We must nip election violence in the bud

It would be saddening if the violence witnessed at Deputy President William Ruto’s rally at Jacaranda Grounds in Nairobi on Sunday was a pointer to what lies ahead.

The authorities, particularly the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the police, as well as the politicians, have assured the country that the August 9 elections will be peaceful. But how, when we see such cases less than 50 days to Election Day? How can Kenyans and foreigners in the country, especially investors and tourists, be convinced that the elections will be peaceful anymore?

The authorities must ruthlessly crush such incidents and bring the culprits to book. It is encouraging to see yesterday’s round of condemnations of the incident by IEBC, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and Law Society of Kenya (LSK).

NCIC promised to conduct its own investigations and pledged to summon those it will identify as possible culprits. Those identified should be promptly brought before a court of law and sternly punished as per the law. LSK demanded that all cases of violence at political rallies be treated equally and the same zeal be applied to arrest the perpetrators from both sides of the political divide.

But this condemnation, especially by IEBC and NCIC, is not enough. It should be quickly followed by firm action, which must include the barring from rallies candidates found guilty of instigating violence. IEBC cannot throw their hands in the air, saying they do not have powers to check the conduct of politicians on the campaign trail. They should do more.

For the politicians, they have a responsibility to ensure that their supporters respect their rivals. Let them keep off their rallies if they disagree with their policies. They should not incite them but, instead, insist on peace messages.

We cannot afford to have bloodshed in this election; we have been down that road before with devastating consequences. Nobody wants a return to 2007/2008, when the country went to the brink of collapse under post-election violence. Everybody should act responsibly and ensure we have a peaceful general election and the troublemakers held to account.

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