The Police Must Not Resort To Brutality
An ominous cloud is overhanging this country as we trot towards the next elections. It is an explosive compound of fear and hopelessness that is being systematically planted in the public and unleashed in small doses and diverse forms.
The masterminds of the plot have apparent control or ear of government and command key institutions of the security apparatus and the wheels of the economy. They are determined to retain or acquire power and form or be part of the next government by all means.
Their faceless character is visible in state actions, which can be either gratuitous and benevolent or highly frustrating and malevolent depending on your perceived political persuasion or ethnic affiliation. Their footprints are all over the political sphere where they are peddling influence, making huge undertakings or spying on the activities and actions of potential obstacles to their eerie mission. If the government – odd to say – missteps in handling the situation it could trigger a vicious battle for control or break up of Kenya.
This titanic contest is being waged on four fronts - the ICC prosecution of the Ocampo 4, blocking Raila Odinga from the presidency, preserving the economic status quo, stalling implementation of the constitution and other political reforms. These issues also define the battle lines for the next election. The situation is further complicated by the controversy surrounding the General Election, especially ongoing moves to tie it to the ICC trials.
President Mwai Kibaki’s promise last week that the government will ensure a free, fair and peaceful election was timely but it has done little to assuage fears that his administration is a captive of certain economic and political interests. Should his word be taken seriously? Is the government willing to step back and let the citizens make their choices without undue interference and manipulation of the electoral playfield by the state?
Unfortunately his and the government’s actions do not inspire much hope or confidence. Kibaki’s interest in the outcome of the next elections is evidenced by his recent cabinet reshuffle in which he sought to re-order his succession. More actions are contemplated and forthcoming that are designed to advantage his preferred succession line up as the country hits the home stretch. But he will not achieve the plans without a cost to national cohesion and tranquility, given the state of inter-ethnic relations.
Kenya has made some strides since 2007 but the wounds of the last election are yet to heal. Despite the new constitution setting the framework for national healing and curing some of the causes of the explosive rift, the levers of state are still being manipulated by authorities to perpetuate injustice, inequality, nepotism and outright discrimination that is fostering tension in the country. Take for instance yesterday’s last minute prohibition of the anti-Gema meeting in Limuru.
The convenors had notified the Police over two weeks earlier of their planned meeting. Either the police underestimated their resolve or did not see anything dangerous about the meeting until eve of the D-day. Most likely, someone got alarmed belatedly at the political significance of the meeting and decided to rope in the state to stop it, on the pretext of security concerns. What security threat was posed by the gathering of civil society and political activists opposed to the objectives of the Gema meeting held earlier? Are the political views and objectives of yesterday’s meeting more harmful to the country than the previous Gema meeting?
While one cannot quarrel with the patriotic objectives of the meeting, the manner in which it was being executed raised eyebrows. Holding the meeting in Limuru, at the venue that the Gema leaders had held theirs, was a reckless attempt to stoke controversy and provoke a contest. Yesterday’s meeting could not undo the proceedings of the earlier meeting. The sentimentalism attached to the venue was highly misplaced. Nor do I believe the patchwork of participants expected at the meeting share one vision; the likelihood of one group hijacking the meeting to propagate its own agenda was real.
But that said, there is no excuse for the state waiting until the last minute, when the venue had been decorated, furnished and secured by the organisers, to cancel the meeting. The injustice of the action grates. The police action reeked of high dictatorship and abuse of fundamental rights. It invited disobedience.
The state has to demonstrate accountability in the performance of its functions. Limuru Conference Centre is a confined space and it is hard to fathom what threat the meeting posed that law enforcement agencies could not handle. Generalized explanations of insecurity without convincing detail are the stuff of which oppressive government is made. They must be rejected.
The state and law enforcement agencies must not be used to promote or rubber stamp certain ideas and political formations over others. That is discrimination that will breed resentment and ultimately conflict. Is the state sowing insecurity to precede its own ulterior plans? Just thinking.