A story is told of a once-stable country that momentarily lost its senses. A country whose people plunged themselves into violence because of leaders and citizens who tolerated incitement.
Leaders lost decorum. They shoved and pushed with clenched fists, incited their supporters and watched as the country degenerated into full-blown violence. Hatred was brewed amongst factions, groups, ethnicities, friends and neighbours.
Tension piled out of one atrocious activity to the next with nobody thinking of the consequences of their actions as others watched silently. We eventually fought, destroyed our own resources and killed one another just because of our wayward tongues.
‘Our’ since we all were responsible for what happened and only its veracity differentiated us.
Consequently, Kenya suffered out of the death and destruction that ensued from the 2007/2008 poll violence. A bad memory that anybody would wish to forget but has, unfortunately, left a permanent scar on the country.
Lessons have been learnt and some amendments made, but the recent turn of events is a clear indication that not all Kenyans are speaking in one voice as far as incitement to violence is concerned. Not all understand the gravity of incitement based on the recent utterances that unfolded right in the middle of a political rally where masses had gathered at a region once identified as a hotspot of political violence. What was the motive of referring to ‘madoadoa’ (blemishes) and saying that they should be removed from the region?
It’s horrifying that a leader who has sat in Parliament, in full knowledge of the negative connotation in the region, now seeks to be the tool for divisive politics. Worse, and extremely questionable, is that the vitriol was uttered in the presence of other top leaders, who, strangely, took no urgency in speaking against it. The damage has been done. The messaging has sunk into the masses; what remains to be seen is whether Kenyans will shun or support such malicious talk.
Kenya offers great ethnic diversity that can be used or misused, and such divisive utterances act as a threat to the peaceful coexistence among communities in relatively cosmopolitan regions.
The country has worked very hard to maintain peace and stability. We benefit from one another when it comes to economic empowerment through access and purchase of goods and services, manufacturing, infrastructure, cultural exchange, religion, transportation and other social and cultural endeavours.
Our nation requires sober and responsible leaders, who must be conscious of what comes out of their tongue. Leaders who understand the power of the tongue.
No right-thinking Kenyan would want a repeat of the post-election violence. The authorities must tame hate speech.
Selina Chiteri, Nairobi