Why Kenyans are divided over meaning of Linturi’s madoadoa

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi at Nakuru court on January 11, 2022. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

As long as we suffer selective amnesia, evident in our political intolerance and fights, the August 2022 elections will ground Kenya. The best ways of defusing political prize fights are tolerating each others’ political opinions, agreeing to disagree cordially, and depoliticising crime when committed within our camps.

Speaking on the transfiguration of evil, Fr Dwight Longenecker, an American priest and author of the book Listen, My Son, which is dedicated to modern parenting, posits that, “First we overlook evil. Then we permit evil. Then we legalise evil. Then we promote evil. Then we celebrate evil. Then we persecute those who still call it evil.” This behavioural pattern is evidently present in our politics every other time. Don’t we promote political evil when we defend our allies for the sake of it, even when we know they are wrong?

Mithika Linturi, the Senator for Meru County, spent part of this week in police custody over utterances that were perceived as incitement to violence. A Nakuru court released him later on a Sh5 million bond or a cash bail of Sh2 million. We leave it to the court determine whether he is guilty or not.

However, Kenyans seem to have already decided on the matter. The utterances split Kenyans on social media down the middle. Those on the side of Deputy President William Ruto were fast to interpret Linturi’s remarks. They argued that he didn’t mean what he said. Their averred that the senator used ‘madoadoa’ in the context of politicians, not wananchi.

On the other side, the Hustler nation’s nemeses interpreted the utterances differently. But they also allotted borderline meanings with absolute conclusions. They assigned, with utmost exaggeration, a lot of words in Linturi’s mouth just because he belonged to an opposing political camp.

Either way, it is not that Kenyans are slow in understanding. If Linturi had said the same while on the opposite political affiliation, those defending him could have still tarnished, twisted and exaggerated his remarks to their advantage.

On the other hand, those who attacked his remarks could have found ways of protecting him. Either way, our politicians’ goose is cooked! But do they learn?

From Fr Dwight Longenecker’s assertion, we are in the stage of selectively celebrating evil. We condemn the Directorate of Criminal Investigations whenever they start to investigate our political affiliates.

If we can learn to call out everyone who engages in careless talk irrespective of their political affiliation, all our politicians will mature up. But, when we politicise crime, it becomes harder for the security agencies to prosecute wrongdoings. That’s how anarchies are birthed.

The same week, Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka was arrested, also accused of making inflammatory utterances.

Early last year when MPs Simba Arati and Sylvanus Osoro fought at a funeral in Kisii in front of Raila Odinga and William Ruto, we cheered them on.

The battle became a binary opposition: A section of Kenyans celebrating Osoro while the other hailing Arati. This way, we planted a seed, and it’s the principle of nature that seeds must germinate, grow, and bear fruit once planted.

Two days to the close of 2021, honourable MPs openly brawled on the floor of the house. It was dishonourable! Unbelievably, the political divisions in the National Assembly were also reflected among ordinary Kenyans. We have normalised tarnishing our opponents when they do well.

Don’t vilify good when it comes from our competitors, while hailing evil from our political ‘gods’? As long as we repay good with evil, Proverbs teach us that evil will never leave our country. That’s why our political fights should be ideological and not physical.

Dr Ndonye is a lecturer of communication and media. @Dr_Mndonye