KIRUKU: A victory for women, but what about the media?

KIRUKU: A victory for women, but what about the media?
Waiguru, Ngilu, and Laboso

In an unfortunate turn of events, Kenyan society has remained divided over the validity of the victory in the presidential election of the Jubilee Party, with the opposition National Super Alliance rejecting the results.

But celebrations are in order for Kenyan women, with numbers of those elected rising substantially from the previous government. Three of the powerful governor’s seats – previously a preserve of men – have now been taken up by women.

The Senate, too, will witness some change. Previously referred to as “Nyumba ya Wazee” due to male domination of the chamber, it will now have to find another name after three of its 47 elective seats were won by women. The number of women parliamentarians in the National Assembly also rose from 84 to a 100. All these are in addition to 47 women representatives, one from each county. The number of women county assembly representatives has also risen tremendously.

This is a great milestone for Kenyan women who have for a long time been fighting for equal representation in positions of leadership and for implementation of the constitutionally-enshrined two-thirds gender principle.

But even as we celebrate the winners, we must do so with caution and humility and within the confines of the law. The tension across the country, with some claiming that they were rigged out, should be handled with urgency and constitutionally.

Already, the opposition is sounding war cries and protesters took to the streets in some NASA coalition strongholds. Lives have been lost – 24 according to human rights groups – while properties have been destroyed and businesses looted. Normal activities have not fully resumed due to fear of chaos.

It is now the duty of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA coalition leader Raila Odinga to calm the situation.

The President should aim to have an all-inclusive government that is devoid of religious, ethnic or political marginalisation. He is now solely responsible for uniting this country and ensuring it does not slide into anarchy. It is his duty to ensure lives and property are protected, too, and that the rule of law reigns supreme.

The issues raised by the opposition should be addressed within the confines of the law for peace to prevail. It is paramount for the government to appreciate that the opposition has a huge following.

But even as the opposition protest and picket – which is allowed by the constitution – they should not engage in criminal activities of looting, killing and destroying properties. The opposition leaders should advise their supporters accordingly in order to avoid a decline in economic growth.

Accepting the will of the people is a key component of democracy. Those who lost fairly should accept the election results and, in the spirit of national building, join hands with those who won to build the country.

It is unfortunate that once again, the police have been accused of using excessive force when handling protesters. The law enforcers must not step outside the law. The use of excessive force – whether against protesters or criminals – exposes the police to accusations of extrajudicial killings.

The Kenyan media has so far stood the test of time in its election coverage, though it has come under increased criticism from the opposition for allegedly swallowing government propaganda and failing to report about the excessive force used by police to quell protests in opposition strongholds.

Yet, it is paramount for the media to remain non-partisan and cover events as they unfold. Journalists must remain true to their professional ethics and recognise that the first duty of the media is to the citizens, not to the government or any other interests.

The media has the duty of uniting the country by airing and publishing peace messages and calling for patience among citizens as election petitions go through the court process.

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Story By Anne Kiruku
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