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Mr President, ban political gatherings to quell rising tension

By Jacob Oketch | October 8th 2020

The death of two people at Kenol in Murang’a County, in a political confrontation involving opposite camps, has woken Kenyans from a slumber.

We ought to be very afraid when disagreements related to politics degenerates into unnecessary loss of lives. That incident has put into sharp focus the heightened political activities that we have witnessed in recent weeks.

Given that we are almost two years to the general elections, one wonders why politicians have gone on overdrive at a time when the country is grappling with a lot of challenges.

We need to call out this undesirable behaviour by the political class. Matters get complicated when you factor in the situation our country faces with the coronavirus pandemic.

In this regard, all the major political players stand accused. We have witnessed massive political gatherings where attendants do not observe the laid out protocols by the Ministry of Health to contain the pandemic.

It is not so much about the leaders observing the protocols at these gatherings. It is more about the vulnerability of the thousands of wananchi who flock these gatherings. Most of these people do not wear masks because they simply cannot afford them. It means that our leaders are knowingly putting the lives of citizens at risk for the sake of their selfish political ends and this is something that must be condemned by all and sundry.

One only needs to look at what is happening in the US to appreciate the magnitude of the pandemic. The leader of the free world, President Donald Trump consistently dismissed the pandemic as a hoax. He has been holding mammoth rallies with most of his supporters attending without wearing masks or social distancing. Eventually, the virus caught up with him. Even his close aides have also been infected. This should sound a warning to our political leaders that they too can be infected.

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Status quo

These political activities by our leaders two years to an election are dumbfounding. A section of the political class is also claiming to be re-examining the trend of voting with a view to altering the formula.

They also claim to be focusing on changing the political narrative so that more emphasis is put on the poor people.

What confuses me is the fact that this group is part of a government that has plans of how to tackle poverty in the country. What new thing will they come up with that is different from the blueprint of a government that they are shamelessly part of? Why can’t they come up with initiatives such as the proposed start up bill initiated by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja which is up for debate?

Such a structured proposal, a tangible effort by an elected leader is what our country needs. The idea of giving handouts to the young people is not feasible at all because it lacks a structure.

The argument that there are politicians who are sympathetic to the youth’s plight because they assist them to acquire working equipment flies in the face considering that the government has numerous initiatives to address the youth’s problems.

Kenyans deserve better from their government they elected to serve for a period of five years. What emergency has arisen to warrant the heightened political activity that creates political tension among the citizens? What happens to what was laid out as the action plan by the government? Why should Kenyans lose their lives over a contest that is two years away?

The current political activities have partly been occasioned by the implosion in the ruling party, Jubilee. The question a majority of Kenyans are asking is -- should internal squabbles of a party disrupt the smooth flow of life for Kenyans. Why can’t the aggrieved party exhaust the internal party machinery instead of subjecting the country to tensions occasioned by heightened political activity? When we see violence at this early stage, we are inclined to believe that things will just get worse going forward.

Those who witnessed the 2007-2008 political violence know how easy it is to start a conflagration as a result of politics. At a time when Kenyans are stressed up with all manner of things, the fuse that ignites violence can be activated very easily.

Perhaps, it would do us good if the president slapped a ban on political gatherings to ease the imminent tension engulfing some parts of the country. That seems to be the only language that our obstinate political class understands. We cannot afford to court political violence in our midst because it has proved, over the years, to be very costly.

-The writer is the author of Aphorism and poems of Light

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