Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The magic ingredient

My dear Kenyans, the only guarantee against another descent into anarchy is not sterile calls for love, peace, and unity, but a just election with a credible outcome. — Macharia Gaitho, the Daily Nation
There are many ways to skin a cat, so the saying goes and Kenya's political leaders, elected representatives and presidents have proven it time and again over the past fifty-three years. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich Moi spent between them forty years proving that an iron fist without the velvet glove was necessary to keep the lid on a volatile, boiling cauldron. President Kenyatta waged a secret and not-so-secret war on the Shiftas that continues to rage almost forty years since he died in office.

President Moi oversaw a police state that spied on its citizens, detained thousands of them without the due process of the law, shat all over the human rights of its citizens and waged a secret war against pro-democracy campaigners that included assassinations, forced disappearances, kangaroo judicial processes and exiles to faraway lands. Only the uncharitable will claim that Kenya wasn't at peace even if it wasn't at peace with itself.

Mwai Kibaki tried a different tack; it didn't last. President Kibaki will never wash the stain of the murder, rape, rapine, pillaging and mass displacements of 2007/2008. He was the greedy president in charge; the death, pain, suffering and loss of faith are his cross to bear.

Kenyans don't need a just election with a credible outcome to guarantee that it will not descend into anarchy. Kenya needs a massive dose of respect: rep sect for the Constitution and the law; respect for the institutions of the State, Government and of the people; respect for one another regardless of ethnicity, culture, colour, creed, faith, occupation, sex, sexual orientation, class, education status, academic credentials, political persuasions, whatever. For now, Kenyans are almost united in the depths of their disrespect.

Ironically, the Constitution is the starkest example of our disrespect for ourselves and the laws of our land. Article 24 is a detailed clause that describes how rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution can be limited and to what extent. It is an indictment of our respect for one other because it acknowledges that our fraught history has always led to grave acts of disrespect and so the limits of official, statutory disrespect are now set down in the supreme law of the land in the form of Article 24.

We focus on general and presidential elections to the exclusion of almost everything else. Some more recent developments have completely escaped our eyes. Few of us have any idea how much debt our children or grandchildren will bear long after maggots have gotten at our innards. Few of us have any idea how much national treasure has been expended on fertilizer manufacturing factories that were never built or paper manufacturing plants that have not run for twenty-five years. Few of us have any idea why certain Kenyans are permitted to starve to death while certain national granaries are bursting at the seams.

By all means, elect the right men and women. If you truly want to make things better, open your eyes and focus on all of it. How your government functions and what it does. But above all, if you can respect each other, truly respect each other, you will go a long way in respecting our laws and institutions and ensuring that they are respected and respectable in equal measure. Respect is the magic ingredient for your free, fair and credible elections.

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