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Rein on toxic rhetoric, rising political temperatures

By , People Daily Digital
Monday, September 6th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
NCIC chairperson Rev Samuel Kobia.

Recently, harsh political salvos have been exchanged between competing politicians. This is nothing new, though.

Our politicians are perennial campaigners. However, there’s a new urgency as Kenya hurtles towards the August General Election. Consequently, political activity has hit fever pitch.

The threat of political instability looms large, spurred by increasingly personalised attacks and throwing of political mud.

Kenya has been here before, where incendiary rhetoric during campaigns led to serious political chaos.

It is also worrying that banditry attacks in some political hotspots continue with impunity despite official threats, and are apparently escalating in tandem with the countdown to the August contest. 

As the clock towards the poll runs out, all efforts must be made to save the country from a meltdown.

The key is politicians’ personal responsibility. This is difficult because most of them are indisciplined and the record at holding them accountable is patchy.

Politicians must stop hurling abuses at each other and start “behaving”. Political hygiene seems to elude the country in every electoral cycle.

With a fierce electoral contest looming, it is an absolute imperative that political discipline be vigorously enforced.

The biggest enabler of this indiscipline is the media that gives politicians platform to spew filth.

The Media Owners Association has a responsibility and capacity to deal a death blow to political indiscipline. Cut off behaving badly politicians and they will come to heel very fast. 

Nothing gets a politician’s attention faster than a media blackout. MOA chair Stephen Gitagama needs to lead his association in doing the right thing. 

The first arsenal in this battle is the National Cohesion and Integration Commission led by Sam Kobia.

The failure of the country to achieve political hygiene is a failure of NCEC to live up to its mandate. 

The institution must enforce the sanitisation of politics. But this job is not for the fainthearted, therefore, NCEC must act promptly and firmly.

The following 11 months will show clearly whether it has teeth, or just barks.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has powers to sanction politicians who fail the integrity test, which is a sum total of many behavioural issues, including the spewing of incendiary rhetoric, or incitement.

Unfortunately, the EACC has been very reticent in playing the role. Despite warnings, politicians do it anyway.

It’s a dare to the EACC to do its worst. Its leadership should grab this chance to change the trajectory.

And finally, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has the ultimate authority on who gets to go on the ballot.

This is a huge power that, if exercised in a forceful and timely manner, will get all politicians to act with circumspection.

Nothing is more scaring to a political aspirant than being locked out of elections.

IEBC has the mandate and power to ensure those who go against the electoral code of conduct are barred from contesting. Why will it not do so? 

The agency’s chairman is by now a battle hardened general. Wafula Chebukati should not be intimidated by politicians.

Indeed, the only way they’ll respect his office is if he acts fearlessly and impartially.

So, the work of sanitising politics falls on the shoulders of three agencies. They should come together and agree on a strategy to sanitise political environment in the run up to the elections.

They need to agree on how to share information, buttress one another’s work, and watch each other’s back. They shouldn’t fear. The law protects them from any capricious sacking.

To be successful in this endeavour, they must also be seen to be impartial and evenhanded. The ball is in their court. Will they pick it up? [email protected]