My office happens to be under the flight path to the Eastleigh Air Force Base and lumbering Buffaloes and rather posh BizJets, all emblazoned with military colours, drone constantly overhead these days. Whether referenda take place or not, there is little likelihood that these planes will suddenly stop flying; after all, they do not belong to the National Police Service Air Wing. They belong, more or less, to the Kenya Defence Forces and those people are, more or less, professionals. Right?
In the past week, the Commander-in-Chief decided to witness some military thing in Isiolo and so, with the joie de vivre of a politician on the make, he decided to don jungle camouflage. (He should have worn spit-polished black combat boots instead of the USMC-lite desert camouflage boots he decided to wear.) He looked very martial with the five stars on his Commander-in-Chief's hat. Then he decided to go to Migori in a tan suit and "rowdy youths" threw extremely worn out akalas at him. (I think they were unhappy that he looked like C-in-C in Isiolo and came to see them dressed like the village headmaster.)
The jungle fatigues and the tan suit have everything to do with the referenda that seem to have thrown the National Executive into a panic. And those who do not think that the National Executive is not in a panic should witness the zeal with which the National Police Service is "investigating" and "prosecuting" the Migori Akala Affair in a bid to drive home the point that you either give the referenda a pass or suffer the attentions of the National Government in all its oppressive glory.
There is a generation of Kenyans that witnessed the tough-as-nails approach to dissident-destruction under both the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi dictatorships. Even the recent sickening fawning over the twenty-four years of Nyayo have yet to dim the memories of many people regarding the testicles that were squeezed and the assassinations that were committed or the fifteen years of cronyism, ethnic jingoism and constitutional upheavals that came before.
If there is one thing the late Jomo Kenyatta and the very much alive and kicking Baba Moi are thankful for it is that Kenyans were pussies when it came to standing up to the forces of corruption and dictatorship the two unleashed. The two documented coup attempts were by the military whose incompetence even then was something to behold. What we ended up with is not peace or calm; we ended up with a fifty year experiment in managed failure. Kenya may celebrate the entrepreneurial and industrial exploits of Tabitha Karanja, Manu Chandaria and Vimal Shah, but the despondency of the youth in every generation has only deepened. Today there are ever larger numbers of teenagers and young men and women under the age of twenty-five engaging in violent criminal acts than at any time in our history.
And as the National Executive reacts in panic, it does us no favours. It is militarising policing and the Youth Service. It has foolishly made the Inspector-General a spectacularly powerful individual, placing under his command the National Youth Service and the disciplined forces of the forest and wildlife services. Giving the Inspector-General an even greater footprint is the first step on the slippery slope of a scenario right out of George Orwell's 1984. And the referenda threats are the best excuse the Commander-in-Chief has for guaranteeing that we will see more and more of him out of mufti and in the combat gear of a militaristic C-in-C.