By Makau Mutua PhD
Something terrible has been happening since Jubilee leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto won the March 4 elections.
I know â€“ you want me to sing â€œlove, peace and unityâ€. But I ainâ€™t a parrot, or a regime apologist. Thatâ€™s the other guy, not me.
My job is to tell it like it is, and let the chips fall where they may. Thatâ€™s why today I am leaving all of it on this page. This is the adage from which I warn thee â€“ those who donâ€™t learn from history are bound to repeat it.
This is what I see â€“ there is a â€œdangerously rising tide of intoleranceâ€ by those who believe they â€œwonâ€. Why are they so insecure, and abusive?
In 2013, Kenyans didnâ€™t hack each down with machetes, or torch innocents in churches. No, this year â€“ unlike 2008 â€“ Kenyans are more â€œcivilisedâ€.
They didnâ€™t run to the streets to denounce the IEBC and its beleaguered chair Issack Hassan. They went to court â€“ to the Supreme Court â€“ to seek justice. They â€œacceptedâ€ the courtâ€™s decision even if they â€œdisagreedâ€ with it.
Itâ€™s that little thing called the â€œrule of lawâ€. Many have â€œmoved onâ€. I even saw former PM Raila Odinga â€œholding handsâ€ with President Uhuru Kenyatta at some funeral. Let me tell you something; you would be unwise to believe that our land is now flowing with milk and honey. Donâ€™t trust, or believe, empty gestures.
There is an eerie calm over the land. Many people want to believe that monsters can turn into angels. Iâ€™ve heard people say â€“ in so many words â€“ letâ€™s turn our swords into plowshares. I wish this were true, or genuine, but it simply isnâ€™t.
Even the â€œfree pressâ€ is suppressing â€œincendiaryâ€ or â€œdivisiveâ€ stuff. Itâ€™s self-censoring news and commentary that it deems â€œunpatrioticâ€.
I didnâ€™t think I would live to see something like â€œtoo much freedomâ€ in Kenya. Whatâ€™s happening? Why is there a â€œlaager mentalityâ€ within certain institutions and communities? Remember â€œlaagerâ€ is from the Boer racist nomenclature. Have we gone backwards, even though many believe weâ€™ve leapt forward? Methinks I know what is going on.
I will cut to the chase. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto won the elections by herding together the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. Their â€œvictoryâ€ has unleashed in their supporters a stunning xenophobia.
You canâ€™t write, or say, anything critical about the Kenyatta regime without a Kikuyu or Kalenjin spitting hate at you.
Their reaction to anything remotely disagreeable is so visceral and venomous that it defies logic or explanation. Whatâ€™s shocking is that most of the â€œhatersâ€ are pedestrians, or hoi polloi, who subsist on less than a dollar a day. Others are â€œmiddle classâ€ and â€œeducatedâ€ but irredeemably bigoted. Is the â€œcall of the bloodâ€ so strong and intoxicating that it vitiates class and material interests?
Most of these bigots have taken their hate campaigns to social media where anonymity protects their vitriol. But being anonymous isnâ€™t the same thing as hiding your identity. Most of the bloggers â€œdefendingâ€ the Kenyatta regime are either Kikuyu or Kalenjin.
They reveal their identities either by their usernames or the arguments they make. Itâ€™s not subtle, or rocket science, to figure out the identities of most bloggers. The haters are doing with a keypad what they would have done with a machete in 2008.
I have seen many comments which are â€œgenocidalâ€ in orientation. Most never engage in any argument. They simply foam at the mouth and bloviate. I wonder what satisfaction they derive from such tirades.
They say that you really canâ€™t know whatâ€™s in a manâ€™s heart even when he speaks up. I think social media has turned that nugget of wisdom on its head. I believe people confess their innermost thoughts on social media.
They tell the world through Twitter and Facebook what they wonâ€™t tell their priests. Thatâ€™s why I think we have to take what people say on social media very, very seriously. Itâ€™s often the naked, unvarnished truth.
Which begs the question â€“ can the rising tide of intolerance among Jubilee supporters be tamed? If they â€œwonâ€ why are they so virulently hateful? What are they insecure about? Or perhaps they believe â€“ secretly â€“ that they didnâ€™t win fair and square?
Kenyans were much divided after the 2007 elections. Those divisions have widened. Weâ€™ve spent the last five years â€“ before the March 4 elections â€“ trying to create a more â€œperfect unionâ€ so the demons that put us asunder donâ€™t come back to haunt us. Thatâ€™s what the 2010 Constitution was supposed to do.
So were the truth commission and the Waki Envelope. I am afraid we seem to have missed the boat. This yearâ€™s elections further divided us, instead of bringing us together. Perhaps thatâ€™s why the press and those who say we should â€œmove onâ€ are so insistent on peace and stability.
Kenya as an idea has never been so deeply imperiled. What can we do to recover real hope? I am not advocating, as Information PS Bitange Ndemo, that we should censor social media. I think itâ€™s better to let people speak especially when we disagree with them.
At least we would know what they are thinking, and planning. The real question is what we do with the underlying causes of the hate. Unless those are understood, and addressed, we are bound to spiral into a deeper hole. I suggest we retrace our steps as a country, and ask what we can do â€“ collectively â€“ to create a nation out of this mess.
Makau Mutua is Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of the KHRC. Twitter @makaumutua.This piece was published on May 25th 2013 by the NATION