Questioning the ‘peace’: Our destiny is in our hands

High voter turnout is testament of our faith in the electoral process. Nobody is allowed to rob us of it
I don’t know for certain how many of the 14 million or so registered voted in the March 4 election, since it now emerges that IEBC failed to publish a final register prior to the elections, which would have been the irrefutable baseline to compute voter turnout. But it’s safe to simply say ‘many’. Let’s go with a percentage that is sure and undisputed which could be indicative: turnout for the referendum on the Constitution in 2010 was a healthy 72.2 percent.

The high voter turnout then, and again in March 2013, are testament of the faith Kenyans have in the electoral process and the ballot box. Nobody, NOBODY, is allowed to take that away. Not Uhuru Kenyatta, who some would say never fought for it, nor Raila Odinga, who openly fought for it, but does not own it. We, the people of Kenya, now solely OWN the electoral process.

For this faith in the electoral process to endure, the results declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) MUST be squeaky-clean, stand scrutiny (nay, welcome it) and be completely above board and question, with no ifs or buts. This really is the crux of the matter: fidelity of the result is the one ‘candidate’ that MUST win, and whose ‘win’ we should all seek, otherwise nobody wins and we all lose. Questioning the results is not only a constitutional right, but should be an imperative for all citizens of goodwill that rightfully demand transparency and public accountability in the institutions we so generously fund, and the well-paid officers that staff them whose first and only duty and loyalty is to we, the people of Kenya and our law, and not to any political coalition, faction or state functionary.

Our media
Thus far, the local media have been a complete and total let-down and washout, giving only one side of the electoral credibility story, particularly in the critical hours and days that followed IEBC’s tallying and declaration of the results for the presidential elections handing victory to the Jubilee coalition, results that the CORD coalition disputes, with CORD set to file a petition to the Supreme Court tomorrow. In the build-up to, and following, the announcement of results, the Kenyan social media scene was ablaze with strident and vociferous voices from both sides, and it was difficult to discern exactly what was going on. It was a profound shame during that stage to have to resort to foreign media in search of a complete and balanced picture of just what was happening. Yes, foreign media, the very ones that Kenya’s twitterati (#KoT) had roundly subjected to a thorough tongue-lashing prior to the elections on their (foreign media) obsession with template narratives soaked in blood and laced with gratuitous violence. I suppose as an antithesis of this, the local media were all peace, peace, peace.  But they needed to have drawn a line on the sand, which they failed to. Njonjo Mue in a Facebook post on 7 March reminded us that “Kenya is a democracy, not a peaceocracy.” He went on to say “It is disconcerting that everyone who tries to raise concerns, however legitimate, about the conduct of the elections is being shouted down as endangering the peace.” Meantime, the local media donned in their newly acquired self-censorship garb, continued to dose us for the ‘peace lobotomy ‘(see link below) we had undergone. It was particularly telling that a TV station that was covering Raila Odinga’s statement after IEBC declared presidential  results abruptly (and without any explanation lest we endanger the ‘peace’) cut away to cover Jubilee celebrations the minute Raila started questioning the presidential results, and before the question session.

Sadly, the local media are now where the faith leaders were in the 2007 election. While the Fourth Estate may not be as openly partisan as the clergy then were, like the clergy, they too have failed to uphold public interest and the public’s right to know, which is supposed to be their sole business and raison d’être, as the public watchdog. By all means, dear media, tell us what is going on in a matter that so profoundly affects our country, but don’t be the ones to decide what we should or should not see or hear at a momentous and history-setting time like this.

The local media have tried to reduce us to a nation of mindless, docile and unquestioning ‘peace-tranquilised’ herd of ‘sheeple’, and not a people with inalienable rights. This up-in-the-clouds herd on a ‘peace high’, surely, is not, cannot be, the Kenya we want. Or, at least, not the one the majority of Kenyans want. Such pie-in-the-sky peace cannot endure. The centre will not hold. It will unravel.

