Violence is a part of Kenyan history. From the brutality visited upon resistance to colonial rule, to the marginalization and ‘security crackdowns’ of the first decades of independence, to the mobilization of ethnic militia to manipulate elections, Violence has been a big contributor to the state of Kenya as it is today.
Yet, despite all the hurt and pain that Kenyans have faced, it seems we are still afraid to confront and address one particular kind of violence. This is to say, in Kenya it seems that terrorizing people is a terrible thing to do until you get into significant political, or economic power and suddenly it is not evil.
For instance, on the one hand, there is no doubt that the Westgate attack with its 67 deaths, the Mpeketoni, and the Garissa University attacks, with its 147 deaths, were reprehensible attacks of terror, that should be condemned by all and sundry.
On the other hand, with the post-election violence, with its estimate 1300 deaths, and excess of 600,000 victims displaced, in an orgy of violence unprecedented in post-colonial Kenyan history, it no longer seems to be acceptable to consistently condemn the action, and put justice for the victims at the top of the agenda.
On the contrary, the entire debate on the place of Kenya’s PEV in Kenya has been reduced to an argument as which segment of the political elite betrayed the rest of the political elite by ‘fixing’ those politicians who have faced criminal prosecution for their actions in the Post Election Violence.
Nobody even gives a damn how journalist Joshua arap Sang wound up standing trial in the Hague, and by the looks of it nobody gives a damn what becomes of him as a result of the trial.
Having ridden a tide of ‘victimization by imperialists’ to state power the ruling Jubilee coalition has not spared any effort to frame their principals as the victims of the Post-election Violence. It is highly unlikely that this ruling coalition was ever going to take a moral stand on the role of violence and intimidation in Kenyan elective politics.
Yet they have not only refused to acknowledge that ethno-political violence is evil, as the Rwandans have gone out their way to do with their memory of the 1994 genocide, they have actively used their power to suppress the voices of anyone who attempts to keep this fact in the public domain.
The official opposition on the other hand has fudged on the issue. ODM leader Raila Odinga has attempted to make political mileage out of the possibility of helping Deputy President William Ruto beat the ICC, and several ODM legislators are backing a parliamentary petition to drop the DP’s case altogether.
Rather than taking a moral stand against political violence, and providing a voice for the ‘small man’ who has borne the brunt of the violence, ODM and its partners in the CORD coalition has chosen to focus on scoring political points off the accusations and counter accusations flying around in the political class.
Through Kenya’s Chief Justice, has cautioned on the dangers of hate speech and political violence in the country, the inaction on the part of prosecutors, the police, and other law and order institutions at large to stand up to politicians who engage in incitement, means that there is not much the institution he heads, the Kenyan Judiciary can do.
Without a realization that there can be no caveats, compromises, or justification for terrorizing fellow citizens, or accountability for anyone that engages in such, is any of the progress that Kenyans have paid such a high price for to get where we are really secure?
As I stated at the beginning of this article, violence is a deeply ingrained part and parcel of the Kenyan experience, yet we appear not to be interested in learning meaningful lessons on addressing or preventing more violence. At least not if it involves asking big people tough questions.