Over the weekend I heard a news item that quoted Deputy Police Spokesman Charles Owino telling politicians not to inciting Kenyans against other leaders. He specifically pointed out a certain constituency where some leaders are reported to be telling Kenyans that a departed leader was killed by some forces, and suggesting that Kenyans in that constituency must not support politicians associated with parties belonging to these forces.
It is not hard to decipher what Owino is speaking about.
We have three parliamentary by-elections coming up in a few days. Two of those by-elections were occasioned by the deaths of Hon George Saitoti and Hon Orwa Ojode, the Minister and Assistant Minister of Internal Security respectively. The third one is because of the death of Hon John Michuki, also a former Minister. Hon Michuki died due to illness, which means there are no tongues wagging about ‘someone’ killing him. However Saitoti and Ojode died after a helicopter crash that is currently being investigated, so their by-elections are the ones where such a statement would apply.
An inquest into the deaths of the two internal security bosses is being covered blow-by-blow in the press. Unfortunately, Kenyans being who they are there are people who are picking whatever information is coming forth and manipulating it to their political benefit. The extremely competitive by-elections going on in the two leader’s former constituencies make for a suitable environment for such ‘interpretation’ to get public tractions, thus coming to the attention of the police.
Attempts to twist the deaths of Saitoti and Ojode, and cast their opponents as the ones behind such deaths, are an example of how low Kenya’s politics has fallen. The logic behind anyone pointing fingers at competitors as being behind the death of, for example, Hon George Saitoti, is so as to suggest parties associated with those alleged to be behind his death should not be allowed to gain from this action.
It is a terribly immoral political strategy that is unfortunately highly effective. However it is also extremely polarizing and anyone behind such schemes is guilty of dividing Kenyans and inciting them against each other. I therefore completely support the Deputy Police Spokesman’s position.
However I am concerned why the police are speaking now, and only about this case of leaders inciting Kenyans against other leaders. I would like to point out two other prominent cases the police have been noticeably quiet about.
In the last two to three years Kenyans have been grappling with the ICC situation that has seen four Kenyans get their cases confirmed by the international court. The process that got us here started with a call for a local solution, which Parliament by a majority, rejected. However since the names of suspects were unveiled we have had several of MPs mislead Kenyans and incite us, against one of the principals of the coalition government. Several MPs from Rift Valley and Central Kenya regions, with a few others from other regions of Kenya have decided to try make the ICC case a general election agenda.
These MPs are telling Kenyans that this co-principal manipulated the ICC to have his competition in the court. They are insisting that such person is not suitable to lead and asking those from their communities, and other Kenyans, to shun him. They have even been associated with musicians who have produced songs that are in court as hate speech, against this co-principal. The police have been mum. They have not spoken against what are deliberately distorted statements by national leaders about other leaders, that are blatantly false and polarizing; and that are meant to directly incite some Kenyans, against other Kenyans.
The second case is about the Mau evictions. This happened after a Cabinet decision which not a single minister disowned. It also happened after a parliamentary debate which not a single MP has so far referred to. However some MPs have chosen to directly incite Kenyans against the same co-principal again, by lying that the Mau evictions were done on his instructions. Some national leaders especially from Rift Valley have decided to make this distorted narrative, a political issue. Again, the police have been noticeably quiet. They have not spoken against these leaders who are deliberately misrepresenting a government decision, to directly incite some Kenyans, against other Kenyans.
Which leads to several interesting questions.
Since no one should incite Kenyans against other Kenyans, especially for political purposes, why are the police more interested with some cases, and not others? What is so different about these particular allegations about ‘someone killing someone else’? Could it be because the allegations affect a different national leader? Does this imply that it is okay to incite Kenyans against one (more senior) politician, but not his junior?
The police must realise Kenyans are watching them carefully. The positions they take must be consistent, if they are to be credible.
(Wambugu is the Executive Director of Change Associates Trust).