Government is creating fear as a tool for governance

Monday this week, the usual TV ‘culprits’ that irritate President Uhuru Kenyatta were at it again, this time debating whether Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi had distinguished himself in that docket or not.

As usual, they were divided down the middle. In particular, one of the panellists was categorical that the minister had failed.

Sealing loopholes on exam leaks is not a measure of success, because exams are a very tiny area of education, an analyst argued. Indeed, by factoring in the ongoing lecturers’ strike, persistent university closures following student riots and disruptions, repeated industrial action by teachers, rampant indiscipline cases in schools, one understands the basis for the analyst’s deduction.

Double role

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Add to that Matiangi’s recent directive that secondary and primary schools sharing a boundary should have one headmaster and two deputies and you wonder who he consults before giving edicts.

Did he consider all the political and social-economic angles? What if there are schools sharing boundaries yet fall in different political jurisdictions (counties)? Did he consider the inherent labour violations that could become actionable?

As a Cabinet Secretary, Matiang’i wears two hats: Education and Internal Security. He has gone mute in the second docket. After the press conference he gave in defence of the police who were accused of brutality after the August 8 General Election - where he termed pictures of people shot by the police circulating on social media as photoshops -, he might have come to the realisation that he is not cut out for the deceit and rough tackles in a docket where dealing in death is part of the game.

Unobtrusively, Matiang’i has taken a back seat. He has not come out publicly to speak or defend the police again. But since police officers needed encouragement, the President himself was there to give it.

To the police, the President sent the message: “I wish to commend all officers for their selfless dedication to duty that saw the National Police Service with the support of other national security agencies cover the 2017 electoral process effectively and in accordance with the law”. From a detached perspective, the message shouldn’t have drawn attention.

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However, those who wake up to the sight of graves in their homesteads; graves whose occupants succumbed to police bullets and batons, that message pokes and adds salt to their wounds. The dead were denied their basic human rights, among them the right to life, the freedom of association, assembly and right to picket. The Government, through police brutality, has succeeded in creating fear and loathing among a section of the society.

And as Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese politician cum author once opined, “in a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure”. Secession talks are based on the fear of marginalisation. It is doubtful that post-election, the Government will give equal attention to Luo Nyanza, particularly given that these areas have declined to recognise Kenyatta’s presidency. If anything, they did not participate in the October 26 presidential election. 

There are those who caution against secession and the swearing in of Raila Odinga as the Peoples President on December 12. These individuals are also guided by fear. Out of fear, they must speak the master’s language and dance to his tune to demonstrate loyalty. Many do so out of fear of missing government appointments. Some will do so for fear of losing lucrative Government tenders. They will do so out of fear that keeping quiet would be seen as expressing sympathy for the opposition.

Worst fear

Suu Kyi argues that “the most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery, courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilised man”.

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More poignantly, Kyi states that it is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. By creating fear, writer Gore Vidal says, the ruling class has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

cs fred matiangipresident uhuru kenyatta