Stone Throwing is Dangerous to Our Sensitive Democracy

By Japheth Oluoch Ogola

Reports that a section of youths interrupted Raila Odinga’s BBI rally in Githurai is setting up a dangerous threat to our democracy and the rule of law. This is particularly more worrying considering that a similar event happened during his recent visit to Burma market in Nairobi’s Eastlands. The nature of our democracy is such that all political parties and politicians have their support base, it’s only the numbers that may differ. This scenario is more pronounced in major urban areas with a diversified population. The fact that one’s political events are interrupted may not necessarily mean lack of popularity. Likewise, lack of interrupting an opponents’ political rallies doesn’t mean that they are popular. The difference is in the levels of civility or lack of it.

Political violence and intolerance have very bad escalating effects. When supporters of a political leader interrupts a meeting of organized by a perceived opponent, it is most likely that his/her events will also be interrupted by the competitors’ supporters. Before we know it, we shall have pockets of violence in different parts of the country which may soon become unmanageable towards the 2022 general elections. We seem to be heading into an era where opponents will plan to have each other’s activities invaded by hooligans. We cannot accept a culture of ‘you stone our leaders, we stone yours’. It is unfortunate that many young boys and girls from the slums are used by politicians as weapons of electoral violence. It doesn’t matter if they lose their lives in the process since many others get into the vulnerable poverty level every day.

It takes the responsibility of leaders to not only restrain their supporters but to have internal mechanisms of disciplining those who commit crimes. Leaders who are worth electing into political offices must unequivocally condemn violence. While there are state agencies with the role to mitigate political violence and other crimes, political parties and politicians have a major influencing role over their supporters. The media may also need to consider black-outs for politicians and political parties with a history of violence and impunity.

While most electoral violence is planned, it is possible that there are intolerant members of the public who act on their own motion and should be held to account for their actions. Citizenry responsibility is paramount in nurturing our democracy. I look forward to the day that Raila Odinga will hold a peaceful political rally in Sugoi while William Ruto will be in Kang’o Kajaramogi in Bondo. This is the level of political maturity required to nurture our democracy. It is possible to listen to divergent political opinion and make an independent decision without violating each other’s’ rights and freedoms.

The writer is a governance and management consultant in Kenya. He may be reached on japhol2002.japheth@gmail.con or 0724261751

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