Questioning , scrutiny and dialogue are healthy democratic pillars. Both sides of the presidential contest should welcome this probing: for Jubilee, it would vindicate their presidential win. For CORD, it will give them the right to be heard on their grievances on perceived injustices. From what I’ve seen, both sides have committed to accept a just ruling from the Supreme Court. Surely, we do not want to endure yet another five years with a stubborn indelible stain and perpetual strident question mark on the winner of the presidential elections? We cannot afford that, and we deserve better, as a right springing from the law of the land, and not as a political privilege handed down to us, or denied to us. For this right, and for myriad reasons including IEBC’s conduct that begs very many questions, I support CORD’s petition, and any other petition that questions the electoral process to make it more robust and reaffirm our much-needed faith in the ballot box. And I also hope that, separate and apart from the petion(s), there will also be a thorough leave-no-stones-unturned audit of the IEBC, including its financial management.

Our destiny
Back to the local media, they have attempted to suck us into an ever-spiralling conspiracy of silence that can only take us downwards and backwards to dictatorship with no dialogue, the snuffling of dissenting voices, and a single-sided story that pours withering scorn on all others, without according other parties the right to be heard, since we’re all living in politically brokered peace, love and unity. We’ve been there before. We cannot regress. But all is not lost yet for the local media: glancing through some of the stories in the early online editions of some of the newspapers to be published tomorrow (Saturday, 16 March), the media may finally be waking up, but so very late in the day.

Kenyans, our destiny is in our hands. Let’s all rally around our National Anthem. Remember it is not just a song: it is a prayer. While I want to believe we all love peace, let’s remember that the anthem first states “Haki iwe ngao no mlinzi (Justice be our shield and defender).” Only after justice has been done, and been manifestly seen to be done, can we then move to “Natukae na umoja, amani na uhuru (May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty).

The path to peace, and safeguards
Peace  does not exist in a vacuum, exist by itself, nor produce itself. In its purest and most stable form, peace is a derivative of  truth and justice. Peace is not an imposition, nor is it a stifling of the dissenting voice. The petition being filed tomorrow  is a quest for truth and justice. Truth and justice are the twin portals to peace. I pray that the Supreme Court with Wanjiku’s (and not the establishment’s) Chief Justice Willy Mutunga on the bench (though he is only one of the current six judges) will deal truthfully and justly with this petition, for there can be no further redress beyond the Supreme Court.

Let’s not forget that with a 50.07 percent win for Uhuru Kenyatta, as many voters voted for him as voted against him by choosing other candidates. As such, all Kenyans of goodwill, irrespective of which side they supported in the presidential elections, should support this petition, and pray that truth and justice will be upheld.

I unreservedly and wholeheartedly do.

Relevant links

  1. BLOGPOST: The monsters under the house
    EXCERPT: “It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. In this case the war was internal, hidden from all prying eyes. Who cares about the veracity of the poll result? So what if not all votes were counted? We had peace. “The peace lobotomy,” one tweet called it. “Disconnect brain, don’t ask questions, don’t criticize. Just nod quietly.”… What maturity is this that trembles at the first sign of disagreement or challenge? What peace lives in the perpetual shadow of a self-annihilating violence?”
  2. NEWS STORY: The many questions IEBC needs to clear with Kenyans over elections
    EXCERPT: “…since there was no authoritative version of the [voter] register, what was used to conduct the elections? Was it one of the interim versions or the (unpublished) final register?”
  3. OPNION PIECE: Peace vs Truth — A story of unnecessary tradeoffs
    EXCERPT “… what threatens the peace… is certainly not the truth or ceding the legal and moral high ground. Conflict erupts when (perceptions of) underlying horizontal inequalities line up with (perceptions) of political exclusion.”
  4. OPINION PIECE: To be prudent is to be partial
    EXCERPT: “Any journalist worth their salt should start feeling itchy when praised by those in authority. The recent accolades will chafe as more polling irregularities become public. The media should be asking themselves whether, in their determination to act responsibly, they allowed another major abuse to occur right before their eyes.”

About Njeri Okono

I am, therefore I write
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One Response to Questioning the ‘peace’: Our destiny is in our hands

  1. Pingback: Back to ‘Baba’, ‘Mtukufu’ and fear? | Njeri Okono

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