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Rule of law binds us all, respect is key

By The Standard | Published Thu, February 8th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 7th 2018 at 23:26 GMT +3
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga gestures during a swearing-in ceremony as the president of the People’s Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya January 30, 2018. [Photo/File]

It has been more than one week of high drama. It all started with the ‘swearing-in’ of Raila Odinga as the ‘people’s president’ on January 30 an act of defiance by an Opposition that refuses to recognise the legitimacy of President Uhuru Kenyatta. In the run up to the August 8, 2017 General Elections, the atmosphere was charged with optimism, each side of the political divide confident it was better placed to win in the ensuing political contest.

When the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced the presidential election results, the Opposition rejected the results, citing electoral irregularities. Jubilee’s win was short-lived after the Supreme Court annulled the results and called for fresh elections on October 26. In a fit of anger, (almost similar to what we are seeing now) the Jubilee hierarchy, right from the presidency, adopted a scorched earth policy and even vowed “to fix” the Judiciary for making the ruling.

Meanwhile, the Opposition National Super Alliance declared it would not participate in the fresh elections on the grounds that IEBC was compromised and that there was need to reset the rules of engagement. The IEBC and Jubilee did not yield to those demands. NASA’s boycott, however, did not stop the repeat elections in which, unchallenged, Mr Kenyatta easily romped home.

While the Opposition has insisted that electoral injustice was committed from the word go, Jubilee declares it won in a fair contest. Reconciling the two sides has been an arduous task. While dialogue could easily resolve some of the sticky issues - because frankly speaking, only a political settlement will suffice- it has not materialised because of the mutual suspicion between NASA and Jubilee.

Determined to prove a point and to put pressure on the government, NASA at some point floated the idea of secession and called on its supporters to boycott certain commodities and products. That had little or no impact, perhaps giving rise to the idea of a ‘people’s president’ that sparked further debate and acrimony. Swiftly, the government even warned that any other person taking the presidential oath would be committing a treasonable act.

When NASA swore in Raila, the Jubilee-led government decided it was time to take off the gloves. Fearful that a televised swearing-in would fragment the country further, media houses were cautioned against broadcasting live the event, but when they ignored that edict, secure in the knowledge the Constitution guaranteed media freedom, the Executive switched off KTN News, NTV and Citizen TV for six days.

Thereafter a ruthless crackdown on those who administered the oath started. Ruaraka MP Moses Kajwang’ was the first casualty. Taken to court and charged for administering the oath, Mr Kajwang’ was later released on a Sh50,000 bond and almost immediately, Miguna Miguna was arrested for a similar offence. Yet it is the circumstances surrounding the arrest, detention and deportation of Miguna Miguna that have raised a lot of questions. Most significantly, about the respect for law and order especially by those in authority.

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Mr Miguna, the self-proclaimed general of the outlawed National Resistance Movement (NRM) was arrested in a raid by men suspected to be police officers on Friday last week. Though his lawyers applied successfully for his release on bail, police authorities presumably with instructions from the Ministry of Interior contemptuously ignored the court order and held him incommunicado and later deported him to Canada on Tuesday night.

It is becoming apparent that the Citizenship and Immigration Act, Section 31 (1) (2) which has been quoted as the basis of the said deportation does not exist in the Statutes. So who procured this law and from where?

All democratic societies – Kenya included- play by certain rules that help create general order. When those laws are abused for short-term political expediency, there is risk of the country disintegrating. It is tempting to conclude that such wanton disregard of the law is meant to corrode the status of the Judiciary.

Together with the media, the Judiciary has been the bulwark against an overbearing Executive and a watchdog against a kleptomaniac Parliament.

Commendably, the Judiciary and the Fourth Estate have stood up against roguish politicians and power-drunk bureaucrats keen on bending the arc of history toward lawlessness, intolerance and injustice. Because both institutions solemnly acknowledge that the respect for the rule of law binds us all, it is not optional.

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