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To avoid the abyss we need to talk about our collective folly

By Prof Makau Mutua | Published Sun, October 8th 2017 at 00:00, Updated October 7th 2017 at 22:49 GMT +3

On December 10, 2007 – International Human Rights Day – I predicted at a public lecture at the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi that Kenya would be engulfed in civil war. My crystal ball had told me that neither ODM’s Raila Odinga, nor PNU’s Mwai Kibaki, would accept the outcome of the presidential election. I argued that PNU would rig it, and insist on a stolen victory, while ODM would blow the whistle on the fraud. I said the ensuing standoff would turn into civil conflict. The media gave me a blackout. Several weeks later, Kenya was eviscerated by genocidal spasms. Ten years later, I have that same sinking feeling. We are about to go off the cliff – again.

The only question that matters now is how we can avoid the abyss. Let me tell you how. We need to stop being polite, or politically correct when we talk about our collective madness. Our leaders must stop lying in broad daylight. They must stop saying one thing, and then doing another. No more grinning. This includes the political class, the clergy, and civil society. We must all call a spade by its name, and not a big spoon. The media must stop being complicit with a nod-and-wink to divisive forces. We need to be intellectually honest and candid. Let’s lance the boil, or sit and wait for it to consume us. Let’s not be sitting ducks bound for the slaughterhouse.

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Fundamental question

First, let’s settle one fundamental question – once and for all. Who owns Kenya? If, as I believe, that Kenya belongs to all of us, then we can’t let it burn. But if, as some political leaders believe, that they own Kenya, then our obligation is to disabuse them of that notion. I say this because Jubilee’s leaders – including the duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto – don’t tire telling us that we are their subjects. They say in every public forum that they will win the fresh election, and rule us, whether we like it or not. The last time I checked, I was a citizen, and not a subject. No leader has a birthright to rule over me.

Second, I am alarmed at our country’s slide into brazen dictatorship. Jubilee is openly, and without apology, out to castrate every independent body in the country. Proposed laws would neuter the IEBC. They would render any fresh election a nullity even before the first ballot is cast. Already, the budgets of the Judiciary and other independent bodies have been cannibalised. The odour you smell is the stench of the one-party state, not the democratic order in the 2010 Constitution. Majority Leader Aden Duale, echoing Kenyatta and Ruto, has indicated that Jubilee will have Chief Justice David Maraga and the Judiciary for lunch after they “win” the fresh election. Even NASA leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula were momentarily stopped from leaving Kenya.

Third, several key Jubilee factotums in the Senate are drunk with power. Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, a junior fellow by every measure, keeps baring his ugly fangs against our Constitution. His equally junior colleague Kithure Kindiki – I am ashamed to say he was once a law professor – sings like Moses, the craven raven in Animal Farm. Prof Kindiki is a latter-day Kariuki Chotara, the late court jester and propagandist. These are enemies of our democracy, and we must openly tell them so to their faces. But the king’s court has only one leader – the King. The court jesters take direction from the king, and not the other way round. That’s why the buck stops at Kenyatta’s oak desk. Fourth, we must call out the likes of David Murathe – my year-mate at the University of Nairobi – who has become the cheerleader of the benevolent muthamaki (king). There’s a picture of Mr Murathe and me in the Nation Media Archives orchestrating a student demonstration against Kanu in May 1981.

How, and why, did Murathe morph into the crude praise singer who would urge Kenyatta to emulate Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, the dictator?  He, and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, effectively believe that only the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin can rule Kenya. There’s no other way to interpret their tribal bile against other Kenyans. Does Kenya belong only to the Kikuyu and Kalenjin? If so, should other groups divorce – secede from – Kenya?

Foreign overlords

Finally, I am ashamed to see that fifty years after independence, the Kenyan political class has to rely on foreign Western ambassadors to knock sense into its collective noggin. Why then did we become independent if we can’t on our own organise a credible election without foreign overlords telling us what to do? Shame. Shame. It’s the responsibility of the one in State House to lead and nurture each and every citizen. Otherwise he should quit.

- Prof Makau is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC.

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