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Opinion & Analysis

Leaders should defuse political tension in country

A past NASA political rally. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A past NASA political rally. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

It’s time the leadership of major political parties came together and defused the tension in the country. Unfortunately, we could be headed to similar post-election violence seen in 2007/2008. While I might sound to be fear mongering, what is being witnessed from various leaders and discussions online point to a country that needs national healing and reconciliation.

While the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has the constitutional mandate to manage elections, there is a higher responsibility to ensure that Kenya remains a peaceful nation.

I am afraid that what is happening and the hatred that is boiling pose a threat to our national security.

Will elections be held in such a highly volatile environment? How safe will the election officials, voters and other players be if such tensions, suspicions and open hostilities continue?

I have been reading the Justice Waki and Kreigler commissions’ reports and we seem to be going where we thought we had moved from. We are aware that violence has been part of Kenya’s electoral processes since 1991, save for 2013, because of state institutions failing to anticipate, prepare for and act on such in time.

The level of impunity in the country is alarming and without serious intervention we might regret it.

A nation easily breaks into anarchy when extreme positions are taken on national issues, the general public loses patience and direction, and start vomiting dangerous words as currently being spewed online.

As usual, the responsible national and non-state institutions are sitting on the fence.

The fact that we had peace during the elections is a sure sign that Kenyans want a peaceful country.

Looking at the venom by some Kenyans online is something analysts need to explore. While previously, and more specifically following the 2007 post- election violence, media was said to have contributed to violence – by the way they covered the election related issues -this time round media is being said to have been muted.

While the absence of physical violence in Kenya thus far is great, the ongoing angry exchanges online between Kenyans over very mundane and sometimes serious national issues deserve attention.

One major lesson that this teaches us is that elections and the discussions that follow have debunked the myth that tribalism is for the illiterate and average Kenyans. Tribalism in Kenya is an elite problem. It’s the elite who are tribal to the hilt in this country. The words and expressions on online forums are dangerous- and are peddled by those who can access and use these forums.

They are angry and tribal because they are fighting over resources, opportunities and jobs. These guys are hungry because there is traffic jam, because there are blackouts and throw venom at each other , especially if those in authority in those institutions responsible- do not come from their tribe or communities.

It’s the elite who want the scarce resources or jobs who are expressing themselves badly online in the name of freedom of expression.

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