The August 2017 elections are barely five months away and even before the campaign period is officially declared, the two major protagonists, Jubilee and the National Super Alliance, have stepped up campaigns. The tone, however, is caustic and this being the case this early, there is cause for worry.
In Turkana County recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta was dismissive of Governor Joseph Nanok. He followed this up with another stinging attack on Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho on Monday this week.
The tone of these altercations sets a very bad precedent. At lower levels, exchanges may get ugly, as institutions charged with ensuring decorum prevails in electoral politics have set the bar too low.
Besides decorum, the trend of bitter exchanges may be picked up by other leaders, with disastrous results. This fear is exacerbated by the fact that, with political competition getting hotter, all manner of people are looking to be on the ballot. And despite the demands of Chapter Six of the Kenya Constitution 2010 on Leadership and Integrity, the possibility of individuals who do not meet the threshold of this chapter may be cleared to contest in the forthcoming elections.
Already, several cases have arisen that question the commitment of offices like the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to observing rules of integrity after they cleared individuals of questionable character to vie in the August elections.
Granted, under the law, everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but there are individuals under the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s radar whose clearance to run for leadership posts would be a mockery of integrity.
There is need for the relevant institutions to monitor speech and for politicians, especially at the national level, to set the pace by toning down their statements. The courts would also be well advised to help other institutions in ensuring people with leadership and integrity issues are held accountable.