Activists’ arrest petty dictatorship

Mutemi Kiama

Activist Mutemi wa Kiama at the Milimani Law Courts on April 8, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The assaults we are witnessing against human rights and democracy amount to treason perpetrated by those in power.
  • The arrest of Kiama on contrived offences amidst partisan political comments by the court illustrate the dangers we all face.

Those we have entrusted with the onerous responsibility of leadership are wont to incessantly lecture us about patriotism, nationalism, sovereignty and so on. 

Unfortunately, they often have no clue as to the true meaning and import of those important principles. They cannot understand that love and commitment to one’s country transcends the individual, party or ethnic formation in power.

This is something President Uhuru Kenyatta should learn and appreciate, as should all the other characters hovering on the margins of political power, including Deputy President William Ruto and ‘former’ Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

If the intolerance we are increasingly seeing is anything to go by, those in authority need constant reminders that they occupy high office courtesy of gadflies who pushed the boundaries so that Kenya could be free. The selfless dissidents who led the fight against colonial subjugation, as well as their successors who led the campaign against one-party dictatorship, not only won us the freedom to elect our leaders; it also won those today in position of power and authority the freedom to vie for office.

Hence, the outrage that beneficiaries of our fight for freedom, justice and equality are now the ones oppressing the citizens.

The assaults we are witnessing against human rights and democracy amount to treason perpetrated by those in power. That is the conclusion I can draw from the arrest last week of political activist Mutemi wa Kiama and a number of compatriots simply for exercising their constitutional freedom of expression.

Angry and outraged

Kenyans as a whole are angry and outraged by the economic crimes of the Jubilee administration. It cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be a criminal offence to raise the red flag against plunder and the black hole of national debt.

Mutemi, better known by his social media nom de guerre @WanjikuRevolution, now faces outrageous criminal charges simply for giving voice to legitimate outrage against yet more borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and holding President Kenyatta responsible for it.

Just for expressing his opinion on social media, Mutemi is facing some arcane charges which only prove that Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act is a dangerous law open to misuse. It has become the modern-day equivalent of the sedition laws that were used by the colonial authorities in the futile bid to silence Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Achieng Oneko, Makhan Singh and other freedom fighters who used the power of the written word to preach the gospel of liberty.

Come Independence, and the colonial-era laws, were found convenient by successive one-party regimes of Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, notably during the notorious Mwakenya trials of the late 1980s.

If this government, which owes its existence to the brave souls who challenged dictatorship, is now applying dictatorial methods to silence dissent, it could be just a matter of time before it decides to go the whole hog and fully borrow security manuals of the discarded tyrannies.

The Jubilee administration is starting by using bastardised laws and a compliant Judiciary. It already has well-demonstrated aversion to media, civil society and other independent voices, and would have no qualms making an example of a few hotheads to ensure everyone else falls into line.

Assault on liberties

The arrest of Kiama on contrived offences and oppressive bail terms amidst partisan political comments by the court illustrate the dangers we all face. You do not have to be friend or fan of Kiama’s to be very, very afraid, for what befalls him will sooner or later befall you.

Personally, I have issues with Mutemi’s methods, in particular his disdain for facts and obsession with scurrilous attacks on individuals rather than the higher goals of creating a just society. However, this is not about one person but a brazen assault on the liberties we now take for granted. 

It, therefore, behoves us all to join voices in a resounding ‘No!’ to creeping dictatorship.
I will be charitable and venture that maybe this outrage is the work of some overzealous securocrats acting on their own, rather than under direction from high above.

This is because I would not want for moment to believe that President Kenyatta is so petty and insecure that he would order the arrest of mere activists over slurs that come with the territory.

Before things get out of hand, he should call off the petty policemen who want to pretend they are acting in his name. He should know patriotism is not defined by praise singers, court jesters and sycophants but those brave and responsible enough to tell the King when he is naked.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho