Kenya is about three months away from the 7 August 2017 general elections. A special sitting of Parliament to debate changes to the electoral law ended with a fist fight on the House floor. Kenyan politicians are still wrangling over how the Electoral Commission should carry out the process.
The opposition insists it will have its own tallying center. According to them, the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) lacks the capacity to conduct free and fair elections.
African politicians thrive on hurling insults at each other as a winning tool for elections. The leadership suffer a lack of political wisdom on how to go about garnering votes without hoodwinking citizenry into turning against each other. Politicians generally employ all manner of divisionary tactics, including gas lighting and word salads, in a bid to divide the country along tribal lines.
Propaganda is often driven by politicians on existing challenges, such as unequal distribution of national resources, discrimination in the allocation of government jobs, unresolved historical land injustices, religion, gender inequality, and nepotism, among others. It has been very interesting to watch a series of events unfold towards the crucial exercise. Kenya has also seen violations of human rights and liberties during and after a number of political rallies.
There are many such violations to write home about, but top of that list is the deprivation of freedom of expression and association for fear of contradiction and possible execution. A group of politicians from both political divides equate individual opinions to hate speech. It has, therefore, become difficult for lovers of politics to freely commentate on political issues without receiving insults from people opposed to their views, threats of arrests and actual arrests by the police. For instance, some Members of Parliament have been arrested and ordered to record statements with the police following remarks considered demeaning to the Presidency.
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Bands of the far- right are busily marching up and down the streets, shouting emotional slogans and carrying provocative banners. The ruling class politicians are employing tribal scare tactics to strengthen their re-election bid. Opposition leaders defect to the ruling party at a glimpse of ‘Kitu Kidogo’. This ‘Kitu Kidogo’ is often large sums of money, mostly from government coffers. Sad. Some are threatened with physical harm if they don’t comply.
Political aspirants are being eliminated. It is alleged that some find their opponents too much competition and they must therefore eliminate them to clear their way into political positions. Recently, a ward representative and a parliamentary aspirant from Tiaty were shot dead at a night club in Marigat, Baringo South. Loyamorok ward representative, Kibet Cheretei, and Tiaty parliamentary aspirant, Pepee Kitambaa, were killed by unknown attackers at around 12.30 a.m. at a bar where they are said to have been having a chit-chat on political issues.
Another life was lost when Edison Natembea, a Komarrock ward member of the County Assembly was shot dead. Members of the fourth estate have not been spared on by the deadly virus. A section of the mass media are in top gear whipping up emotion against the opposition by giving prominence to pro-government views and employing words like “treason”, “uncouth”, “offensive”, “disloyal” and “rebellious” to refer to leaders who cannot stand the current stench in government.
The canonical tradition of employing intimidation against the weaker side is rampant. The intimidation is glaring, and with law enforcement also pitching in, such tactics invariably result in total success for the ruling class. This would explain why a section of the youth is used by our politicians to barricade roads and even show up in rallies uninvited and cause mayhem to the detriment of the other party. This is Neanderthal politics at play.
Watching keenly, you would notice that politicians from both political divides are always willing to use foul means to achieve political goals to safeguard their vested interests. The ruling class is heavily implementing anti-minority policies while at the same time mounting a sustained campaign to demonize the minorities. Politicians are now zoning regions as their strongholds a few months to the general election, a move strongly condemned by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). According to its Commissioner, Gitile Naituli, having political strongholds is a move aimed at dividing Kenya.
“Having a Jubilee or an opposition stronghold is a misunderstood concept that aims at manipulating the masses,” Prof Naituli said.
As a way of promoting cohesion and integrity in the country, Prof Naituli said all aspiring candidates should feel free to manoeuver in every part of the country and sell their agenda without fear.
More baffling is the manner in which people vote. The majority of Kenyans’ political choice is informed by opinion leaders. People suffer from lack of knowledge and there is hardly any civic education to address that. People vote tribe as opposed to good leadership. Some are indecisive as to whether they should vote. Members of the National Assembly use Parliament as a platform to settle scores. Most legislation is based on vested interests as opposed to safeguarding the interests of the ordinary Kenyan.
Elections will come and go, the ruling elites will only use money to manipulate the unsuspecting poor class as pawns in their game of power. We must rise as a people to fight for our civic right and make Kenya great for all.
Author: Belinder Odek is a communications and journalism graduate from Moi University, Kenya.