We cannot progress when leaders constantly put citizens on warpath

Anti-riot police officers roughup one of the Azimio la Umoja supporters during anti-government protests in Kisumu. [Standard]

There exist some choice words that have for years been used, misused and abused in Kenya by ordinary wananchi as well as opinion leaders and politicians. Democracy and human rights are terms that seem to mean different things to different political players, ordinary citizens, human rights activists, disciplined forces and even the revered clergy.

Without reference to the drafters of the 2010 Constitution, we use these words selectively, as and when it suits our interests. Some of us understand democracy as a ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’ as espoused by former US President Abraham Lincoln.

More so, IEBC tells us that in a democratic presidential election, a winner is declared when he/she garners 50 per cent plus one of the total votes cast. But if I may ask, is our definition of democracy within the realms of West European nations, or this is it our domesticated ideal, a unique Kenyan mongrel?

Do democratic or human rights ideals mean the same thing to a protestor pelting police with stones during demonstrations and a policeman going about his daily duty of securing law and order, protecting lives and property? Mahatma Gandhi saw democracy not as an end in itself, but a means of enabling people to better their conditions in every department of life.

Honestly speaking, are our leaders giving citizens the ample space alluded to by Gandhi to go about their daily business if every other week they implore them to demonstrate and engage in running battles with police? When our opposition leaders call for nationwide protests even in the midst of a global recession, what magic would the ordinary folk expect other than hunger, poverty and more suffering? When we close down a market economy like Kenya three days a week, isn’t that the height of economic subversion? What happens to the ‘hoi polloi’ who survive on a meagre daily sustenance?

President William Ruto has been categorical, calling out schemes by the opposition as sabotage. We seemingly forget that for the last 20 years or so, Kenya often degenerated into political turmoil marked by violent protests every five-year electoral circle due to accusations of a stolen election. For how long will we threaten our national unity, yet complain of stunted economic growth over and over? In fact, nature and a normal democracy denotes the presence of a loser and a winner, a majority and a minority but we don’t seem to care. It has often been argued, and rightly so, that Kenyans suffer from selective amnesia. Time has come for us to soul search and ask ourselves fundamental questions. Aren’t we constantly tempting fate with our carefree attitude? This country belongs to all of us, whether Pokomo, Orma, Kalenjin, Sabiny, Luo or Teso, and it should be seen as such in word and deed. Human rights, democratic rights and civil rights as enshrined in our Constitution should be enjoyed by every citizen without fear or favour and free from discrimination.

But then, are we all reading from the same script as far as the definition of human rights is concerned? Are institutions such as the Interfaith Council, LSK, Kenya National Commission Human Rights, Amnesty International, Haki Africa among many other human rights groups, ‘seeing’ things just as the government of the day does? I stand corrected, but from where I sit, there seems to be significant divergence in definition of human rights.

Why is it that many times, Kenyans seem to be talking at cross purposes even when they are using similar words? Certainly, its not semantics at play but a fundamental misunderstanding of contexts or different perspectives.

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