By Kilemi Mwiria
Members of Parliament have been in Mombasa the last two days to deliberate on the need for peaceful elections. That MPs are the target is right as they are the main reason for violent elections. But what is needed is more action and less talk.
Election violence has recurred since 1992 because no action is taken against perpetrators. Even as of now, there are politicians laying the ground work for violent campaigns by uttering uncalled for inflammatory statements with impunity. So what is the incentive for desisting from such behaviour?
Electoral violence also occurs because politicians rig elections and get away with it, after buying off returning officers and judges. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ( IEBC) and the Judiciary can do much to prevent electoral malpractice by: severely penalising compromised returning officers, closing loopholes that make the process subject to abuse and by barring those with a previous history of electoral offences, corruption and other integrity issues from contesting political office.
We have already begun to see fruits of a reformed Judiciary with this parliamentary term having a record number of MPs lose their seats for electoral malpractices. One hopes the worst perpetrators will be locked up.
The ongoing police reforms should also be fast tracked as election violence has occurred with the police force turning a blind eye and being partisan. The politicisation of national security services leaves little room for any level of confidence in our electoral system.
Professionalisation of the security forces should incorporate a deployment system that does not allow for the dominance (in senior positions) of members of any given community in any region of Kenya for this makes collusion possible. Senior appointments for all positions including that of security agents should therefore reflect the face of face of Kenya.
Electoral violence will not cease if we do not address the main players in the violence; the youth.
It is the youth who are hired for cheap to kill and maim. Instead of urging them to fight opponents or support secession intentions, politicians should be telling them what they will do to ease their misery once in power. Good civic education programmes can play a positive role in terms of getting youth not to be instruments of political terror.
In the long term, educational and economic empowerment will make youth less amenable to misuse by politicians. Likewise, they need to see action taken against those who use looted national resources for political gain.
Meanwhile, those who are expected to serve Kenyans equally (religious organisations, the media, the business community and professional bodies) should be truly non-partisan. Instead of helping the situation, some of them have been active in fueling ethnic hatred as evidenced by the 2005 and 2007 electoral experiences.
More importantly, politicians and other Kenyans must be ready to be “born again” by internalising the right values: patriotism; honesty; issue based as opposed to tribal and personality based politics; and preparedness to accept that one can lose an election without being rigged out.
Why would one want to be a minister of Government or president, if at the same time, they had rather have Kenya dismembered if they are not declared the winner?