The lead­ers must help to avert chaos

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

The coun­try is go­ing through tu­mul­tuous times that call for a sober and re­flec­tive lead­er­ship. Both the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion must avoid ac­tions or state­ments that pro­voke pub­lic anger and need­lessly cre­ate ten­sion. We are con­cerned that the op­po­si­tion is in­sist­ing on mass ac­tion, which is prone to vi­o­lence. Sev­eral deaths, in­juries and losses have been recorded since the demon­stra­tions started a few weeks ago. Given the ris­ing ten­sions, the protests are likely to get out of hand and pre­cip­i­tate a ma­jor cri­sis, which we must avoid at all costs.

But the govern­ment is not mak­ing it any bet­ter. By ban­ning demon­stra­tions in the cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts of Nairobi, Mom­basa and Kisumu, it is open­ing an­other front for con­fronta­tion. Although the in­ten­tion may be to pre­empt vi­o­lence, this is the wrong way to deal with dis­con­tent. Such a hard-line stand can only pro­voke more hos­tile re­ac­tions and de­gen­er­ates into vi­o­lence.

We have re­peat­edly called for an end to the mass protests or­gan­ised by Na­tional Su­per Al­liance to push for elec­toral re­forms as they have led to vi­o­lence, deaths, loss of prop­erty and dis­rup­tion of busi­ness. Demon­stra­tions are not the only av­enue for ex­press­ing griev­ances. In a civilised so­ci­ety, peo­ple ne­go­ti­ate, make com­pro­mises and re­solve even the most vexed of is­sues.

Even so, the law gives ci­ti­zens the right to peace­ful protest and en­joins the State to pro­tect them. There­fore, it is not right for act­ing In­te­rior Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Fred Ma­tiang’i to out­law protests. It is a show of bad faith by a govern­ment in­tent on cur­tail­ing rights and rul­ing by de­crees. The ex­treme po­si­tions taken by Nasa and the high-hand­ed­ness of the govern­ment do not au­gur well. They could trig­ger vi­o­lence, which we all ab­hor.

If Nasa sup­port­ers want to demon­strate, they must do so peace­fully and with­out tram­pling on the rights of oth­ers. But those com­mit­ting of­fences must be pun­ished. Also, since the pro­test­ers have made their point, shouldn’t they stop now? Re­form­ing the elec­toral sys­tem can­not be achieved on the streets, but only through ne­go­ti­a­tions. For its part, the govern­ment must avoid dra­co­nian rules meant to cur­tail ci­ti­zens’

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