In the dystopic classic titled Nineteen-Eighty-Four, George Orwell writes of a daily ritual called “Two Minutes Hate.” Every day, at a very precise time, the country would stop for two minutes, to experience hate.
He says in part: The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within 30 seconds, any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against their will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.
The ruling class in Kenya thrives on Orwellian mind games of this kind. It thinks that Kenyans suffer from collective selective amnesia. Selective amnesia is about partial, and even convenient, loss of memory. You forget some of the things that happened in a particular situation. However, you remember everything else about it. Hence, in Kenya, people may remember that their country has previously experienced electoral violence. However, the reasons have changed. The political class has conditioned them to “remember” and believe that it was because of the Constitution. They believe that the violence was because of something called “the-winner-take-all.”
Accordingly, the Constitution ought to be changed, “so that Kenyans don’t fight again because of elections.” I have no doubt that there are people who believe that “Kenyans fight during elections.” They also believe “Kenyans fight because the Constitution is bad.” Others believe it is “because of the winner-takes-it-all” nature of the elections.
Of course, these are all lies. First, Kenyans have never fought because of elections. Elite politicians hire goons, whom they selectively unleash on civilian populations. They carry out mayhem on innocent people from “enemy tribes.” The enemy tribes, like those in Orwell’s book, change from one election to the other. The people are conditioned to believe that the tribe they hate today “has always been the enemy tribe.”
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Because this hate is a factor of mental control and conditioning, a handshake between two mutually hostile leaders instantly changes the narrative. Suddenly the enemy is someone else. The enemy tribe shifts with the new narrative. And the citizens buy in – just like that. Hence nothing should remain fixed. History must change all the time, to agree with the new situation. The laws also must be changed, to accommodate the desired new order. The truth about Kenya’s history of electoral violence is that elections are believed to be stolen. Perhaps one needs to be bold enough to state that elections are stolen. This is what we should be addressing. Of course the Constitution does not say that elections should be stolen. If it said that, then there would be a need to urgently correct this. The political class knows it isn’t. It has since shifted the narrative. It is now saying that “Kenyans fight because of the winner takes all nature of the Constitution.”
Accordingly, the Constitution needs to be changed “to bring everybody on board.” This is madness. There is no election that “brings everybody on board” as they produce winners and losers. They must, however, be so neat that the results cannot be doubted. Kenyans should be addressing integrity of elections, and not how to change the Constitution to admit more people to the Executive.
The 2017 violence was because of the failings of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). It was not because there were not enough people, or tribes, in the Executive. Up to the moment of this writing, the IEBC has not opened the computer servers as the Supreme Court directed. Impunity is the name of the problem. What does it help to have laws that some people cannot obey?
The president leads by example. For over a year now, he has defied the law by refusing to admit 41 judges to various offices in the Judiciary. On another occasion, he issued extralegal orders on police recruits and training. The courts overturned them. Of course the president has an Attorney General who urges him on in defying the law. Parliament behaves the same way. It has legislated some unconstitutional laws on devolution. Also, it has failed to legislate on the gender rules.
Leaders such as Kenya has today are not to be trusted with changing the supreme law. They have so far failed to show any gains for the citizens in what they are plotting. The president’s faction against that of his deputy should serve as a warning of disaster in the schemes to expand the Executive. If today there are two antagonistic factions in government, in future there will be five, or more, depending on how expansive they intend the Executive to be.
Kenyans need to wake up from mind control by the political class. They need to overcome selective amnesia to address the real problem. Mostly, it is that people form government so that they can “steal.” We are being told, therefore, “Let more people steal.” Kenyans must reject this. Kenya has only one problem, accountability and equal faithfulness to the law as established. The rest are mind games.
- The writer is a strategic public communications adviser