Friday, July 07, 2017

Saba Saba lessons

Saba Saba finds us in another election year with the lessons of the Second Liberation scattered to the four winds on the backs of  a not-so-sub-rosa-debate on whether Kenyans want a peaceful election -- or a credible one. One media-savvy Kenyan who commands a loyal following and great influence in certain quarters argues that peace must be the only goal of the election; that the choice between credible and peaceful elections is a false one because, in her words, no justice can be found in war (which she seems to believe is the antonym of peace).

Saba Saba was not peaceful. How could it have been? It was the culmination of decades of violent political repression by the institutions of the Government in the name of peace and stability, the very things that a peaceful election are supposed to deliver. Between 1969 and 2002, only the winners of elections believed that Kenyan elections were credible as did those who benefitted from electoral victory. The vast majority of Kenyans lived under the shadow of the agents of the State who would snuff out lives, destroy livelihoods, and shatter dreams, and who corrupted the very soul of the nation in the name of peace, something that has eluded Kenyans in every single election since 1964. The scale of the violence might have varied -- the nadir being the 2007 general election -- but violence has been the constant spectre hovering over the nation at every general election. The 2002 election might have been the most peaceful but it had its violent moments, the least not being the the mysterious car crash that put Mwai Kibaki in hospital for two months, his life hanging by a very thin providential thread.

Dr Wandia Njoya writes -- tweets -- more eloquently and intelligently than I can on these matters. I'll paraphrase her. Kenyans, at every election, have exhausted all peaceful avenues to change regimes. In 2013, they stared in weary resignation as a brand-new Supreme Court betrayed them. Again. So far in this election, Kenyans have not turned on one another -- though thousands have quietly made plans to flee to boltholes should things take a turn, as they are wont to do in Kenyan elections. Kenyans have, by and large, shrugged their shoulders and gone about their affairs as public resources have been mobilised in political campaigns and billionaire swindlers have sunk their claws into the electoral system to assure victory for their favourite naggy equines. Kenyans are clinging to a sliver of slender hope that despite the things they have seen and heard, the election will be credible.

Dr David Ndii is not wrong to warn of what might happen when the credibility of the general election is in doubt. Whether or not his prediction comes true on the scale that he fears is neither here nor there. The peaceniks calling for peaceful elections are fools to believe that stolen elections won't be the final straw that broke the camel's back. Every Kenya wants peace. But many Kenyans have been denied peaceful avenues for protest or regime-change. If these elections are stolen in any way, shape or form -- if they lack credibility -- singing Kumbaya at the top of your voice, ma'am, will only serve to enrage the people more. Deny the people the credible election they deserve and the lessons of Saba Saba will truly have been forgotten.

No comments: