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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Republic Of Fear

It used to be we were only afraid of the state and its capacity for illegitimate violence. We blamed politicians, not opinions, for inciting tribal clashes. It was the government, not citizens, which gagged the press or forbade dissent.

No more.

Welcome to the Republic of Fear. Where terror rules and citizens are frightened of what lurks in the dark recesses of their hearts. It is a country where no questions are allowed which may break uncomfortable silences or awaken the ghosts of deadened intellectual faculties.

This is the nation we are building in Kenya. A country of official truth. When citizens feel disenfranchised by bungled elections, we tell them to shut up and keep the peace. Wait for the Supreme Court to tell you what you should or should not think. Do not trust yourself, just as we do not trust you.

Well, the Supreme Court has given its ruling. The election and declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as President-Elect were done in conformity with the law. That is the official truth. We will wait for two weeks to learn of the reasons underlying it. In the meantime, we are told to keep calm. In the Republic of Fear, inconvenient opinions and uncomfortable thoughts are banned. But, unlike in the past, this is not a ban enforced by the security agencies. It is imposed by mobs of citizens which roam our airwaves and digital superhighways, armed with virtual machetes and ready to hack away at the first hint of free thinking.

We have already let them burn down the temples of dissent. Our famously rumbustious press now remains mute when expensive BVR kits and results transmission systems don’t work and when the IEBC presents woolly sums, and when protestors (today called rioters) die following the Supreme Court verdict. Our civil society organisations have been silenced by dubious allegations of pursuing foreign agendas. When politicians kiss and make up, "historical grievances" and the IDPs they have generated disappear.

Only official election results matter -or more accurately, only the official version of election results matters. Media houses with reporters on the ground at all polling stations cannot call the election as their sums may differ from official tallies. And if they do differ, they are not to ask questions. The official truth trumps all! Today our journalists are reduced to performers and comedians – a role they seem to have accepted with relish as cheerleaders for the “Keep the Peace” and “Let’s Move On” bands.

But what exactly are we moving on to? Rather than signal Kenya’s rise from the ashes of the violence of five years ago, the elections have revealed just how much further we still have to go. We have spent the last half-century of independence in a battle against the state, in an effort to tame and reform it. In large measure, the people’s triumph, as reflected in the new constitution, has turned out to be a hollow victory.The struggle against the state obscured a much more fundamental challenge. With these elections, that mask has been removed. It is now obvious that the real enemies lie within. It is our passions and minds that need reforming. It is our fear and distrust of one another that need taming.

No longer can we just blame a thieving political class. It is rather a time for deep reflection on our own conduct and beliefs. The media can and should lead this effort. It is the least they can do to begin to atone for their own conduct over the last month.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The enactment of theconstitution was touted as a victory for the people when it was in fact a power grab by parliament which in turn is still beholden to the executive in the absence of a strong opposition.

Anonymous said...

My brother, we need to get reading "Not yet Uhuru" (pun not intended) and "Wretched of the earth." Our problem is lack of ideology and knowledge. We're still paying for Moi's crackdown on intellectuals in the 1980s.

Edwin Kiama said...

Nothing to add!

Anonymous said...

A government that fits into the constitution & not the other way round. I would rather have a society that expresses itself rather than one in which a vast number feels subdued. Freedom is God's gift to humanity & can't be traded in for anything for sooner or later it must rise. Why trade justice for silence. Even Whodini finally ran out of tricks.

Anonymous said...

Media was forced to play to the current tune.

Samuel Makori said...

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and saw first hand the struggle for the second liberation as it unfolded. The fathers of that liberation fought so hard and shed tears and blood so that we could as Kenyans be freed from the shackles of oppression, fear and State dominance. Many were jailed while others lost their lives in the quest to ensure that our respective voices would be heard and respected. Well its a pity that we have seemingly taken steps back in the quest for institutional transparency. We cannot disregard the positive steps that were taken in this election. We had by and large a peaceful election. The dissatisfied party followed the requirements of the Constitution and went to Court, the Court delivered a verdict and the Petitioner in adherence to the tenets of constitutionalism conceded. But in the midst of all this one important issue was and has not been addressed. The finding by the Supreme Court that the elections were 'free and fair' (a term that now seems to have wide linguistic meaning) does not in my mind indemnify the IEBC. Even as we wait for the reasoned judgment so as to understand the rationale behind this far reaching decree we must take the IEBC to task. We spent too much of precious tax payers money to be casually brushed aside by an unapologetic statement by the Commission. A statement that did not bother to explain away the irregularities that were demonstrated very graphically in Court. The purpose of the electronic equipment that cost us so much was to provide as much as possible an election that was not only free and fair but was seen to be free and fair. The figures that were presented both by Counsels for the 4th and 5th Petitioners and by the Court itself paint a different picture. We deserve, no we demand an explanation. It is only the truth that will exorcise the Ghosts of 2007/8 and give us the platform that we so desperately need to ensure that the mistakes of this election are not repeated. Over to you Mr. Isaak

Amimo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amimo said...

