Impunity: Salasya's slap ranks very low among political crimes

The nation was recently irked after a footage emerged of Mumias East MP  Peter Salasya attacking an MCA at a funeral in his constituency. The brazen daytime attack has shocked the nation with many calling for serious legal sanctions.

Going by previous physical attacks by politicians, this infraction is actually minor. There are cases of politicians accused of murder walking scot-free.

It is emerging that violence has become standard practice in politics. The 2008 post-election violence appears to have heralded an era of political violence in the country.

Contrary to the cosmetics surrounding the launch of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, political violence is now an entrenched part of our body politic.

It is not a secret that youth mobilised during the post-election violence were merely put on recess and not permanently dismissed. These groups are seasonally deployed by politicians against perceived rivals.

It is well known that foot soldiers in the 2008 post-election violence were facilitated to join the informal sector.

Many joined the ranks of hawkers, matatu touts or as gatekeepers in various sectors like quarrying, construction and informal security services.

Many are suspected of involvement in criminal gangs which terrorise residents periodically.

It is noteworthy that during the electoral season when the groups are fully engaged in political campaigns, we rarely have incidents of indiscriminate criminal attacks on citizens.

Kenyans have normalised the use of violence in politics. Whereas violence attracts censure elsewhere, politicians proudly walk free after orchestrating violent acts. Not one politician was held to account for the violence after the 2008 elections.

Politicians, it seems, are immune from legal sanction. Despite the enactment of Chapter Six on Leadership and Integrity, politicians continue to transgress the law.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission established to uphold integrity in the public service and State institutions, appears to have surrendered.

While civil servants are terrified by the Code of Regulations, there is no forum for disciplining errant politicians.

Previously, chiefs and other administrators could cane or mishandle citizens but after the enactment of the Constitution, these acts have diminished because of faithful application of the law in this regard.

It is left to voters to punish perceived excesses of politicians in the next election cycle. Even the clearance process for prospective political candidates by the EACC is a mere formality.

Many politicians deemed to have gone against Chapter Six on Leadership and Integrity are routinely cleared to contest. In reality, there is no credible vetting done by the EACC.

The courts have also watered down the provisions of Chapter Six by introducing a rider that only those convicted of offence and have exhausted all appeals are barred from public office.

While this safeguards individual interests, it has the effect of neutering the requirements of Chapter Six.

The net effect of failing to enforce Chapter Six on politicians is the promotion of thuggery as a political strategy. Not only have thugs become a part of our political culture but they are now successfully running for office.

The business of our county assemblies across the counties is often decided through intensive boxing matches by rival camps. At this level of government, the unstated qualification for office appears to be ability to brawl endlessly. The net result is; county assemblies have woefully failed to oversight the operations of devolved governments.

The calibre of leaders elected in the county assemblies and increasingly in the national assembly is wanting. As more and more thuggish characters take the centre-stage in politics, progressive voices are pushed away.

Professionals, civil society leaders and others who can make critical contributions in the advancement of our society are increasingly sidelined from the political process. It is the input of thought leaders from various sectors that birthed the new Constitution.

However, the implementation is increasingly left to thoughtless characters without a care for values, norms and laws. Our aspirations to be the Singapore of Africa cannot be realised by low-calibre leaders pandering to thuggery.

Voters often have no real choice except to choose the perceived lesser evil. Even the major political coalitions are guilty of aiding and abetting political thuggery by turning a blind eye on transgressions by members.

On the contrary, violent persons are lionised and given a platform. This has led to voter apathy with many choosing to stay away.

The last two presidential elections were decided by razor thin margins with the annulled 2017 presidential vote determined by a few thousand votes.

It is easier to manufacture victory when margins are small. Hence, keeping voter turnout low through acts of lawlessness and threats, shutting out alternative views is popular with thuggish contestants.

It is high time we rallied the country to weed out thuggery in politics. Adherence to Chapter Six in spirit and deed is the best way forward.