First published Sunday Standard, September 24, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group
This extended political season has just offended several of our eco-systems. The clearest evidence of this happened during the reading of the Supreme Court ruling on the Presidential Elections. As we unraveled the irregularities and illegalities of 34As and 34Bs, an aggressive attack of 34Bees took over the streets, scattering heavily armed security officers, placard carrying protesters and pedestrians. Given the toxicity of our recent politics, nature has just sent us a sign that not all is well.
The last week saw a toxic tongue-lashing from our politicians that left nothing spared. Political leaders and their followers in six counties hurled abuse and demonstrated against our Supreme Court, our electoral commission and each other. Ironically, this didn’t stop our newly elected and very divided legislators from uniting to demand higher salaries and benefits. From recent memory, we know they inch towards danger. While the Supreme Court is protected by bees, pigs have rallied to defend the Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the tax-payer in the past.
Elsewhere, a closer look at some of the nominated Members of County Assemblies suggests that all one needed to become an MCA is to be married to, related or friends with party lords. It will be interesting to see how the National Cohesion and Integration Commission exposes this further in their strategic petition before the High Court. This development must dismay the EACC even further. They, too, this week expressed disappointment that the IEBC had cleared 106 candidates with dirty hands to run in the August elections.
Allow me to return to that very unprecedented act of bee aggression. What could have angered the 34Bees to commit suicide by stinging every person in sight? Stinging is the final act of a bee. Once the sting is embedded in its target, it disembowels itself and dies. It is what suicide is to a human being.
Toxic abuse and violent politics is poisonous. Its venom secretes within its host, infects their closest confidants and then enters the air for all to breathe. Leadership that openly threatens constitutional offices, media, civic organisations and their political opponents pollinates ungovernability.
There are lessons we can learn from the barricades and armored vehicles trespassing the avenues leading to the Ugandan National Parliament this week. Police raided politician’s homes and NGO offices, beat and arrested students and councilors to stop them expressing their opposition to the #NoTermLimits clause. These events just left a few more indelible stains on Yoweri Museveni’s thirty-one-year-old legacy. Should Museveni get his wish to be proclaimed President for life, he will join the long gone, deposed and now deceased Idi Amin, Jean Bokassa and Habib Bourguiba and the unrest will only grow louder and more intense.
Recent studies now cite the abuse of power and state violence as a more powerful accelerator than religion in the journey to extremism. It may also cost politicians votes. Fifteen million Kenyans voted in the August election. That was nearly 80% of all registered voters. Second round elections tend to lose 30% of the turnout. Given the next election is only for the Presidency, it is possible the turnout could be even lower this time round.
The main significance of the Supreme Court ruling this week is that neither numbers nor processes matter more than the other. The integrity of both are important for electoral democracies. It is now time to place the Supreme Court ruling behind us and concentrate on how a badly dented IEBC can credibly count and reflect our votes on October 26.
NASA and Jubilee ran issue based campaigns before August 8. In this current toxic atmosphere, who can remember, hear or connect with what both Principals stand for? Vendettas now drown out manifestos. Without a refocus back to the issues affecting our lives, why should we come out and vote in large numbers.
Bees are defensive creatures. When building a hive and a safe environment for their Queen Bee they take a long-term perspective. They methodically distribute authority and assign roles. The authority of the Queen Bee rests on the consent of millions of worker bees. Our leadership neglects nature’s lessons at their peril. First came the pigs, then the bees, what will mother nature throw at us next to cause us to wake up?