I choose the have HOPE.

Fear as in perceiving threat? Fear as in for survival as a response to danger? Fear and or anxiety and or paralysis? Could there be another question yet?

Dare exhale deeply. Dare reflect on the building of the recent scenario. Kenya has the special characteristic of being at the so called first world level in terms of the democratic process and technology and some other things. BUT even this is not nationwide. What is also not embraced nationwide are mindsets. Not 'ethnicity' as just that but as part of an identity to be proud of.

So my take is that there is much more than meets the eye or ear and it ain't The Illuminati.Kenya needs to understand her self better. Kenya needs to understand the reality of what is at stake for her very survival. Kenya has had too many Piped Pipers and willing dancers.

Frazzled and stunned as some may be Kenya is going through her unique steps of the transformation process having wandered many laps around the bush for a tad too long.

Every Kenyan has a choice sadly some simply do not acknowledge that for a number of reasons.

Dare ask the questions. Dare express the opinions. Dare look at yet the emerging angles. Big Up for Kenya and God speed as she charts her way ahead; always a beacon for the rest of the continent and maybe for some other Bigger Friends too.

God bless Kenya for all that she is. God bless our people for all that they are. God bless our teething institutions- we can all see the challenges they face.

Medicineman said...

I'm not sure there is anything with the current situation it is currently understandable. First, the civil society imploded after the 2002 election, completed cannibilised by the NARC government. Second, the trauma on our national psyche of the post 2007 election violence remain fresh in our minds. The natural instinct is to be extreme and not to countenance any political gathering. Third, there is lots to be proud off, the national grand bargain was struct in 2010. As a people it will take a while for us to redefine our nation. That just needs time, we are still testing this new constitution to know our limits.

I believe.

Anonymous said...

The pretence of most of you in the name of free speech is getting tired, all you wish to do is fuel an already extiguished fire which you are shielded from by being in your armchairs across the seas, we have a SC which has ruled, they have their reasons for doing so, all over sudden this thing of patience being a virtue is no longer what we believe in , we want action, that action has been precipitated by hoodlums like you.i pity what you stand for.....

Anonymous said...

And the moral question of who we elected is yet to register. No parent would appoint a suspected child abuser to a school board but presidency seems ok. They now head our military. Our moral aptitude has been watered down.

In truth we are now hostage to the predicament of the elect indictees, as propped by the tyranny that is their tribal numbers.

Early signs of their disregard for institutions is worrying but not surprising.

atijals said...

Gathara, you have one angle to it. However for us as Kenyans to get to a heart and mind state where we have not trust for one another is not congenital - what you hit at are the symptoms of an underlying social, economic and legislative disease - you probably need to dig deeper - you are just skimming the surface!!!
The constitution and all these other efforts are like plastic surgery - really not addressing the core issues within our society that nee to be addressed and stop the breeding of these distrustful Kenyans!!
A good try (article) - Thought provoking but not quite there.....?

Anonymous said...

My brother I also grew around the same time and at just ten yrs I watched my uncle fresh from Advanced military training in the UK detained for alleged involvement in the coup. He was never to be charged but was tortered for days on end and is today walking with a disabled hand. He never married for obvious reasons and currently lives a desolate life in the village hopeless. He is the reason I have alot of respect for the heroes of 2nd liberation some of whom went through worse challenges. But I believe God has a reason for everything and we will soldier on. I will keep on fighting never give up hope.

Anonymous said...

That supremity is what has wrecked our hard earned taxes. Even with the constitutional structures in place we have massive violations that amounts to corruption worth a criminal offense. The BVRs, gadgets worth billions and no response or accountability. Latest the 3 billion released in the name of fertilizer subsidy, no one accountable and no proof of where and which pockets the money went.

Anonymous said...

I never really imagined that we were going to lose all the gains earned since the bad old days of the 80s in one fell swoop. Now it has happened before our own eyes, yes, the media has been reduced to cheer leading!
And what is more,being opposed to anything establishment now is akin to dissent of the 80s or worse.

This cant be happening but indeed it is..in the next few years we may be exactly back where we were in 1990.

The new guys in town are actually even amazed at the way in which everybody is pliable. The police are moving back to keeping political order! If that does not give us a pause, then i dont know what would!

C. Gachau Maina said...

What ultimately moderates freedom of expression. I think it should be protected but definitely not unlimited.

The Kenyan situation is multifaceted. No one angled argument can cover it adequately. We set new rules, the voices of dissent at that point were silenced by existing rules. Playing by agreed upon rules is a start to leveling the ground.

