As campaigns go to the home stretch ahead of Tuesday’s polls, politicians must take a stronger stand against violence. Regrettably candidates have largely left it to civil society organisations and other stakeholders to carry the message of peace.
Although the two main presidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, have called for a peaceful electoral process, they need to go further and encourage their supporters to calmly accept the outcome of the poll with the understanding that grievances — if they emerge — can be handled by the courts. In the absence of this assurance, the underlying message will be that violence could be an option if the credibility of the electoral process is in doubt.
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The palpable tension before Tuesday’s elections is cause for concern. The exodus of voters from major urban centres — particularly Nairobi — because of fear of violence is unfortunate. Not only will these Kenyans lose an opportunity to fulfil their civic duty to vote, they will also be denying themselves an opportunity to elect leaders who can best serve them.
These constituents should remain in the towns where they work and vote for candidates who can help transform their lives.
The police have already given an assurance that they will provide security to all Kenyans and ensure that the voting process is not disrupted. Let us accept their assurance and refused to be swayed by statements of individuals painting doomsday scenarios. But even as we prepare to vote, authorities must continuously hold politicians involved in violent activities to account.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has already found eight politicians culpable and fined them for their transgressions. But we may have to go a step further and disqualify politicians who want to stop Kenyans from exercising their right to vote. In this way, we will be sending a strong message that those who want to disrupt the peace will face severe consequences.