Friday, August 04, 2017

Hard lessons

Once you lose the trust of the people, you will never recover it. There are many who will claim to be on our side, to love you even, but they will never, ever trust you again. If there is an institution that may enjoy lower levels of trust in this country than the electoral commission, the lands office or the police service, it has yet to present its dubious credentials yet. The past three days has been an indictment of both the electoral commission and the police service: tens of thousands of the residents of our fair Capital have upped stakes and moved upcountry. Going by the breathless reporting by Kenya's fearless-though-supine free media, the same is true in "election hotspots".

Kenyan election commissions have done little to inspire trust over the past fifteen years. Kenyan police have never done anything to inspire trust. But in 2007/2008, both managed to be equally culpable for the same disaster. The spark may have been provided by political events that neither could control, but the tinder was well and truly laid by the both of them. Kenyans may have very short political memories but they never forget politically-induced tragedies. 2007/2008 may be a decade in the past, but the scars are fresh and some wounds may never heal. Entreaties by the police or the commission for people to "remain calm" or unpersuasive statements like "there is no need to leave, everything is under control" are undermined by the murders of senior commission officials and police bans on "demonstrations" in "opposition strongholds".

Kenyan elections are do-or-die affairs. Many men, and the few women willing to get involved, spend goodly sums to get elected. To most of them, elective office is where they will make a return on their investment. They will be members of Government, whether in the Majority Party or the Opposition. And they have shown a great tendency to inspire and incite violence to prevail at the hustings. There isn't a Kenyan election that has not been violent. None. Even at the height of the KANU reign, violence was always part and parcel of a general election. Whatever trust there may have existed between Government and the people had well and truly evaporated by the time of the 1992 general election. The current mass migrations in Kenya are a reflection of lessons that were learnt the hardest way possible.

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