The unprecedented and prolonged media shutdown can only be viewed as a symptom of a regime with a super-thin skin. It has been interesting to observe the official response to a ‘swearing-in’ ceremony that many Jubilee devotees had roundly dismissed as a joke.
Despite the show of bravado by the Interior Cabinet secretary and others, the idea that one man could purport to instal himself as the ‘president of the people’ lodged itself in the throat of the ruling elite, causing it to sputter in rage, then explode in self-righteous indignation.
It only made matters worse that people turned up in droves to legitimise the ‘swearing-in’. Those people – and possibly millions of others - now recognise Raila Odinga as their parental authority and are likely to look to him for direction.
So, while the dynamic duo may have won the election, by the look of things they are losing the battle for hearts and minds. At this rate, it will take some kind of magic trick to unite a country that remains stubbornly divided.
You would imagine that the current leadership would adopt a more conciliatory tone but instead it has shown that it has no stomach for dissent. The emotional response to the National Super Alliance’s 10-minute ‘swearing-in’ event raises serious questions about Jubilee’s self-confidence. Leaders who are democratically elected should not feel the need to remind the electorate that they are in power. That power should be self-evident.
When they attempt to obliterate a free press, and then use the instruments of the State to terrorise so-called dissident, one can only conclude that they are not sitting comfortably. That there is trouble in paradise.
Many have argued that the office of the presidency is under siege and on the face of it there is some truth to this argument. Elements in the National Super Alliance promised to make the country ungovernable, and for all intents and purposes they are making good their promise. But by taking such grandiose and damaging steps to quell the Opposition – and the free press by association – elements in government have made it that much easier to sow seeds of discord.
To respond to dissent by brazenly ignoring court orders, outlawing resistance movements, and treating the Constitution like a glorified meat wrapper is to expose a deep-seated insecurity that can only be cured by introspection. Lashing out in anger, misplaced entitlement, and unbridled arrogance are not a remedy for internal struggle. If the root causes remain unaddressed, the high-level struggle for legitimacy will continue unabated, and the people on the receiving end will only become stronger in their resolve to resist.
After years of struggle to achieve a functioning democracy and a Constitution that guarantees the rights of every Kenyan, it is disheartening to see how quickly such hard-fought gains can be rolled back. I see nothing benevolent about this current dictatorship.
There is nothing benevolent about using brutal force to legitimise a government that a large proportion of the populace refuses to recognise. This media shutdown fiasco is a sure indicator that power shall be guarded by any means necessary.
In these uncertain times every citizen must be vigilant. Once rights are taken away they will not be easily returned. From here on it will be an uphill task to regain the ground that we should have jealously protected in the first place. Kenyans must remember that a free press is the bastion of every democracy and, therefore, restoring NTV, Citizen, and KTN News must be the first order of business.
To say that the media are complicit in their own demise is to miss the point altogether. Flawed or not, the ladies and gentlemen of the press play a key role in bringing to light what many in government would like to stay in the shadows.
It is folly to sit back and watch as the amplifier of every Kenyan voice is silenced. And ridiculously myopic to imagine that the fourth estate will be the only victim of a budding dictatorship. It is merely the first domino to fall in a long line of freedoms.
Given the Government’s blatant disregard for the court orders to reinstate media frequencies – and the radio silence from a Chief Justice who once seemed to have the courage of 10 men - it is easy to predict that the Judiciary will be next in the line of fire. Things would then begin to look very bad, very fast.
To quote the Washington Post’s new tagline, ‘democracy dies in darkness’. Don’t say that you were not warned.
Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa