Friday, November 8, 2013

Leaders must speak the truth at all times

Apologies for late posting. I was traveling and I've only just returned to Eldoret!

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 27 October 2013

From the utterances of Kenyans in positions of leadership, it is very clear that we have come to a time when the “uta do?” phenomenon rules. Obviously, our leaders have lost all respect for us, perhaps because we have in the past demonstrated our propensity to shout ourselves hoarse and then go back to our daily routines.

After the Westgate attack, our military chiefs insisted that the soldiers involved in the response did not engage in any acts of looting, despite video evidence to the contrary.  Later, the Chief of the Defence Forces, Julius Karangi, had the temerity to suggest that soldiers caught on camera with paperbags full of loot were actually carrying water to quench their thirst! The insinuation here is that it is okay to loot a supermarket if you happen to be thirsty, no matter what else is going on.

The saga in the Judiciary involving the Judicial Service Commission and its Chief Registrar further illustrates the amount of disrespect Kenyans are being subjected to by those in positions of authority. 


Each of the parties involved in the saga have their own story, which contradicts that of the other. Obviously someone (or both) in this case is not telling the truth, for whatever reason.

Throughout our history, the organs of state have gradually perfected the art of peddling falsehoods, often citing the amorphous justification of “state security” to obfuscate on issues that should be in the public domain. Perceived adversaries of the State have been killed and extrajudicial executions taken place.

Although State operatives may have “good” reasons for the decisions they make, they must consider the fact that among the citizens there are those that will see through the tissue of falsehoods they put out. And once government is caught out telling falsehoods, it becomes difficult for the discerning citizen to believe anything else coming from officialdom.

Sadly, this has now come to pass concerning the Westgate affair, with multiple conspiracy theories being spun all over the country. It would be a sad day when we cannot all come together to deal with national crises of this nature because we do not trust the official version of events. 


The situation is now so bad that we are speculating about a link between recent episodes of insecurity in the country and a wider geopolitical scheme aimed at influencing the outside world one way or the other. Obviously, one must remain sceptical about such theories because, if true, then the Kenyan experiment at statehood would have come a cropper.

Additionally, if it were true that State officials are involved in schemes aimed at causing insecurity and killing unwitting people going about their daily lives, treason trials would be on the cards. And if any of them hold positions in government, they would, at least in a civilised society, not be allowed to continue holding such positions.

It is, therefore, imperative for the survival of our State that we take matters of state more seriously, and maintain honest communication at all times. If State officials are unable to adhere to this standard, it is up to Kenyans to refashion the State in a more desirable image.

Allowing the State to be captured by peddlers of falsehoods would be the greatest mistake we can ever make in our short republican life. 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine.

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