic-political conflict every electoral cycle.

We urgently need an all-inclusive ‘Kenya we Want’ conference to critically examine a broken system and offer solutions to the ever-present threat of ethnic carnage.

We urgently need acceptable arbiters from outside the political classes to lead a national dialogue.

Religious groupings, the business sector, civil society, the labour movement, media, professional associations and others can surely provide much-needed leadership in this regard; but, of course, they should first abandon some of the partisan positions that have been all too obvious, and work towards what is right and just.

We do not have to wait until Kenya goes into meltdown before moving to avert the slide into death and destruction.

It behoves all the leaders to abandon the arrogance of power and the politics of brinkmanship before it is too late, and recognise that safety, security and peace for all Kenyans must take precedence over selfish political competition.

If Kenyans can come together as one and give a resounding no to destructive politics, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will have no choice but to take note and abandon their hardline posturing.

In the days of the Cold War between the United States and then-Soviet Union (their respective Western and Eastern Europe allies) an uneasy détente was enforced by the reality of what was termed Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD.


That was the knowledge that if one side launched a military attack on the other, the ensuing nuclear conflagration would lead to complete and total destruction of both sides.

We are approaching that MAD state, but our leaders and their respective hawks are just too blind to recognise it.

If Kenya goes into another bout of ethnic-political bloodletting, the 2007-2008 post-election violence, which killed more than 1,300 and displaced some 600,000, will look like child’s play.

Already, a significant number of lives have been lost since the announcement of President Kenyatta as the winner of the August 8 election.

It is instructive that most of the nearly 40 people killed within just a few days fell to police bullets and truncheons, especially in the Nyanza opposition strongholds where the Matiang’i Doctrine seems to include an element of ethnic pogrom.

Just as opposition leaders must take responsibility for destruction of property during their protests, so must Dr Matiang’i shoulder responsibility for the murderous police response.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho