By Dikembe Disembe
Introspection, Did we Botch our outrage on Kalonzo’s tribal gaffe?
Soon after the 2013 general elections, one of the faces, and commissions, which folded up was that of Mzalendo Kibunjia and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.
Prior to the election, Kibunjia rode roughshod over politicians’ utterances; becoming synonymous more with the commission’s abstract – hate-speech – than with either cohesion or integration.
At some point, politicians, especially from the opposition CORD, protested. Kibunjia’s commission, to the opposition, was part of a well-orchestrated ‘say no evil’ government bullies which confined opposition outbursts on various issues to what was politically harmless, voteless and useless.
In campaign politics of 2013, the opposition couldn’t talk about land. They were told, ‘look here, a land commission has been formed that will deal with what you are saying’.
In deed, the National Land Commission bought into the frenzy, and, at a media appearance, warned politicians of ‘using land injustices’ as campaign talking points. The commission, now a toothless dog, claimed it was the sole custodian of all lands, and all injustices on lands.
During one of the presidential debates; candidate Uhuru, faced by the land question, was emphatic – let’s allow the commissions we’ve formed and empowered to do their work.
Land, a hot campaign topic, a rallying call, lost its potency in 2013.
Kibunjia’s commission and the Land commission are just two examples. There were the police, with IG Kimaiyo also warning about ‘tensions’; the media and their peace gospel, religious organizations and many others.
These bodies moralised politics. Using a powerful media backing, they framed the 2013 campaigns in terms our of reach for the opposition. They set the range of acceptable debate on each topic. Past their range, the opposition was either blacked out, or openly scorned, chastised, even.
The Jubilee Alliance, however, continued with their onslaught. They used ICC, they used the MAU conservation (turned it upside down and called it ‘evictions’), they used pent-up historical grievances, they instilled the fear of another violence.
They didn’t have to talk about the things the opposition wanted to be talked about. Things like inclusion. Things like what ‘shared prosperity’ should mean. Things like the country’s would-be standing in the international comity of nations. They were already shielded from being taken to task on the land question.
The tribal card they used, and christened as ‘tyranny of numbers’, was already ordained. I remember as a student in Eldoret, the respected catholic clergy, Bishop Cornelius Korir, had given the ‘union’ of Uhuru and Ruto a clean bill of religious health – ‘it will bring peace’ – he said.
With this recent historical prism, the opposition emerged from the 2013 elections nursing wounds not just of a rigged election but also an ‘un-levelled pre-election ranting field’.
Yet, be all these as they may, the opposition, taunted by all and sundry to ‘accept and move on’ appeared to have moved on faster than its rivals – the jubilee alliance, the media, etc.
At every opportune moment, we’ve seen the Jubilee Alliance struggle to maintain the pre-2013 arrangement. It still wants their masses to view top opposition leaders with the same ludicrous old frames they created of an opposition so vindictive that it took them to the Hague, it is being used by the ‘west’ and it is synonymous with vicious violence.
But it is the jubilee alliance’s attempt to do one more thing that the opposition must scrupulously reject: set the range of ‘acceptable debate’. From ethnicity, foreign policy, security, (un)employment, ICC, diplomatic pettiness, devolution, legislation to any other topical issue, the opposition must reject the continuing temptation to have the so called ‘acceptable debate range’ set, framed and disseminated from this unholy jubo-media
nuptial of commercial convenience.
It is in this backdrop that I ask, did we botch our outrage of former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka’s nuanced response to a jubilee journalist? Instead of putting Kalonzo’s ‘your name betrays you, absolutely’ response into a wider context of what it means to have a 2-tribe government strangling a country of 40 other tribes (whites and asians included?), the ‘acceptable debate’, around a hashtag and 140 twitter characters, ranged at telling off Kalonzo and supporting Muriithi; or telling off Muriithi and supporting Kalonzo.
Lost in this faÃ§ade, this feckless idiocy, this unwarranted hypocrisy of (hashtag) ‘someone tell Kalonzo’ is a 40 verses 2 (successor of 40 verse 1) debate that the country must have, or suffer again for not having, whichever will come first. Drums are beating. Time is running out.
Dikembe Disembe blogs on politics and ethnicity.