Why Kenyans must jealously protect our tested democracy

Do you belong to a WhatsApp group that of late has been dominated by political messages spewing hate against either President Uhuru Kenyatta or opposition leader Raila Odinga, or their respective parties and tribes?

Have you willingly and actively spread such messages on chat groups or within your social media circles?

If so, you are part of the problem with Kenya.

Whatever the court decides on the case filed against President Kenyatta’s victory by his aggrieved Nasa challenger Odinga, the fact remains that the latent threat of ethnic violence does not make for sustainable democracy.

The Supreme Court challenge may have calmed the waters for now, but only for the moment because come another election, the same old ethnic competition for power will rear its ugly head and once again threaten to send us over the precipice.

As Kenyans we have every right to be proud of our democracy and an unmatched range of civil liberties.

Those who have travelled to neighbouring countries — Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda or Ethiopia — or further afield to the rest of Africa will agree that the existence in the stifling regimes of virtual one-party states, strongman-rule or quasi-military dictatorships provides only an illusion of order and stability.

With all its faults, our noisy, raucous, freewheeling, unbridled democracy is a million times better than the controlled selection, not election, of leaders in many other parts of Africa and the world.

That is why we must jealously protect our democracy.


We must forever be on guard against leaders who yearn for a return to the repressive environment of the one-party regime.

We have leaders even today who take their mandate from the ballot box as a licence to majoritarian rape of democracy.

They will want to crush civil society, media and other watchdogs of society.

They want to take away the independence of the Judiciary, the police, the auditor-general, the public prosecutor, and other independent governance and law and order agencies.

From thereon they will move to criminalise the opposition and shut down all the voices of dissent.

When you hear VIPs — Vagabonds in Power, as so aptly put by Nigerian singer Fela Anikulapo Kuti — warn citizens against engaging in politics, you must wonder why they want to make public policy their exclusive preserve.

The only reason is that they want the freedom to exploit their legislative majorities to kill democracy.

We have seen in just a few decades since the end of one-party dictatorship that there is also great danger a tyranny of numbers that could lead to parliamentary dictatorship.

It is likely that the rancour of the campaigns may have persuaded some in Jubilee that the party should use its second term to crush all dissenting voices and guarantee an unchallenged hold on power onto the quest for a third term.

Such are tendencies all Kenyans from all sides must unite against.

Dictatorship and totalitarianism is bad, even if under your party of or your ethnic chieftain.

Let us never forget that even the evil that was Adolf Hitler was spawned by a flawed democracy.

As we guard our cherished democracy from our leaders, however, we must also guard it from ourselves.

Yes, we as voters are ultimately responsible for bad leadership we may impose on ourselves.

Like idiots, we willingly fall for the blandishments of those who seek the vote by dividing us on ethnic lines.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have both sought power through vicious and dirty campaigns based on nothing more than securing their respective ethnic bases.

They have used base propaganda and hate speech to persuade their respective followers that the other community is evil and must never be allowed to take or retain power.

If matters had degenerated to the point of mass murder or genocide, no prizes for guessing which two warlords I’d happily escort in leg irons to The Hague.

However, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are only the inciters.

Even if not wielding machetes, we are the WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook foot soldiers.

Why do we, pious God-fearing patriots, succumb to the ethnic bile and allow ourselves to be incited against neighbours, friends, workmates and fellow worshippers just because they hail from a different community?

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho

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