Deceptive political narratives harm democracy

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 00:00 | By
Former US President Donald Trump. Photo/AFP

Tomorrow Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America, capping an ignominious end to Donald Trump’s era of infamy and erosion of democracy.

Across the border, our next-door neighbour Yoweri Museveni has just secured a sixth five-year term as the strongman of Uganda, after a bitterly contested election that his youthful challenger Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine claimed was an affront to democracy.

Here at home the political temperatures rose higher as the main protagonists squared off ahead of the referendum this year and next year’s General Election.

As we approach these two significant events in Kenya’s electoral calendar, we have some critical lessons to learn from the US and Ugandan elections, which both proved to be a test for democracy.

Trump propagated the false narrative of a “stolen election” that never was, a claim dispelled in the courts, the Congress and the Senate.

Trump’s lies led to insurrection in the US Capitol that culminated in his second impeachment and a shameful end to his legacy.

Events leading to the Uganda election in which State-instigated security agencies brutalised citizens that left 56 people dead, have cast a dark spell on the country’s leadership.

The accompanying rhetoric illustrated how State power can be used to trample upon the people’s democratic rights.

Kenya is experiencing its fair share of cleverly couched rhetoric in the political games building up to the referendum and next year’s elections that is threatening to derail the democratic ideals that define our national aspirations. We must not allow this convoluted rhetoric to pass unchallenged.

The continuing realignments and the reactions from some quarters to the logical assessment of the ethnic equation in Kenya’s post-independence national leadership, is showing how deception can be manipulated in the pursuit of raw power and political ambitions.

Disdainful narrative

Fortunately, Kenyans have become wiser to these machinations and such false, simplistic narratives and promises are unlikely to hold sway in a truly democratic set-up.

Citizens have realised that they cannot escape the positive reality of their ethnicity in building true nationhood.

Debate surrounding the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is healthy. While critics have spun all manner of rhetoric to run away from this reality-twisting a disdainful narrative, so far it is the only one offering a better option and a bigger picture for national healing and reconciliation.

Which is not say that the BBI does not have some unanswered questions or unfulfilled aspects based on our experiences with the previous and current leadership.

Civic education on its merits are paramount to counter the propaganda and innuendo based on political vendetta.

The enablers, organisers, supporters and players to the divisive and manipulative narrative are an existential threat to our republic and must be held to account.

Kenya cannot follow the thorny path trod in Trump’s America, where outright lies from the country’s top leadership brought so much harm to democracy, causing racial hatred and divisions.

Just as Americans were not willing to accept the legacy of Trump’s destructive character and politics, we cannot accept false narratives constructed to suit unbridled political ambitions. 

Equally, we should not let our democratic ideals to be championed through the barrel of the gun, Uganda-style, in perpetuating rule over the people. 

Power is sovereign and belongs to the people. Citizens should not entertain parasites of this power to manipulate them without a sense of duty to our ethnic diversity and political integrity.  [email protected]

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