The wounds inflicted by the 2007/8 post-election violence are far from healing. The chaos, sparked by the opposition’s claim that its victory had been snatched by the ruling coalition, left more than 1,100 people dead, many injured, uprooted 600,000 from their homes and deeply divided the country.
After the painful spell, the country picked up the pieces, but again the ghosts of ethnic division, violence and destruction was stirred by the 2017 presidential election. Again, the opposition alleged the election was rigged in favour of the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The stand-off once again caused deaths and displacement but on a lower scale.
Importantly, after that election President Uhuru Kenyatta and his bitter rival Raila Odinga surprised the nation when they came together on March 9, 2018 and made public their now popular “handshake”. They declared that political contestation would never breed arnarchy in the country again. That handshake gave birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
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BBI’s nine-point agenda was meant to end Kenya’s five-year curse including ending ethnic antagonism, promoting inclusivity and thereby minimising division that crop up during elections.
And while the contents of the much-hyped BBI report are yet to be made public, we expect Kenyans, particularly members of Jubilee Party and Orange Democratic Party (ODM), to respect their leaders’ and Kenyans’ aspirations.
Unfortunately, they do not seem ready to do this, if the lead up to next month’s Kibra by-election is anything to go by. Last Saturday, McDonald Mariga- the Jubilee candidate’s-campaign convoy was attacked. One vehicle was set on fire.
Following the incident, Jubilee and ODM leaders have been accusing each other of orchestrating the attack.
While it is still unclear which side should be blamed for the violence, it is clear the handshake has done little to lift the cloud of suscipicion that breeds bad blood during elections.
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By engaging in combative politics, those who sponsered the Kibra violence have showed contempt to their party leaders and what they stand for. Even as police carry out investigations, it is time the two leaders read their foot soldiers the riot act. Jubilee and ODM leaders should take the handshake seriously, if they expect the rest of Kenyans to do the same. Lighting fires in Kibra, despite the danger of sparking a conflagration, sets a very bad example.