The façade is of; pre­pare for the rough ride ahead

The East African - - OPINION -

On the one hand, the Supreme Court’s un­ex­pected rul­ing has had some nec­es­sary and pos­i­tive con­se­quences. It has re-af­firmed the mean­ing of the right to vote, putting paid to the no­tion that uni­ver­sal suf­frage can be sac­ri­ficed to ap­pease the gods of “peace.”

Sud­denly, for ex­am­ple, those so re­cently con­sid­ered no more than prophets of doom and gloom have been vin­di­cated. I am talk­ing here about the part of civil so­ci­ety that has con­sis­tently—through from 2007 to the present—raised the alarm, in an ev­i­dence-backed man­ner, as con­cerns the fail­ure of var­i­ous elec­tion man­age­ment bod­ies to en­sure the in­tegrity of the vote.

Sud­denly, too, our fee­ble ac­qui­es­cence with the re­moval of crit­i­cal, in­de­pen­dent checks on the EMB, again in the name of pre­serv­ing the “peace,” is be­ing chal­lenged.

On the other hand, how­ever, that rul­ing has had some un­in­tended con­se­quences. It has re­leased a bar­rage of un­sub­stan­ti­ated and vit­ri­olic at­tacks on the per­son of the Chief Jus­tice—in­clud­ing from no less than the per­son in the pres­i­dency—that is un­prece­dented in this coun­try’s his­tory.

The rul­ing has also re­sulted in yet an­other tire­some round of con­spir­a­to­rial in­nu­endo of solely pro­pa­ganda value as con­cerns the sup­posed re­la­tion­ships be­tween that part of civil so­ci­ety ref­er­enced above, the CJ and the op­po­si­tion.

Frankly, if we were to try to rep­re­sent, in a di­a­gram, the re­la­tion­ships be­tween most of the pub­licly-en­gaged mid­dle and up­per classes (for lack of bet­ter de­scrip­tors), there wouldn’t be enough space to fit ev­ery­body in. Any­body who’s en­gaged with pub­lic pol­icy will have had to in­ter­act not only with the civil ser­vice, but also politi­cians across all po­lit­i­cal di­vides. That’s the na­ture of pub­lic en­gage­ment. Frankly, that’s also the na­ture of our class sys­tem (such as it is).

The façade of cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­al­ism has slipped, the gloves are off and we are in for a rough ride.

What are we to make, for ex­am­ple, of the or­der that no se­nior civil ser­vant (in­clud­ing paras­tatal ap­pointees) is al­lowed to travel abroad with­out ex­press per­mis­sion of the pres­i­dency? It seems so 1970s and 1980s, a throw­back to the Keny­atta I and Moi dic­ta­tor­ships. There’s no pub­lic pol­icy pur­pose such an or­der could now serve.

What, too, are we to make of the de­mand that the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions in­sti­tute an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Dr David Ndii, the econ­o­mist now work­ing for the op­po­si­tion, on grounds of “trea­son.” For merely not­ing that, just as di­vorce is an op­tion for an un­happy mar­riage, se­ces­sion is an op­tion for an un­happy repub­lic. As is his wont, he’s speak­ing his mind—as both a pub­lic in­tel­lec­tual and an op­po­si­tion ad­vi­sor. We can like or dis­like the idea and de­bate it ac­cord­ingly. But how does that idea be­come ‘trea­son’?

Again, it’s very 1970s and 1980s, an­other throw­back to the Keny­atta I and Moi dic­ta­tor­ships. Which we could dis­miss as be­ing out­dated and passé. But which is ac­tu­ally alarm­ing.

The façade is off, the gloves are off. We are in for a rough ride.

That rul­ing has re­leased a bar­rage of un­sub­stan­ti­ated and vit­ri­olic at­tacks on the per­son of the Chief Jus­tice

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Africa di­rec­tor for the Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions based in London. This col­umn is writ­ten in her per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

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