So, a couple of journalists are facing charges for heckling the President during Monday’s Madaraka Day festivities at the Brrrr Stadium.
It symbolises a growing trend where activists and journalists use national days and the accompanying media attention to “pass a strong message” to the ruling elite. The message, as passed by Mwalimu Mati, his wife, Frederick Odhiambo et al during last year’s Jamhuri Day fete, is that Kenyans are tired of the kind of leadership they have. That the citizens of this country are no longer going to sit back and listen to be fed with balderdash from indecisive leaders.
In the December incident, Mati was clobbered by security officers, as was Odhiambo and others. On Monday, Boniface Mwangi, Eric Orina and others also received some kind of ‘treatment’ after heckling the President during his speech.
This begs the question – Is it all right for disgruntled members of the public to use the occasion of national days to boo the Head of State? Does such action water down the stature of such an important day in the calendar of Kenya’s history?
I think it is time Kenyans debated this issue before we lose track of our heritage. Yes, heritage is important for it is what defines us as a nation.
An event like Monday’s Madaraka Day fete was not a meeting organised by President Kibaki’s PNU or Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM. It was a State function which is recognised under Kenya’s constitution. It is a day when the nation marks it’s independence from colonialists and takes stock of where we’ve come from, and where we are going.
There are those who argue – and they have a strong point – that this is the only time when citizens can air their grievances to the two Principals.
I posed this question to friends and colleagues on Facebook. Here is how some people argue:
"Most kenyans choose to heckle or curse the leaders from their houses, sitting rooms and bedrooms becoming the venues of choice for this now often necessary pastime. Others choose to suffer the ineptitude of these two politicians silently, getting ulcers in the process or losing their sanity. While others take to the streets to let off the steam… yet others try writing Kibaki and Raila personal notes which never get to the recipients anyway as they are either thrown out by the long chain that checks them or are just reflective of the ignorance of the authors’ or naivety in thinking the two politicians would respond let alone act on their letters. Those who heckle at Stadia choose to pick a venue where the President and (the PM) are likely to atleast feel their expression of anger. To some of us, it is stupidity, to others its madness, for others it is the right thing to do. One thing is sure; the two politicians felt Bonny’s (photojournalist Boniface Mwangi) anger!"
One who does not approve of the day that was picked but is supporting of heckling says:
“Booing is disrespectful and those doing it have been pushed to the wall such that desperation is their state. And maybe they will listen, maybe not but we have to be wise and find a way for them to listen.”
Here is another thought:
"First and foremost that’s the most foolish thing to do. What do you achieve by shouting? Why not use the media? Come up with a forum of talking to these people – they always listen to the media! Shouting will only cause you physical pain and Bonny did a foolish thing. As a photographer why didn’t he do stake outs (where he can) and publish all those photos as evidence? Heckling doesn’t work. it will make them tighten the security more so what will happen then?"
Yet another comment:
"I don’t know that I’d do it myself, but sometimes that’s the only way to make them listen."
What do you think? Does heckling leaders at national days demean the stature of the day, or is it justified given the state that many Kenyans find themselves in?
I’ve given you a platform to make your thoughts known.