I am an optimist. History shows there will be setbacks and victory to justice. We cannot resign to the status quo.

I lived through what happened in 2007/8 and the recent happenings. I am not sure what is better. Each scenario has is merits and flaws. I am not sure either that we need the media action of then or now. I am not even sure what middle ground there is. I am sure, though, that there are fundamental issues that must be addressed in this beloved nation. These are not simple or a responsibility of one, it must be done by all enjoining all.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said KANU will rule for 100 years. Just looking at how things have transpired since March 4th 2013. I believe they sure will. Those days a KANU youth winger had more power and authority than a state police. The youth for KANU which had some of the elected leaders used to intimidate and rule by use of force and drive fear to whomever crossed their path. That not the Kenya..Matiba, Rubia, Masinde Muliro, Jaramogi, Shikuku, Koigi, Anyona, Imanyara etc fought for. We seem to have less freedom, and rights than we did in 2002. We all need to speak up or else everyone we will continue to live in fear in our our country that is turning to the few who will sent declarations to media houses as executive press releases that if you can remember in the past used to be roadside declarations that could include firing and hiring of government officials. We are heading there guys

Anonymous said...

Free speech is equivalent to supporting CORD. When they ranted about criminals who should be in prison and not state house, we expected a Mother of All Petition. But we ended up with a fickle panel begging for a rerun. Repeat; why not pour your evidence into the public and let the people decide? Just as banks won't bail out a sinking Spectre, the media refuses to sink with jakom

Again,show us the evidence that was turned away and we can make up our minds. All I have had are blame games NSIS,Police,KDF,IEBC,ICC,media,and now Supreme Court is no longer trusted.

Ahmednasir correctly diagnosed the ailment. Raila Doctrine. Where elections are only fair if you win. It is sad that he has trained his guns on media houses,and is busy ventillating. In fact,a syndrome that is quickly catching up is Mandela Syndrome.

Go to SA and dare question or aks questions about this African Saint. You are labelled racist,anti-reformer. It is very hard to fiund anything on Kenyan media critical of Raila. Nobody tells you what attrocities Moi committed between 78 and 82 to warrant a bloody coup. We are told he was a dictator. Period.

Nobody is bold enough to question Raila's records. We are told he defeated the 2005 constitution. Was it for our good or just to get at Kibaki. We are told that he wad denied victory in 2007. Whad did Kriegler say about rigging? Was it one/two-way?

Am glad that it took 2 ICC suspects to commit deicide; they killed a goD

Bob said...

KENYANS VOTED!!The fact that majority of them voted for Uhuru is without doubt... I still don't understand which kenyans u represent.There can only be one president/government at a time.From your lamentations it seems as if in ur dictionaries the words democracy,rule of law, justice and fair elections, have all been replaced by the name of one presidential candidate.KENYANS KNOW BETTER WHAT ALL THOSE WORDS MEAN.

Alex Odongo said...

Labeling the two Jubilee principals 'indictees' by using coached witnesses did not change our resolve to have them at the helm... The 'Makaus and the Kiais' who did that are still free to coach others to testify against IEBC wherever they may wish.The fact is KENYANS SPOKE AGAINST UR WISH.

Anonymous said...

It was always going to be a tough ask upsetting the status quo. I dont know what the solution is but am sure the 'I will never vote again' fire raging on social media and in the minds of disilussioned Kenyans is not it. One sure take away from 2013 and even 2007, is we need to be better prepared going into elections. The other side sure was

Anonymous said...

the problem is that even the agitators do it in a violent way. Do you choose peaceful agitation or peaceful silencing??

Anonymous said...

Where we live ethically and morally as a nation is determined by the some total of our values and principles. The seed we sow today in this regard will be reaped by our children. The big question is, what really do the majority of Kenyans want, seeing that this is the essence of democracy? When they come, they might not know which side one belongs to and the will take the one away with them.

John Adede said...

Truth is simple and plain but perhaps too unnerving for some. God endowed each one of us with a sense of right an wrong and we all can tell when something is wrong. We may pretend that is not but we know it. I may not be a lawyer but my sixth sense tells me that something is wrong in the country. The ruling by the SC does not invalidate my feeling. Gathara is right in my view. Let wake up and address what ails Kenya.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that judicial reforms was be all end all. sadly not. it seems all you need to do is steal enough to get a first time win and the constitution will work for you.we no longer have people who fight for societal injustices. the new parliamentarians have no shred of public service bone in their being. can some new patriots please stand up.

Njeri Nyamu said...

You speak of a republic of fear and it reminds me of the song sung in the apartheid era by Bright Blue 'Weeping' a poignant reminder of what a terrible motivator fear is and how deeds of oppression have been committed in the name of 'peace & order

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