The air is almost palpable with anxiety as the clock ticks to the August 8 General Election date. There is nothing untoward to an adrenalin surge which characterises every serious competition. After all the stakes in next month’s, unlike the 2013 election, are considerably much higher.
The 2013 poll did not involve an incumbent predisposed to shrugging off prospects of one-term State House tenancy facing off with a rival giving a last shot at the presidency following three previous abortive bids.
Then there are litany of negative attributes to face up to, courtesy of deformed political infrastructure and a cocktail of conflictual interests. These are at the root cause of prevailing heightened anxiety, rising fears and apprehension as D-day approaches.
Kenyans should prove wrong, all those rushing to book flights out of Nairobi next week and those ferrying families upcountry. Perhaps as they say, peace like other political projects is an ideological conquest that at times must be imposed!
A statement of preparedness has been eloquently made. Hot spots have been identified and Kenyans have seen security personnel deployment in unprecedented numbers with chilling equipment, should there be need for strong arm tactics.
They have also heard “…we dare you” warning. Ethnic fault lines will take more time to erase, as will efforts to address real and perceived equity disequilibrium issues.
However, political players must nonetheless approach the contest with level heads, open minds and do more to close the mutual respect gaps because our vulnerabilities are raw and real.
Ordinary Kenyans must be more steadfast, embrace common sense while the bodies mandated to ensure compliance, namely the National Cohesion and Integration and Commission (NCIC), the Independent Boundaries and Elections Commission (IEBC) and the Registrar of Political Parties and law enforcement agencies have to live up to their mandate and prevent senseless political rivalry that can push Kenya over the edge.
Whenever leaders engage maturely, tensions ease, boosting cohesion. Conversely recklessness, inflaming passions are recipes that fan ill-will. Flamboyant rhetoric is enchanting and captivating to audiences but let there be more introspection and order to mitigate whipping up negativity.
Danger lurks where there is deficit in respect for rivals, for voters and when sloganeering replaces interplay of relevant ideas. Political zoning is dangerous, and ultimately self-defeating.
The common man is vulnerable to irrational tendencies of the masses so politicians must avoid pronouncements that ratchet up raw emotions.
Which is why amid pessimism and persistent apocalyptic predictions, including by the EU observer team and a US Pentagon think-tank, competing politicians must do more to eschew insults, ridicule and go out of their way to sound conciliatory, stress tolerance and display commitment to peace.
They must focus on pragmatic messages of hope and optimism, more so in these last few days. Patriotism should be stressed over ethnicity even as many compatriots tend to conduct themselves either like ostriches or warthogs; not facing up to unpleasant realities and dangerous possibilities or opting to push away from their mind, the 2007/8 conflagration where over 1000 lives were lost, a big number through most horrific means.
Are you listening cyber warriors who inexplicably see themselves as either defending “one of their own” or crusading for those they claim are “excluded” using social media platform to stoke hatred?
Unfortunately, those now bent on playing agents of discord may not be aware they too, can become its victims. In a more positive messaging, section of clerics have been pointing out to congregants the need for peaceful campaigns and poll.
This week former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who was a member of Eminent Persons who helped broker the peace accord following the 2007 post-election violence specifically urged President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga to bend backwards as it were, to ensure peaceful elections.
The recent convulsions at presidential campaigns where insolence and stone-throwing were reported in Homa Bay, Baringo and Kiambu counties must be the last.
Such misadventures negate the most basic tenets of democracy. IEBC too must commit itself to credible elections guided by belief in integrity of the processes all the way to declaration of winners and hopefully subsequent display of grace, maturity and magnanimity.
Those now intensifying underhand activities, including voter bribery, disrupting opponents rallies or those disinclined to accept electoral outcomes are enemies of democracy. Electoral competition is not a life and death issue. The writer is Quality and Training Editor, People Daily.