Elections always stoke up immense passion and divisions especially when they are bitterly contested.
Even mature and well-developed democracies like the US come under severe strain when faced with an election in which so much is at stake. We saw that in the just concluded polls where Donald Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton.
But, however much divisive elections are, mature democracies always maintain unity and citizens demonstrate high-level of patriotism regardless of political inclination. There are no deadly sectarian conflicts. No lives are lost and no property is destroyed. Isolated, if any, cases of violence are witnessed. People just let their vote speak loudly but peacefully at the ballot.
And when people protest against the outcome, they do so in a dignified manner, as they did in the US, and the message of discontent and disenchantment is still communicated effectively.
There are, therefore, valuable lessons from last week’s US polls bearing in mind that our General Election is nine months away. In the US, rallies were never disrupted even though the ideological divide between Trump and Clinton was worlds apart.
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We too are capable of conducting our campaigns in a way that does not compromise our harmony and tranquility, our differences notwithstanding. As Kenyans, we can join hands and banish the spectre of violence that usually characterises our campaigns. It is still fresh in our minds that the worst moment for this country happened after the 2007 elections.
It is worrying then that people who feel they are likely to lose their seats are beginning to foment chaos out of frustration. Such people must be shown that they are a tiny minority as an overwhelming majority of Kenyans are in the peaceful camp.
Let us draw a red line in the sand where candidates cannot cross, and when they do we raise the alarm. The ultimate aim of the peddlers of mayhem is to intimidate their opponents and scare away voters during elections. This is a travesty of democracy.
We can stop these merchants of violence from inciting us against other communities. We can loudly tell them ‘NO’ when they tell us to disrupt an opponent’s rally. Let us differ on ideas but do so in a civilised manner. Those who hold different political views are not our enemies but our competitors in terms of ideology.
This is what democracy is all about. Elections, which are the hallmarks of a vibrant democracy, are meant to unify and strengthen, not tear apart, a country.
The youth have been particularly at the centre of the chaos, bearing the brunt of all its unfolding ugliness. Invariably, they are misused as combatants during the campaigns and elections. This is highly reprehensible and regrettable as young people represent the future pillars of this country.
Politics is not a contest of who can hire more goons but an honourable competition to determine who has better ideas on how to take this country forward. Campaigns and elections should be about manifestoes, policies and visions.
Democracy prevails when elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere while violence disenfranchises many.
When Jubilee came to power, it promised to unite all Kenyans to avoid the kind of mayhem, destruction and loss of lives witnessed after the 2007 polls.
The government will therefore not shirk its cardinal role but do its best to guarantee the safety of all Kenyans and their property as campaigns hot up. Those out to breach peace with reckless actions and sentiments will face the full force of the law.
But we have to work together. We all have a duty to reject those who are out to drive a wedge between us. We must never forget that Kenya is greater than any politician, party or ideology.
However bruising the political contest, we have to know that we still need a peaceful home for ourselves and especially for our children once the campaign and election dust has settled.