Anger intensifies at political rallies as election date nears

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022 06:53 | By
Raila Odinga and William Ruto when they met at Windsor hotel on June 29 2022. PHOTO/Courtesy

Recently, Deputy President William Ruto, gushed into a stream of fury when a section of the crowd he was addressing in Vihiga county interrupted his speech by shouting him down. Upon realising that the disturbance was not seizing, Ruto lashed out at his audience, singling out a man from the crowd and rebuking him vehemently.

“Tuwe na heshima. Wewe Kijana wacha kunijibu. Unanijibu kama nani ? Kama umeleta kisirani toka huwezi kuja hapa na kuharibu mkutano.” (Let us respect one another. Young man, do not talk back at me, and why are you so rude? If you are here to disrupt this meeting, leave.)

Ruto’s utterances were met with criticism, especially from his opponents who had a field day tearing into his presidential suitability.

“A country can’t be led by someone with anger issues because you don’t know what he can do to its citizens,” Raila’s running mate Martha Karua said during party’s campaign in Kiambu.

But the DP took the criticism in his stride and changed the conversation about the anger, saying he is too angry because of the suffering of the people

Though Ruto and Raila Odinga have in the past repeatedly pledged their commitment to peaceful elections, the tone of their campaigns has become toxic in the home stretch, with each side taking every opportunity to tear the other.

While on a campaign tour in Nanyuki county last week, Raila attacked Ruto’s integrity claiming it was the reason he skipped Tuesday’s presidential debate. “Nilikataa kuenda sababu mimi siwezi kuenda kuongea au  kufanya mjadala na mwizi.”  he said.  (I refused to face Ruto during the debate because I cannot face off with a thief.)

It is not uncharacteristic for political leaders to be seized by bouts of agitation and launch into fiery rhetoric while addressing their listeners, unheeding their consequences. Whether calculated or impulsive, these reactions have either cast them in bad light or stoked up tension.

Anxiety, fear and frustrations

Psychologists define anger as intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.

Nyaguthii Kariuki, a psychotherapist and consultant psychologist defines anger or any aggressive outbursts as an outward display of an unattended internal emotion; fear, hurt, sadness or frustration. She shares how this could be a result of stress accumulating over time, which overwhelms the nervous system.

“The election is important to our political leaders. It carries the weight of their dreams. They are anxious and worried— outgoing leaders are wonder if they have done enough or they could have done better.  All candidates who are on the ballot do not know whether they would win,” she says.

She adds, “A lot of these variables, which are outside of the control of these individuals is enough to cause anxiety, fear, frustration; which could be exhibited outwardly as an angry outbursts.”

The expert observes how outgoing and incoming leaders can be weighed down by the heftiness of public expectations and aspirations. She also adds that public scrutiny and unaccomplished promises can conjure ill-temper.

A fortnight ago, while presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony for the World Health Organisation (WHO) African regional operations and logistics hub, President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his displeasure at the management of Kenyatta University for failing to cede land for the development of the project.

“This is the property of Kenyan people held in trust by the government of Kenya. Some people do not seem to get it. This is not their property, but that of the public you are just a caretaker,” remarked the head of state.

“But I still have three weeks left in office. We shall deal with those individuals swiftly and effectively,” he added.

Across the border, former US President Donald Trump has been labelled by the bi-weekly magazine, the Nation as a merchant of anger on account of his perennial anger outbursts. He perhaps stands out as the most obvious example of a volatile verbal leader.

Experts say political campaigns, logically, work to elicit anger at the opposing party. This means that their supporters are quick to blame those who disagree with them for the country’s shortcomings.

Consequently, voter anger causes politics to move beyond a competition of ideas and philosophies and into a zero-sum game in which each side’s gain is the other’s loss.

And as the elections near, one thing is certain, the voters are angry.  What with the high cost of living, high food and fuel prices, unemployment, among other issues. Experts say politicians have long known that angry voters will support their party’s candidates so long as they remain sufficiently outraged at the other party.

Raila, on his campaign trail in Kilgoris called DP Ruto fool and mjinga for reffering to his running, Martha karua as‘Huyo Mama’

Mwingine nimeskia leo anasema ati mama tu nimechukuwa... Kuna mtu ambaye ana mama yake hapa? Yule ambaye anasema mama tu ni mpubavu. Ni mjinga, si ni mjinga? Mtu kama huyo anafaa kuwa makamu wa raisi? (I have heard someone today say I just picked just a woman as my running mate. Who has their mother here?  Anyone saying she is just a woman is a fool. They are stupid. That person does not even deserve to hold the title of deputy president of this country.

Power of fear

Nyaguthii further says that when you are the recipient of indignation either from your boss, parent, or role model the obvious reaction is to retreat. Moreover, such an incident is likely to usher fear in you.

“Fear, in and of itself, is a powerful emotion, and in politics, it is a powerful political tool. People respond to a politician either out of fear or respect. When they inflict fear they cultivate a powerless mentality. It is done ingeniously and the result is acquiescence,” she explains.

Even with the freedom of expression guaranteed by Chapter 33 of the Constitution of Kenya, there exists a caveat that leaders and the general public seem to ignore and hence the flourishing of inflammatory language.

Anger can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Anger and aggression can be outward, inward, or passive. Outward involves expressing your anger and aggression in an obvious way. This can include behaviour such as shouting, cursing, throwing or breaking things, or being verbally or physically abusive toward others.

Passive anger involves using subtle and indirect ways to express your anger. Examples of this passive aggressive behaviour include giving someone the silent treatment, sulking, being sarcastic, and making snide remarks.

Nyaguthii says anger frequently rises in the heat of the moment. It is easy to say or do the first thing that comes to mind. She advises taking a few moments, however, to take a deep breath and think about the situation and what you should say or do.

“When you are in a situation that causes anger, one may need to step away physically or mentally. For instance, you may choose not to answer a question or tune out the ‘noise’. You may also choose to stay objective and address a situation with emotional intelligence,” she elaborates.

She says it is possible to handle anger if one establishes what sets them off. “At the end of the day, we are responsible for our actions. We have little or no control over external environments, but we have control over our response,” she said in ending.

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