Anyone following the political developments in Kenya must be worried, very worried, about the state of lawlessness as the country approaches a consequential general election less than four months away.
Attempted assassinations, kidnappings, physical fights, hate speech, and intolerance of opposing views, have taken center stage, a precursor of what many, inside and outside the country, fear could be the beginning of the country’s decline into widespread violence come election time.
The use of guns, especially, is most terrifying. A few days ago, an aspirant was shot in the ear; vehicles have been sprayed with bullets; and in a few cases, people have drawn pistols in public areas to scare off opponents. Several victims are lying in hospitals battered by political hooligans.
This week the crack General Service Unit was deployed to hot-spots to stop a further deterioration of the situation.
Most of the internecine activities have taken place around the ODM party nominations. In the next few days, the ruling party, Jubilee, will begin its own primaries with thousands of aspirants scrambling for a chance to represent the party in various positions.
Things do not look good there either.
Anxiety among opposition supporters has been heightened by the coalition’s inability to agree on its flag-bearer. Until this week, there were four people vying for the broader NASA coalition presidential ticket: Raila Odinga of ODM; Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper Democratic Party; Musalia Mudavadi of ANC; and Moses Wetangula of Ford-Kenya.
Now, the bumptious Isaac Ruto of the Mashinani Party has joined the group, further complicating the selection process.
A special committee formed a few weeks ago by NASA to identify a candidate made recommendations, but those recommendations were rubbished by some of the principals, necessitating a series of meetings among the candidates themselves in secluded resorts in Mombasa.
Hopes are high among opposition supporters that at today’s meeting – to be attended by all the five leaders and aspirants from across the country – a flag-bearer will be declared, and thus bring to an end what seems like a crisis of leadership in the opposition.
But Kenyans have been disappointed before, and as they say, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Many hope she will sing loudly this time around.
At least one American non-government organization specializing in poll monitoring has warned Kenya about the dangers that lie ahead unless radical steps are taken to calm the swirling tension.
Peace-loving Kenyans are also holding their breath and praying for a smooth exercise, away from what happened in 2007/2008 when more than a thousand people were killed in election related violence.
Politicians must realize August 8 is not the end of the world. Opportunities still exist in future.
It is obvious, however, that more than any other election in recent history, what we are seeing this year is a high decibel, high-stakes exercise.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is under siege and is pushing all buttons to halt the advancement of the opposition. His unrelenting and frequent forays in to ODM strongholds like the Coast and Nyanza underscore his determination to break a long-standing jinx which has made it difficult for incumbents to attract votes from certain parts of the country.
If Uhuru loses, he will be the first one-term president in Kenya’s history, hence the unbridled determination.
As for the opposition, a loss will extinguish all hopes of dismantling the tribal dynasties that have been part of governance since independence.
And that is my say.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.