Yes, elections should not be a matter of life and death


A policeman keeps an eye on voters at Karuri primary school during the just concluded Kiambaa by-election.[George Njunge,Standard]

The by-elections in Kiambaa Constituency and Muguga Ward in Kiambu County have held Kenyans’ political imagination hostage for the past few months. They were billed as a titanic battle of wits between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his erstwhile political buddy Deputy President William Ruto. They were even more significant because they were in President Kenyatta’s political backyard.

The high-stakes political contest was also just 13 months away from next year’s General Election. It was no wonder then that the president’s high-powered team conducted a well-oiled campaign for the two seats, while the DP’s new outfit touted the contest as a do-or-die affair. Indeed, both camps claimed the outcome would demonstrate who the political lion in Mt Kenya region is.

For a few months, Kiambaa and Muguga residents were treated to entertaining displays of the parties’ colours, music and sloganeering as the camps wooed voters. The campaigns were ecstatic and largely peaceful where opposing camps encountered each other on the road, without ugly scenes reported.

And when the dust settled yesterday, Ruto’s UDA candidate won in Kiambaa, while Uhuru’s Jubilee man clinched Muguga Ward seat. The difference in votes was as little as 510 in Kiambaa Constituency and 27 in Muguga Ward. Democracy triumphed, and the people’s voice has been heard through the ballot box.

However, a dangerous trend was noted on social media, where several leaders posted numerous unverified claims. While propaganda is expected in political contests, issuing alarming claims complete with pictures, could incite voters against each other or against election officials.

Several leaders and known personalities posted allegations of planned rigging, bribery and intimidation of voters ahead of the by-elections. The IEBC and law enforcement agencies should not sweep these claims under the carpet, especially as we head toward next year’s General Election.

Election offenders must be called out and punished heavily before the upcoming electioneering period. Incitement and unsubstantiated claims can trigger pre or post-election violence. And with the advent of social media platforms, it is easy for reckless persons to incite the masses.

Finally, all Kenyans must be aware of fake news and claims meant to inflame passions or hatred during campaigns. No Kenyan deserves to die or get maimed due to political competition.

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