When President Uhuru Kenyatta further eased the Covid-19 restrictions during his September 28th address most Kenyans took this as a cue to revive the economy that had taken a hit from the pandemic. Restaurants and entertainment joints have since enjoyed a boom in business with more revellers going for a dose of ‘enjoyment’ as it is commonly referred to. However, it seems that it’s not just lovers of the drink who are enjoying the President’s directive to increase the number of people in public gatherings from 100 to 200. Politicians have taken advantage of this to traverse counties to sell their agendas, be it the BBI conversation or 2022 succession politics, to the masses.
The images taken from these political tours across the country would have one convinced that Kenya is in an election year. Indeed, we are a peculiar country. The 2022 agenda is one that has been spoken of shortly after the 2017 elections were concluded and continues to gain momentum despite us having almost two years left before going to ballot again. Even before Covid-19 Kenya’s economy wasn’t in a good state. One would expect elected officials to exercise prudent use of time and resource to prioritize the country’s developmental goals and vision to make up for the time lost and mistakes made along the way.
As such, recent weeks have seen the weekends buzzing with political gatherings in various parts of the country. The latest one that was held at Kenol in Murang’a county, unfortunately, led to the death of two young people signalling that we are not out of the woods yet as far as political violence is concerned. The issue has been escalated to the police authorities who are currently trying to get to the bottom of it. Whether the investigations lead to prosecution or not, the Sunday incident is one that should have all Kenyans concerned.
Kenya has a dark history of ethnic-based post-election violence (PEV). Anyone over 18 years old can still remember the tension surrounding the 2007 election that led up to the December 2007 to January 2008 post-election violence which saw over 1000 lives lost and over 300,000 people displaced. Some of the victims, unfortunately, still identify as internally displaced persons (IDPs) to date. So as the succession politics gain momentum by the day, what does it mean for Kenyans? What does it mean for those that are still scarred from the 2007/08 post-election violence? What does it mean for the thousands of Kenyans who have been rendered jobless during the pandemic? Does their current economic vulnerability make them an easy target for politicians who may opt to employ chaotic tactics to have their way? These are pertinent questions that need to be addressed as we draw closer to an election that is expected to be highly contested.
The political culture in Kenya has morphed into one that places a lot of emphasis on influence and power as opposed to service delivery. Which then explains the hunger by most politicians to seek a higher office or hold on to the ones they occupy by whatever means possible. That coupled with the fact that Kenya is yet to make any serious reforms to address political violence is not only worrying but it calls for serious and long-term interventions. Now more than ever, oversight bodies within the government, media and civil society need to exercise vigilance and call out comments and actions by politicians meant to incite and instigate chaos. Ultimately leaders, whether in elective or appointive positions need to exercise wisdom in their undertaking to avoid actions that lead to death and destruction.