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Government’s love for drama hurting cohesion

Kenyans love political drama. They will spin yarns and generate conspiracy theories around anything remotely political, roping in faceless mandarins allegedly pulling the strings in the background.

Kenyans will take any event and imbue it with so much sophisticated political colour that the actual participants may not recognise it in the retelling.

Most of the time, this political drama and embellishment serves as harmless entertainment, keeping people busy while they go about their daily activities.

ELECTIONS

It does not demand new tales, since old ones can do just as well with a few new twists and turns here and there.

However, sometimes the tales take on a life of their own and generate so much heat that the threat of violence against a section of the population becomes real.

In these instances, government action becomes necessary to protect the citizens from harm.

Unfortunately, the government and its agencies have also been captured by this euphoria of drama, especially in the period immediately following the general election just over a week ago.

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PROTESTS

Firstly, the security agencies had planned so meticulously for a violent reaction to the results that they found it difficult to deal with a peaceful reaction.

Instead of letting those that felt aggrieved to express themselves publicly, security agents suppressed protests and went as far as attacking Kenyans in their own homes in low income settlements in Nairobi and Kisumu.

This fed very neatly into the narrative that had suggested that perceived opposition supporters would be targeted in a vote-suppression effort aimed at giving the incumbent an unfair advantage.

REPRESS
Secondly, the outgoing leader of the majority in the National Assembly gave a speech immediately he won re-election, in which he indicated that with the huge majority the ruling party had won in the elections, their first order of business would be to begin dismantling or intimidating independent constitutional offices.

At a time when tensions were still heightened as people waited for the opposition to announce their next step in protesting the election outcome, this statement was a bit of unnecessary drama that only served to buttress perceptions that the government would be more hardline and repressive, and would not look kindly upon any sort of independent oversight.

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Further bolstering this perception were the actions of an outfit that was supposedly disbanded by parliament almost five years ago, but which continues to operate with impunity purportedly regulating the operations of non-governmental organisations.

KHRC

The outfit, headed by a narcissist with an underwhelming educational history, issued letters purporting to deregister one of Kenya’s oldest and most robust human rights organisations, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and ordering the dismantling and criminalization of activities of a governance NGO, Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG).

The crackdown on critical NGOs fed the perception of increasing intolerance to dissent and an attempt to enforce a police state so soon after promulgating one of the most progressive constitutions on the continent.

Why the government is engaging in all this unnecessary drama defeats logic.

ETHNICISATION

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It would be funny if it was harmless drama in a time of peace.

Unfortunately, all this drama is resulting in a hardening of political positions and the increasing ethnicisation of the dispute, threatening the very fabric of the republic.

The idea that we are being silenced in order to facilitate the subjugation of a segment of our population is increasingly gaining currency, putting paid to the fragile nation-building project that has been stuttering along since independence.

We are seeing the systematic demonisation of a community, justifying state-sponsored violence against them.

PATRIOTISM

This is always a slippery slope at the bottom of which is ethnic cleansing and genocide, and all forward-looking citizens from all political orientations must come together and oppose this.

This drama is unnecessary, and actually poses a huge risk to our continued existence as a cohesive state.

The true duty of the patriot is to protect the country from its government, like the man said.

Atwoli is Associate Professor and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine [email protected]

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