KIRUKU: A call for peace, no more election violence please


KIRUKU: A call for peace, no more election violence please
The EAC countries in EA have been in a political mood for the past month

The region has been in an election mood for the past few months, with both Kenya and Rwanda holding their general elections in August.

Urgent resolution of the rising election disputes will go a long way in ensuring citizens overcome the current election euphoria – which has significantly derailed economic growth and normal business across the region.

Tensions rose to new highs in Kenya after the National Super Alliance, led by Raila Odinga, rejected the provisional results showing President Uhuru Kenyatta taking an early lead.

Kenya should borrow a leaf from Rwanda, whose elections have been hailed as democratic, constitutional and peaceful.

The former should maintain peace and those not contented with election results resolve the arising disputes within the confines of the law.

Tension, anxiety and mistrust which breeds chaos should be avoided during this time.

The violent paths that East African countries like Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya have travelled in the past should be shunned.

Kenyans should not forget the tears, pain and agony that afflicted the country during the 2007/2008 post-election violence that followed the disputed presidential outcome of December 2007.

About 1,500 people were left dead, 3,000 innocent women and children were raped, and more than 300,000 people were left internally displaced. The chaos lasted for 59 days before an amicable solution was found.

Property worth millions of dollars was destroyed as violence took over and insanity reigned supreme.

The world cannot help but admire Rwanda for finding peace and stability after going through the worst genocide to have occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

During the three-month Rwandan genocide which lasted from 7 April to 4 July 1994, over a million people were left dead. It is unfortunate that the youth were actively involved in killing their peers, innocent children and women. It is estimated that an average of 10,000 people killed daily during that period, the highest rate of killing in recorded history.

The region is thrilled to see President Paul Kagame peacefully and democratically start his third term in office after garnering more than 98 per cent of the votes cast in an election where it is estimated that more than seven million people took part.

It is commendable that President Kagame’s track record on instilling peace, stability, growth and development in Rwanda has endeared him to the people, who have reciprocated by overwhelmingly voting him back.

Although critics have condemned Kagame’s prolonged stay in office, it is paramount to note that he is doing so within the provisions of the constitution of Rwanda, which is the supreme law of the land.

Kagame has been president for 17 years; he turns 60 this year and was eligible to run for re-election, thanks to changes to the country’s constitution.

The constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum held in 2015, allows President Kagame to vie for the presidency and to serve as many as five terms in office. This means Kagame could remain in office until 2034.

While it would be gentlemanly to allow another person to lead the country, the constitution should be adhered to and the will of the people must carry the day.

Allegations of repression, politically-motivated murders and violence – which apparently has created an atmosphere of fear in Rwanda – according to Amnesty International, must nevertheless be investigated.

Ensuring people vote freely to choose their leaders in a credible, fair and transparent process is a key component of democracy.

The chaos, bloodshed and destruction of properties in the cases of both Rwanda and Kenya were blam3d on the youth, who must now shun such behaviour and desist from any forms of violence.

Leaders found inciting the youth to violence should be dealt with according to the law.

Law enforcement agencies must be extra vigilant during this period and handle any forms of electoral illegality with urgency.

Any person found spreading lies and propagandas meant to cause chaos should be arrested and brought to book.

The media, too, must desist from any forms of sensational reporting. Kenyan media have been accused of sensationalising the electoral process to the extent that it makes it appear like a two-horse race.

This in turn has created a scenario of “winner takes all”, which is largely to blame for the animosity between the two major political formations.

Journalists should ensure that they focus their reportage on only the crucial issues that are fundamental to resolving a conflict, as opposed to those that maintain the status quo or escalate the conflict.

Kenyan journalists must ensure that during this period, they maintain a professional, objective and conflict-sensitive reporting style that focuses primarily on the facilitation of dialogue and reconciliation.

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Story By Wahome Gitonga
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