April 29th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Uhuru’s public spats signify deep worries on election, 2007/08 memories

It is increasingly becoming apparent that ongoing political events - marred by violence and hate speeches - could create problems for the country after August 8. But this situation could be reversed if we all sober up to the realization that an election is a contest of popularity not a call to arms.

By Joe KhamisiThursday, 16 Mar 2017 14:09 EAT

Of Kenya's four presidents, only the second, Moi, used respectable language.

Founding President Jomo Kenyatta did it, so did Mwai Kibaki. Now, Uhuru Kenyatta is doing it. I am talking about insults, slurs, and profanities that spew out of lips of our nation's chief executive. Only the second President Daniel arap Moi was respectful enough not to use foul language against his opponents.

Apart from calling his opponents "vinyang'arika" (minnows) and "snakes", Jomo Kenyatta was known to refer to the woman's anatomy with abundance. President Kibaki, on the other hand, was generous with callous phrases such as "mavi ya kuku," (chicken poop), "bure kabisa", (completely useless) and "pumbafu," (stupid), in referring to ideas and people he disagreed with.

Uhuru is walking the same road of dirty, repulsive oratory, and going through fits of insensate fury that are uncalled for. Referring to other politicians as "devils" and "foolish" does not help his moral credibility. His recent outbursts against opposition officials were not only un-presidential but explicitly hostile. They left Kenyans wondering about the suitability, or otherwise, of candidate Uhuru in this year's elections. No wonder Kenyans flooded the social media to question the President's temperament and sensitiveness.

Leaders are expected by the populace to display humility, tolerance, and unshakable calm at all times, but more so during this high-charged period when the political temperature is at its peak and everyone is pumped up over the upcoming polls. The President did not have to be finicky about the remarks by the Governor of Turkana nor react the way he did to the spiel of the Mombasa Governor.

He would have won points in statesmanship if he had just ignored them or dismissed them with a brush of hand, but his unvarnished rhetoric did the opposite: it left the President with an egg on the face and unnecessarily boosted the popularity of the two opposition politicians.

There is no doubt Uhuru is queasy about the outcome of the polls and the events that could follow. Memories of 2007 and 2013 must be haunting him. Moreover, recent disclosures of a scheme to hack electoral systems and the widespread mischief seen during the registration of voters point to some dirty tricks cooking in a pot that must worry everyone. That is why it was so important for the President to reassure Kenyans this week that the elections will be free and fair.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly becoming apparent that ongoing political events - marred by violence and hate speeches - could create problems for the country after August 8. But this situation could be reversed if we all sober up to the realization that an election is a contest of popularity not a call to arms.

Having said that, respect begets respect. If those opposite the ruling Jubilee party - and vice versa - want to be respected they must extend the same to their nemesis. One thing I must say however. Respect for the presidency - the highest office in the land - is non-negotiable.

The writer is a veteran journalist, author and former Member of Parliament for Bahari. All his books are available in bookshops in Nairobi and on Amazon.com





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