Electoral violence is not an event. It is a process. It starts slowly, simmering in the substratum before it blows up and becomes an uncontrollable all–consuming inferno. The unfortunate bit is that most times, as the drums of war start beating, albeit in low tones, those beating them, those dancing to the tunes and those eavesdropping on the sounds all feign ignorance, pretending that these are not the initial baby steps which eventually explode into catastrophe.
One would want to imagine that considering the tragic extent of the maiming, murder, rape, displacement and other crimes against humanity meted out on helpless civilians during the 2007/2008 post-election violence, Kenya and Kenyans would by now have resolved that never again will the early signs of electoral violence be entertained in their midst – no matter who, no matter what. Because 2007/2008 was supposed to be Kenya’s Never Again moment.
But, as we must all be knowing by now, Kenya’s enduring curse, is that it has a short memory.
And so as the country gets into premature presidential election campaigns – the constitutionally stipulated date for the next general election, August 2022, is over a year and a half away – signs that the country is steadily but surely hurtling towards the early stages of the 2007/2008 nightmare are beginning to show. The signs, sights and sounds are all there.
While attending the funeral of Abel Gongera, father to Kisii County deputy governor Joash Maangi, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto witnessed the slippery slope the country is descending into when two of their lieutenants, Members of Parliament Simba Arati of Dagoretti North – an Odinga ally – and Silvanus Osoro of South Mugirango – a Ruto diehard – engaged in a public fist fight at the rostrum. Osoro was incensed by Arati’s salvos directed at the Deputy President, opting to charge at the podium and cut Arati’s speech short.
As the madness unfolded, Mr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga sat still on their front row seats.
Under a fortnight earlier, suspected supporters of Mr. Ruto had jeered and pelted stones at Mr. Odinga and his convoy as the former premier attended a public rally in Gutharai. Days later, a rally being addressed by Mr. Ruto at Burma Market was disrupted by alleged sympathizers of Mr. Odinga. There are no prizes for guessing that more of such incidents will occur and recur.
But as Mr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga posture as innocent bystanders as these not so subtle drums of electoral violence start beating, they and others like them seeking to lead Kenyans, must not forget the ugly scars brought about by the 2007/2008 post-election violence, lest the ongoing incidents be the slowly spreading venom that will culminate in a bloodbath come 2022.