Events of the recent past must leave all good meaning Kenyans concerned how quickly the political rhetoric is spiralling out of hand especially after the annulment of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court.
The political atmosphere is so poisoned and highly charged that there is no room for reason and compromise in our political discourse. Any voice of reason has simply been drowned.
We no longer can engage in a civilised, robust and reasonable political discourse without degenerating into personal insults and abuses. It is a ‘no holds barred’ contest where now even families of those engaged in politics are fair game.
We have bred a culture where our political leaders feel they are entitled to and must win every political contest and argument. Our politics is a zero sum game where the winner takes it all.
We have normalised vulgar and revolting behaviour by our political leaders and this is now quickly being replicated across social media forums where Kenyans freely spit tribal vitriol against one another. This is dangerous and if Kenyans don’t seize the initiative sooner rather than later and reset the tempo, things will get off the skids.
How did things get ugly so quickly? It doesn’t take much soul searching to identify the genesis whence the current mess originated.
The personal and mean spirited attacks by the president and his deputy on the Supreme Court judges especially the Chief Justice and the other three judges who sided with him to nullify the presidential results was a cue to supporters that attacks on the Supreme Court judges was fair game.
Of course supporters then extrapolated this to mean attacks on anyone, any institution or any laws deemed unfriendly to their cause are fair game.
From this point on, what we have witnessed is an emboldened and belligerent Jubilee controlled legislature hell bent on ensuring the ‘offending’ Supreme Court judges are fixed together with any laws and processes that allowed for the annulment of the August 8 presidential election.
Amorphous groups including Mungiki, a group responsible for some of the most brutal attacks on innocent civilians are now crawling out of the woodwork to lend support to the executive’s mission to silence anyone who dares stand in the way of its onslaught on the Supreme Court.
We have also witnessed an inordinate use of force and brutality from the police when dealing with opposition supporters. These latest attempts by the executive and parliament are salient examples of political expediency.
The aim of the new constitution was to create independent institutions and to protect them from overreach by the executive as well as a legislature dominated by one party.
It appears that the executive and the Jubilee controlled parliament hold a desire matched by equal resolve to remove any protections accorded to independent institutions such as the Supreme Court purely for the singular reason that the court delivered a judgment that was not favourable to them.
We are planting the seeds and quickly regressing to the bad old KANU era days. There are parallels between the efforts by the executive now to strangle and silence any voice of criticism and the dark days of the KANU regime.
During the KANU era, opposition demonstrations were brutally quashed by the police. The judiciary, civil service and parliament shamelessly operated under the whims of the executive.
Civil society and academia, some of the few voices of criticism were incessantly pursued by the KANU regime. Most activists and scholars on the crosshairs of the regime ended up fleeing into exile overseas where they remained for years.
The eerily similar tactics being employed by the executive now shouldn’t come as a surprise as both the president and his deputy were schooled in and are graduates of KANU’s school of autocracy during an era when the president demanded absolute loyalty from all quarters. Anyone who dared criticise or challenge the executive was swiftly dealt with.
To break loose of KANU’s stranglehold on power, Kenyans fought relentless running street battles with the regime. Many were killed, injured or jailed. That’s how multiparty politics was born with the political space opening up to allow for contested free and fair elections where the free will of the people is exercised.
To cement these gains, Kenyans, in their wisdom, enacted a new constitution in which these freedoms, liberties and rights are now protected.
Events of the recent past by the executive and parliament to unwind the hard earned gains should therefore serve as a reminder to all Kenyans that it is time to stand up and be counted.
Kenyans should send a strong and an unequivocal message that executive and parliament power grab attempts are offensive and will not be tolerated because freedoms and liberties under the current constitution were not given by the executive and parliament to be taken away.
Yes, our constitution is not perfect and can always be improved but what we must not allow is the tinkering of the constitution to serve selfish political interests of a few individuals.
If we don’t stand up, we will all ultimately pay the price once these freedoms, rights and liberties are eroded. We have been there before and know very well what such a scenario portends.