By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 21 July 2013
Last week I came across a very disturbing article in a local daily.
It was reported that a politician had been summoned by the police to be
grilled over an alleged plot to “destabilise” the government. According
to the article, the politician was alleged to be working with churches
and non-governmental organisations in a plot to start an
“anti-government” campaign, ostensibly in order to cause public
disaffection with the government.
There was no allegation that the
politician was engaged in extra-legal or unconstitutional activities
aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected Government of Kenya.
There was no claim that he was organising an armed militia group to
attack government installations. There was no indication that he
had contacted foreign governments to organise an attack on the sovereign
territory of our republic.
All that was alleged was that he was working
with churches and NGOs to “destabilise” the government.
a time in this country when the “thought police” would work hard at
trying to uncover the motives of all Kenyans who dared to speak out
publicly about any government initiative. There was a time when being
called a “dissident” was equivalent to a death sentence.
a time when being accused of plotting to “destabilise” the government
was the beginning of a long journey to detention, torture and even
assassination. We would like to believe that those times are long gone,
but we fear that without citizens’ vigilance we could still slide back
into those dark days.
At some level, one would have been
comfortable if the police had indicated that they had information that
this politician was plotting a crime recognised in law, such as plotting
to “establish a government otherwise than in compliance with the
Constitution”, which is prohibited in Article 3(2) of our Constitution.
any case, if the police have any such information, it is incumbent upon
them to expeditiously investigate and neutralise the threat in a manner
consistent with the law. Summoning a politician to investigate claims
of plotting to “destabilise” the government is so eerily reminiscent of
the Kanu dictatorship that nobody with any sense of history would
countenance such a move.
In a constitutional democracy such as
ours aspires to be, it is the responsibility of all citizens, no matter
their political affiliation, to keep the government in check and ensure
that no arm of government exceeds its powers and oppresses the people.
other words, it is the duty of every citizen to “destabilise” the
government, to keep it on toes, constantly looking over its collective
shoulder every time it contemplates some nefarious scheme.
we cannot do it ourselves, we must appreciate the efforts of those that
do. We must applaud them for ensuring that we remain free to question
government. Thomas Paine put it more clearly: “He that would make his
own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he
violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to
For the sake of our freedom we must demand that the
government recognises our right to “destabilise” it. The only means open
to the government in dealing with the “destabilising” activities of its
citizens is to create an environment in which the people’s concerns are
addressed expeditiously and satisfactorily.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli
is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s
school of medicine Lukoye@gmail.com; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli