Exhortations by the diplomatic corps to maintain peace during and after the August 8 general elections simply serve to reinforce what every Kenyan should be preaching. Times without number, this newspaper has reminded Kenyans of the ignominy of the post 2007 election violence in which 1300 died, over 600000 got displaced as property worth millions of shillings was destroyed, and why peace is a prerequisite for our continued co-existence.
On Tuesday, our democracy will be put to test when Kenyans queue to elect their leaders. The run-up to these elections has been tense. Accusations have been traded between the opposition and the ruling Jubilee. Caught in the middle has been the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). But despite the pressure, IEBC has shown a commitment to conduct elections that are free, fair and credible.
However, the murder of IEBC’s ICT manager Chris Msando early this week has given rise to speculation detrimental to the conduct of free and fair elections. The murder, among other concerns, must have informed the decision by foreign envoys to call for peace. Ensuring peace prevails is the sole responsibility of every Kenyan, but leaders must champion it, for it is the same leaders who, through unfortunate utterances, have created anxiety among Kenyans.
Crucial to that peace and elections is the guarantee of freedom for both the media and the public. There have been attempts to muzzle the media by barring it from doing what it has done over the years during election time without occasioning distress. Having drawn lessons from the violence witnessed in 2007/2008, the government has every right to be proactive in providing security.
But there is a thin line between maintaining peace during elections and using the country’s security services to intimidate as has been claimed in some quarters. The police must conduct themselves in a manner that is not seen as aggressive.
Heavy presence of security personnel has an inhibitive effect on law abiding citizens, and this has the potential of causing voter apathy. It is therefore imperative that caution be exercised in order not to jeopardise the whole election exercise.