Error of Hate Speech: Ignore the political deceit, it’s not about ‘us’

Violent scenes from the 2007/08 post election violence. [Photo/]

Politicians are at it again, and so are we who bear the consequences of political instability and tribal clashes.

Before we talk about ‘us’ let us look at the real meaning of the phrase common mwananchi.

The word common has several meanings, derived from Macmillan Dictionary. The most significant one however is a person of low social class. The word is synonymous with equally insulting but cool-sounding words such as plebeian, humble, second-class etc.

Mwananchi is of course a Swahili word to mean citizen.

Based on the definitions above, therefore, it is baffling why we have, for decades, agreed to be referred to as common wananchi.

Is it because we are ignorant of the true meaning of the term, or we simply don’t care?

Whatever the case, such references are meant to disparage our position in society, with words like honourable, or its Swahili translation mheshimiwa, being exalted to maximise on the opposite effect.

Once we have been bamboozled into believing our place in society is in the gutter and that of politicians elevated, we tend to worship them and cling on to every word they say.

We then praise their reckless posts on social media; hail their barbaric utterances in public rallies and scramble to shake their hands in the streets, just to make them feel important.

The utterances by politicians over the weekend have reawakened a wave of animosity and tribal contrariety that had been buried in dust after the 2007 elections.

Just days after political leaders from CORD and Jubilee made provocative statements inciting one tribe against another, social media sites are stained with spiteful posts as Kenyans crawl back into their tribal cocoons.

This is where the ‘us’ comes in. Kenyan political scene has been modelled in a way that we see it as an us-versus-them contest.

Political leaders, since time immemorial, have made us believe that other tribes are not to be trusted; especially if they are not on our side of the political divide.

It’s not about ‘us’

And so, while they chat and laugh over beer or cups of coffee and strike business deals to strengthen their empires, we are busy insulting each other, unfriending, unfollowing or blocking our friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp, merely because their political stands differ from ours.

It is all a game of power, ladies and gentlemen, a way of maintaining the status quo and keeping the political class up there and us down here. How else would you vote them back?

It seems, from the current state of affairs, that photos of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Security CS Joseph Nkaissery – all members of Jubilee, and CORD leaders Raila Odinga and his co-principal Moses Wetangula sharing a hearty laughter at a state luncheon at State House weeks ago did little to alter our perception of how politics is played in Kenya.

Despite invective pronouncements and public opposition by political rivals, their differences end at podiums and die off with the setting of the sun. They then call each other, exchange friendly messages and very often sit together to break bread.

When they appear in public however, the spew hate and cause ethnic apprehension by pitting ‘us’ against ‘them’.

One thing is for sure, though, it is never ‘us’ against ‘them’ in terms of tribal perception, if it should be so then it should be based on social status – the poor versus the rich, pro-development versus anti-development, pro-change versus anti-change, pro-unity versus anti-unity…etc.

So next time your local leaders make inciting remarks or spread hate on social media, don’t give them 1.4k likes and 1,000 comments on Facebook, or 600 retweets on Twitter. The next time your MP labels the other tribe as an enemy of the state, do not applaud him and jump in thrill. No.

The modest and nationalistic thing to do, if not for our sake then for our children and our children children’s sakes, is to shout them down, post comments of condemnation and if they are perennial hate mongers, vote them out of office  – because it is not about ‘us’.


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Story By Benjamin Wafula
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