OPINIONPeople Daily

Leaders should watch what they say or post online

Abraham Kisang

Nearly four years ago, bandits killed 21 police officers in Kapedo. From what is happening currently in the area, we are likely to witness another massacre soon. On May 4, five people were killed in what appears to be the return of attacks.

The online conduct of Ekuru Aukot, the 2017 presidential candidate, and Tiaty MP William Kamket seem to be reinforcing the argument that political leaders could be behind ethnic conflicts in Kerio Valley.

As a resident of Kerio Valley, a region which has suffered cattle rustling for as long as we can remember, I’m appalled by the kind of sentiments posted by Kamket and Aukot on social media. From their online exchanges, I cannot tell what the two are up to.

Even as they spur on virtual space, Aukot and Kamket should remember that as leaders they hold positions of influence and whatever they say is likely to be picked by people and acted upon.

The two leaders have big followers on their Twitter and  Facebook accounts and they are reading, commenting and sharing their posts.

My experience in Pokot, Turkana, Tugen and Marakwet is that leaders do not need to shout “kill, attack or shoot” for conflicts to occur among communities.

What they need is the attention of their people who will quickly morph into “we’ and ‘our’. Once negative ethnic remarks are put out there, they cannot be taken back. They inhabit our world and we feel their presence.

As we struggle to find solutions to the killings in Kapedo, let us remember that estimates in the Annual State of the National Security Report to Parliament in 2016 show there are more than 650,000 illegally held guns in the country and most of these are in the hands of pastoralist communities in North Rift, North Eastern and Upper Eastern regions.

Though there have been efforts by the government to implement the Protocol on the Prevention, Combating and Eradication of cattle rustling in Eastern Africa, I am not sure if these efforts are bearing fruit.

This is despite that the government is also facilitating ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty. The question in the minds of many is: How much ground has been covered in the implementation of these approaches?    

I urge the government to urgently intervene and de-escalate rising tension in Kapedo and other regions that are likely to see the return of mindless violence.

There is need to arrest the situation at its infancy rather than wait to wipe the tears of those mourning the deaths of loved ones. —The writer works for the Media Council of Kenya. The Views expressed here are personal

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