Our political vocabulary is full of verbal violence due to greed

The intolerance of dissent is itself violence. [iStockphoto]

There is too much violence in our politics. I do not mean physical violence. I refer to the vocabulary of our politics. It is violent.

The aims of our political leaders are violent. Their aims, short-term or middle-term, do not appear to be the well-being of all Kenyans. Their aims are not eradication of poverty, ignorance and ill-health.

The continued presence of these pestilences, especially by reason of deliberate neglect or as punishment of certain people and areas, is violence of the worst sort.

The principal aims of our political leaders since the first political assassination in February 1965, has been in another area of eradication: the eradication of dissent. The intolerance of dissent is itself violence.

In that process they move to punish dissent and reward sycophancy. These are violence in themselves. The means by which our first two regimes did this are yet more forms of violence - assassinations, detentions, fixed criminal trials, exile, police brutality, judicial compliance, abolishing the secret ballot, media control, university subservience, abolition of the tenure of judges, the attorney-general and the auditor-general, the infliction of subservience on the public service. Each of these was violence against Kenyans and against their institutions.

Our leaders' most urgent aim appears to be to enrich themselves. Therefore, their most urgent action in office is corruption. Corruption's damaging effects are so widespread and long-lasting, that poverty, ill-health and ignorance have been haunting and assaulting us for 60 years of independence. Every Kenyan agree that corruption in politics is the biggest violence against us.

The voluble assistant of corruption is the violence of this vocabulary of our politics - threats, warnings, glowering phrases such as "the full force of the law", "no stone unturned to punish", "we can close you down", "we won't give you advertisements", and, still fresh in our minds, the more recent three unappealing choices of departure received by the abductee.

It can be noticed, the worse that corruption gets, the more violent the words of the politicians get. The first 40 years of this bad mixture, however, generated a paradox. It was this: our silence in the face of this continuous violence became violence against ourselves because our silence further emboldened the politicians and perpetrators of these wrongs. After a while we also ignored such 'warnings'.

Our silence and disobedience then emphasized the prevailing dissent. The effect of that, together with the fear in all authoritarian regimes, that the dissent was getting larger without their knowledge, made them feel out of control.

They turned to other means of ensuring obedience to their policies, silence on their personal enrichment, and their demand of an undeserved 'respect'. They turned to ever-increasing coercive methods, choosing to replace the consent of the governed with fear in the governed. They organised squads directed against fellow citizens to ensure obedience. Wole Soyinka, freedom fighter, renowned writer, and Nobel Peace Laureate (1986), calls such a country 'the furtive, quasi-state'. In the BBC Reith Lectures (2014), this, he says, is what happens:

"... the real state, [despite being constitutionally elected], through its renegade choices, also conducts its affairs through the quasi-state, ... Allied with an agency of terror that derives from its own formal powers and enjoys its connivance, it sports Janus-like, two faces, denying its furtive ally any formal recognition, but empowering it at the same time. This was a common strategy [in the past] when one axis created its own secretive terror machine, launched it as a virtually autonomous arm of state policy, but studiously cultivated a distancing from its existence and operations."

- Wole Soyinka CLIMATE OF FEAR (London, Profile Books, 2004)

And indeed, this is what happened in Kenya; and it took 24 years and many deaths and suffering to remove all this through the Second Liberation.

To ensure this does not return, our demand now is removal of these bad manners, of this dangerous and unconstitutional political vocabulary of violence.

If we do not check this verbal violence, we must expect the return of special police units, of specially designed torture chambers in Nyayo House, increased police brutality, and disappearances. To do that, they might then need assistance from Argentina. Or is it from Venezuela? Again??

-The writer is senior counsel