Political intolerance unacceptable, mockery of democracy

We are heading toward what promises to be a season of a heated political contest as the 2017 General Election draws nigh.

In fact, looking at our headlines these last couple of months, one would be forgiven for thinking that the polls are just round the corner.

Political debate is important as it affords all candidates the chance to expound on their ideologies and policies in a bid to secure the trust and confidence of the electorate. It is therefore one of the ways of enhancing democracy.

Like many of us who were handed the mantle of leadership by the people in 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta will be seeking to be re-elected for a second term.

This upcoming election gives us an opportunity to seek a fresh mandate to complete the good work we commenced 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 level, with politicians making comments that are not only indecorous, but also designed to rouse bigotry amongst our people, and which must not be allowed.

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

We would like to believe that we have healed from the violence that almost pushed this country to the brink in 2007, when some felt that their rights were more important than those of others. During that time, some divisive, malicious and violent statements were made by persons who our youth look to for direction.

Our young people 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 to gratify a few political egos.

Recently at the Thika Stadium, we witnessed bouts of violence by persons people 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 that these rabble-rousers were indeed hired for political reasons, then we may be headed into a turbulent political season.

However, as the people of Kiambu, we are committed to a peaceful campaign and election period, and reject efforts by a few individuals driven by selfish interests, to destroy our County and undermine our achievements so far.

It is hoped that this attitude would 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, both at local and national level, 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, tolerance that will guide this Country to prosperity.

The kind of political talk we are experiencing today should not be deemed to be part and parcel of the race to 2017 – we must remember that this destroys lives. A confrontational political environment will adversely impact the entire country and our relationships with our investors and tourists, development partners and of course, our neighbours.

It is therefore critical that all Kenyans, and especially politicians, desist from making statements that only result in dividing our people. While, the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, this must be exercised with responsibility to ensure that we do not stir up negative emotions amongst each other.

We must appreciate the importance of bipartisanship, statesmanship, patriotism, toning down rhetoric and putting Kenya first as we strive to safeguard our beloved country and its heritage.

This country needs you and me. We are all equally important in the road to development and all have a role to play. Let us endeavour to keep the peace and ensure that we nurture the necessary environment for all of us to prosper.

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