Why we must all condemn hate speech

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Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • To attempt another cycle of that kind of violence is to tempt the gods.

With slightly over a year before the next general election, it seems as if the hate speech button has been pressed, yet again, and the political class has begun pushing the gullible electorate into yet another cycle of electoral mayhem.

The recent calls for convictions against political leaders who are alleged to have used inflammatory language is a warning sign that maybe all may not be rosy in the days ahead.

In the wake of the deadly 2007/2008 post-election violence, many were lulled into a false slumber, believing that we were either too immune to war or were already beyond the phases that our neighbours in East Africa like Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi had earlier on experienced. However, that moment served as a wake-up call and maybe for the first time, we needed our neighbours to come to our rescue.

We remember the role that art played during and after the violence. Daima Mkenya was a patriotic song released in the thick of the mayhem. Listening to it, one would feel a deep sense of responsibility and desire to stop the violence. There were photographers and painters who brought to the attention of the world the need to intervene.

The art community must now do more to re-educate, re-sensitize and re-awaken the national psyche to the very possible but detrimental realities of an electoral violence.

Whenever one is charged with hate speech, chances are that the damage is long done. Unlike other crimes like corruption, traffic violations or even abuse of office, hate speech is a crime that strikes at the conscience and inspires action, most of which is violent. It is little wonder then that some of the world’s worst possible atrocities like the Nazi holocaust or the Rwandan genocide begun by inflammatory propaganda and the active promotion of hate.

It is very difficult to undo hate in the hearts of people once it is inspired. We must not allow anyone to take us down that road again.

The existence of history cannot be taken for granted. It is from history that we find valuable lessons that enable us to do a comparative and comprehensive analysis of the circumstances then and now.

Words, like actions, have consequences. In ‘07/08, the consequence was loss of lives, destruction of livelihoods, displacement of people and a tanked economy. Even if these were just on a smaller scale compared to what our neighbours have endured, we had a taste of what it could feel like to live under the cloud of lawlessness, militia and the fear for our lives. To attempt another cycle of that kind of violence is to tempt the gods.

Just the way words can have a negative impact on our society, so can they have the transformative power to effect positive change and promote values that work for the good of the majority. There sure are many negative voices in our midst, those that promote cynicism and division.

The good news is that they are far outnumbered by those who want messages that uplift and promote their well-being. Those voices have to come out now. The cyclic violence must be nipped in the bud no matter what.

Dorah Amondi is a teacher of English at Chambiti Secondary School in Vihiga County