The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

We are head­ing to­wards what prom­ises to be a sea­son of heated po­lit­i­cal con­test as the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion draws closer. In fact, look­ing at our head­lines the past cou­ple of months, one would think the elec­tions are just round the cor­ner. Po­lit­i­cal de­bate is im­por­tant be­cause it af­fords all can­di­dates an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pound on their ide­olo­gies and poli­cies to se­cure the trust and con­fi­dence of the vot­ers. It is there­fore one of the ways of en­hanc­ing democ­racy.

Like many of us who picked the man­tle of lead­er­ship in 2013, Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta will be seek­ing re­elec­tion. This elec­tion gives us an op­por­tu­nity to seek a fresh man­date to com­plete the good work we have started in this first term.

How­ever, there is an in­creas­ingly alarm­ing level of intolerance that is be­ing pro­pelled by some politi­cians at the lo­cal and na­tional lev­els. Some politi­cians have been mak­ing com­ments that are not only in­deco­rous but also de­signed to rouse big­otry among our peo­ple. This must not be al­lowed.

Po­lit­i­cal intolerance is un­ac­cept­able and makes a mock­ery of our civilised democ­racy. As we ex­er­cise our demo­cratic rights, we must be ready to re­spect oth­ers, in­clud­ing the right of as­so­ci­a­tion and ex­pres­sion.

We would like to be­lieve we have healed from the vi­o­lence that al­most pushed this coun­try to the brink in 2007-08, when some felt their rights were more im­por­tant than those of oth­ers. Dur­ing that time, per­sons who our youth look up to made some di­vi­sive, ma­li­cious and vi­o­lent state­ments. Youths were in­cited to up­root rail­way tracks, block roads, burn pri­vate prop­erty and even phys­i­cally as­sault pas­sen­gers in pub­lic ser­vice ve­hi­cles. They gained lit­tle from these ac­tiv­i­ties ex­cept grat­ify a few po­lit­i­cal egos.

Last Sun­day at the Thika Sta­dium, we wit­nessed bouts of vi­o­lence by peo­ple res­i­dents are re­fer­ring to as “hired thugs”. These groups in­tim­i­dated, as­saulted and robbed peo­ple of their per­sonal ef­fects af­ter a suc­cess­ful event at which I was present to sup­port lo­cal ta­lent.

If it is true these rab­ble-rousers were hired for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, then we may be headed into an­other tur­bu­lent po­lit­i­cal sea­son. How­ever, as the peo­ple of Ki­ambu, we are com­mit­ted to a peace­ful cam­paign and elec­tion­eer­ing pe­riod. We re­ject ef­forts by a few in­di­vid­u­als, driven by self­ish in­ter­ests, to de­stroy our county and un­der­mine our achieve­ments so far.

It is hoped this at­ti­tude will also pre­vail at the na­tional level, where we are cur­rently see­ing mat­ters of na­tional in­ter­est be­ing de­bated through the my­opic lens of nar­row po­lit­i­cal and tribal think­ing, both on pub­lic and so­cial media. Po­lit­i­cal intolerance is for the weak.

As lead­ers, we are called upon to serve as role mod­els, opin­ion mak­ers and opin­ion shapers. When we are em­broiled in hate­ful and di­vi­sive talk on na­tional TV or on so­cial media, do we re­ally ex­pect our sup­port­ers to be­have any bet­ter?

We must be ma­ture enough to de­bate is­sues based on facts and not an­chored in neg­a­tive eth­nic and po­lit­i­cal leanings. We must stand above medi­ocrity and de­mand, from our­selves, the tol­er­ance that will guide this coun­try to pros­per­ity.

The kind of po­lit­i­cal talk we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing should not be deemed as part and par­cel of the race to 2017 — we must re­mem­ber chaos de­stroy lives. A con­fronta­tional po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment will ad­versely im­pact the en­tire coun­try and our re­la­tion­ships with our in­vestors, tourists, de­vel­op­ment part­ners and, of course, our neigh­bours. Let us en­deavor to keep the peace.


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