The election tallying fiasco at Bomas of Kenya last year is now turning to gaslighting. I am not sure who between the government and the opposition is gaslighting the other.
Gaslighting is a manipulative behaviour in which an offender makes the victim doubt self. The aim is to push the victim to own up as the real aggressor. An example of a gaslighting process is DARVO which stands for deny, attack, reverse the place of the victim and offender. Although this is mostly used in interpersonal abuses including the ones of sexual nature, gaslighting can be seen in the Kenya political narratives of ‘victimhood’ in last year’s presidential election outcome.
The Supreme Court’s dropping of the name of God into its ruling did not help matters. It introduced a faith dimension that, if followed to its logical conclusion in the context it was uttered, it sounds exceptionally irrational. So now, calls for the formation of a commission of inquiry are making the public begin to wonder who actually is aggrieved in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The first concern in the direction the call for examining the circumstances the Bomas declaration of final presidential results was made, touches on who stands to gain from the inquiry. Of course, we the public know very little of what was going on in the background. Now, the revelations are dripping in little by little.
The claims so far made on attempts to manipulate the results actually suggest that the whole process could not have produced a fair and credible outcome. So, if what has been said in public is trusted, will the proposed commission of inquiry nullify the presidential election results if evidence cast doubt on the process?
The second concern follows from the first. If the purpose of the proposed commission is to investigate whether the process was free, fair and credible, what does the said goal of “ … that Kenyans know the truth …” mean? Doesn’t the statement already suggest that the parties aggrieved know ‘the truth’? Why spend resources on a matter that seems to be fait accompli? In a way, if the ‘truth’ emerges, then it ‘must uphold’ the Supreme Court ruling or else we might have reason to doubt the authenticity of the ruling.
Third, the desire to form the commission is loud and clear. It will be unfortunate to call it off on fears it might touch on the validity of the presidential outcome. This means whoever is calling for it should find in himself or herself courage to be unmasked as a perpetrator should the evidence lead in that direction. It is not uncommon that political actors cry victims when in fact they are the perpetrators.
Fourth, as I have argued before in this column, there is very little truth in Kenyan politics. It is unfortunate, I should say, that the 2027 politics are already underway. Political rewarding of those who are considered loyal at the expense of those who merit show that political righteousness means nothing in Kenya. How then do we chase truth in the Bomas fiasco when there is no political morality in our debates and in the way governments are formed across the counties?
This brings me to my final point. Beyond words, the deeper message in the call for the commission is to embarrass political opponents as a strategy obviously to gain political mileage but, most importantly, cleanse the ghosts of whatever happened at Bomas. Well, politics is about holding on to power. However, democracy embeds fairness, credibility and above all freedom to actively participate in civic duty.
The usefulness of the proposed commission of inquiry will be determined by the terms of reference. If the terms will not mention anything to do with examining the extent to which the presidential election tallying process was free, fair and credible with a clear consequence of nullifying the outcome it is not worthy it.
Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication