Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prosecute violence suspects to fullest extent of the law

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 26 July 2009, Page 33

There have been reports in the media that communities in areas that bore the brunt of post-election violence are getting restless and that threats of violence are re-emerging due to the wrangling over how to treat perpetrators of the violence.
It is being reported that residents of Eldoret and other parts of the Rift Valley are once again threatening to unleash violence on members of other communities as the impasse persists.

It is instructive to note that these reports are coming from closely guarded sources, and there does not seem to be any public acknowledgement of the existence of these threats.

In truth, the basis for these reports is rumour and hearsay and, barring any evidence to the contrary, they must be received with a healthy dose of salt.

Politicians have perfected the art of holding the country at ransom with threats of violence if they are held to account for their role in the post-election violence, and the media and "research institutions" which are really only briefcase NGOs seeking relevance are squarely falling into this trap.

Highlighting such reports that are based on nothing but conjecture and innuendo serves only to raise temperatures more than any threats that may actually have been made.

It is a fact that ethnic tensions have been part and parcel of life in most of Kenya since independence and, because nothing has been done to address this, they tend to erupt into violence at the slightest provocation.


Another fact of existence in this country is that politicians are made or broken on the basis of tribal considerations, and not on the party or platform they represent. Indeed for as long as anyone can remember, politicians have been making threats of unleashing their supporters' wrath on their opponents whenever they feel threatened.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise when the same politicians continue threatening ethnic fire and brimstone if anyone tries to investigate their role in the post-election violence. What is surprising is that the otherwise enlightened media and "civil society" are taking up this message as though it is gospel truth, and propagating it as the findings from a "scientific" process.

The truth of the matter is that, in bars and marketplaces all over the country, the language people speak is often derogatory concerning other tribes, and it is peppered with violent imagery and visions of gore and bloodshed.

A victim mentality and ideas of "marginalisation" pervade every corner of the republic and this has, in turn, given rise to a sense of entitlement that borders on the juvenile.

Talk has always been rife of "foreigners" who are taking up all "our" resources, and this cannot be presented as a new phenomenon linked exclusively to the fate of the masterminds of the post-election violence.

Threatening politicians with fresh outbreaks of ethnic animosity hoping to induce them to tone down their rhetoric is bound to be counterproductive, for our politicians have demonstrated a singular insularity as they pursue their own cherished goals.

A threat such as The Hague or even a local tribunal would, therefore, be expected to bring out the worst in them, and telling them that their "people" are getting restless only serves to further inflate their egos and vindicate their already overblown sense of personal invulnerability.

The role of civil society and a patriotic media should be to expose insidious threats to our nationhood and even identify possible ways to extirpate them before they metastasise beyond our ability to handle them.

It is almost accepted beyond reasonable doubt that our current crop of politicians poses the greatest threat to the future of this nation, and we must make this amply clear to any among us who still has questions about this. It is, therefore, the height of folly to amplify the cacophony being made by politicians and even repackage it as a truth worth discussing when, in actual fact, it is a tissue of lies and self-serving nonsense.

The best way of dealing with these fellows would be to call their bluff and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, and then see who would remember them long enough to cause turmoil on their behalf.

If this is done it is in fact conceivable that the talk of retaliatory violence will cease, for the warlords are the real architects of such ideas. The common citizen is too busy trying to eke out an honest living when he is not suffering the ravages of hunger, disease water shortage or some other calamity.

The fate of the ethno-political warlords cannot, and must not, be linked to the future of our country as a colourfully diverse but cohesive cosmopolitan polity.

Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University's School of Medicine

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something about this post!