I fully associate with the position sentiments from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) boss Ezra Chiloba, who alleges that live transmission of last week’s mass protests - and which could be replayed next week - threatened a breach of the peace and could potentially cause fear and despondency.
The reason is simple: given our restive past and watershed moments like the 2007/8 pogrom, in which gangs watching riots on television responded with “spontaneous” attacks of their own, pillaging villages and raping women and children in the Rift Valley, we must be careful about violence on our screens.
That’s the power of television. Without any element of planning, images on television propelled gangs to write one of the darkest chapters of our history.
Last week’s protests, which were reported live by most of the national outlets, have been castigated for exposing the nation to potential harm. After all, the sight of police officers smoking ordinary citizens out of their homes, somewhere in Kibra, then knocking every bone in their body their only “crime” being that they were Kibra dwellers is the sort of irritation that could cause resentment towards police.
In other instances, it was interesting to watch real-time as police officers attacked ordinary citizens without any provocation, instead of protecting them to ensure they enjoy their rights and freedoms. By the same token, we saw “stone democrats” hurl stones from a distance, either targeting police officers or ambushing motorists with the intent of causing actual bodily harm or relieving those individuals of their personal items.
But what was remarkable about the Monday protests were the live images that traced Azimio leaders’ convoy as it snaked its way around the city, ending up at Eastleigh and its environs, after their march to State House was blocked.
I can imagine the panic that must have gripped the officers manning the city thoroughfares as they saw on television—at the same time as everyone else—that the politicians were heading their way.
One assumes it was at that time that the officers received instructions from their bosses on how to handle assembled crowds, which were dismantled as soon as they gathered using a soft but lethal dose of tear-gas.
Then there were the water canons that jetted water from afar, prompting one analyst to wonder if the water could have been used to irrigate the drylands of Kajiado. I think that sort of water could be used to grow chillies for future manufacture of tear gas, given that it contains chemicals whose function is to irritate the skin.
I thought it was curious for DP Riggy G to proceed on to Mombasa, after he had promised he would personally deal with the protesters last Monday and subsequently make his famous tilt of the head, with bared fangs, and ask “those people” to call their troops back to base and save the economy, which reportedly lost Sh2 billion on that very Monday.
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I don’t think that’s a very persuasive proposition, given that the economy is hemorrhaging a similar amount daily, thanks to tumbocrats who steal from public coffers. One might argue that protests are good for the economy if they succeed in scuttling organised goons who rob Kenyans blind in peacetime.
In any case, if the Azimio stick to their original plan of weekly protests, a four-day work week has the potential of shrinking the tax base, which means less money will be stolen, as less will be realised, while promoting better health at family level, as parents will work less.
If it’s any consolation, the rains have come, which could keep the masses off the streets, but there’s no way of telling for how long.