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Guard against inflaming peoples passions

By Alexander Chagema | March 17th 2016

Elections in Kenya and Africa as a whole are a matter of life and death. The elections period forms part of a circle that recurs every five years, or whenever circumstances force by-elections.

It is during such periods that politicians give promises they have no wherewithal or conviction to execute.

For the common man whose nemesis has been to endure hardship for the previous five years, it is payback time; no matter how meagre the returns are. Voters try to squeeze as much money as they can from those who come seeking votes. The zealots among them will do anything to ensure a candidate of their choice wins. The methods used are not always legit, but who cares if the desired end is attained?

The two by-elections that were injudiciously occasioned by the Jubilee administration in Malindi constituency and Kericho County clearly demonstrate the precarious situation Kenya finds itself in. Political chasms are growing wider by the day and the danger is that they keep nudging the tribal monster which successive governments have been unwilling to deal with beyond the now stale rhetoric of fighting tribalism.


But In as much as we keep shouting about ending tribalism, tribe is a factor that cannot be easily divorced from Africa's body politick. Political parties form part of tribal enclaves. That is why we keep talking about the Kikuyu and Luo in Kenya, the Dinka and Nuer in South Sudan, the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, the Hausa and Ibo in Nigeria, to name but a few. Riding on the back of tribalism is religious affiliation, often categorised as Christianity and Islam; the two dominant religions some of whose followers are increasingly at each other's throat.

Kenya's ignominy from the shambolic 2007 elections is well documented. Africa's youngest nation, South Sudan, is bearing the brunt of leadership wrangles that elections did not solve. The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced violence recently over election issues, so did Burundi, Uganda and Burkina Faso.

The political turbulence these countries experience is a creation of those in authority who, by hook or crook, feel obliged to extend their rule even when their usefulness is well beyond the sell-by-date. After following the pre and post March 7, 2016 Kericho and Malindi by elections events, am forcefully reminded of Judge Johann Krieglar who, while investigating the 2008 post-election violence warned that unless our electoral rules are streamlined and the playing ground levelled, future elections might be a tad more explosive.

A few individuals in positions of influence are exhibiting attitudes that could precipitate trouble and lead us into unfamiliar situations. The coast region, for instance, is unique. Apart from being multi-religious, it is cosmopolitan, is home to suspected vicious drug baron's; it is susceptible to Al Shabaab militants' exploits, boasts the highest number of indoctrinated youths and is home to the proscribed Mombasa Republican Army.

When leaders create disharmony and uncertainty as the Coast regional commissioner Nelson Marwa and Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Joseph Nkaiserry are wont to do, there is no knowing who could take advantage to cause mayhem.

In as much as there was no prior notice or warning, the timing by the government to withdraw the security details of only opposition leaders at the coast is suspect. Matters are not helped by conflicting statements from police headquarters, the coast region commissioner's office and the Internal Security ministry. From unverifiable doubts expressed over his academic credentials, the closure of his godowns at the port of Mombasa, the abrupt withdrawal of all his bodyguards, demands to surrender his licensed gun, to the declaration that Governor Joho's 'state of mind' made it dangerous for him to walk around with a gun, it is easy to conclude Mr Joho is a victim of political machinations.

The legality of the existence of Regional Commissioners is a subject under discussion as it was once challenged on the premise that the position is not upheld by the Kenya constitution 2010. On that basis, Mr Marwa, an otherwise abrasive man not duly concerned with the sensibilities of those around him should exercise restraint. Rubbing everybody else around him the wrong way and taking to lone ranger tactics could be his major undoing. He cannot operate in a vacuum and therefore needs the support of other leaders to succeed in his endeavours.

Internal security Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaiserry, from where I sit, is not an accomplished manager. Perhaps this derives from his military training which demands mechanical loyalty even when there is no justification for it. It is out of this subservience that soldiers are called disciplined forces. In the real world, things don't work like that; people can always demonstrate, invoke their tribe, political affiliations or run to court and there are no disciplined civilians, much less politicians. And yes, Mr Nkaiserry, we can dare the government if it errors because we are the government. There is no table that stands without the props.

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