Let’s avoid violence and have peaceful elections

Kisumu Senator, Peter Anyang' Nyong'o hides under the podium during the Migori violence.The supposedly culture of violence in our politics is pervasive and a tragic indicator of how our societal fabric has been penetrated by intolerance and power hungry greed

August polls are nigh and political temperatures are running amok as the country gears up for another exercise of electing leaders.

Campaigns have heated up, and all that come with them, which unfortunately in some instances include violent flare-ups. I witnessed two incidents in Migori where guns shots were fired randomly and carelessly.

The first incident was in mid last year during a funeral of an MCA’s father in Rongo sub-county, where two gubernatorial hopefuls were present.

Chaos erupted over mere sitting arrangement, with their security disagreeing over who should sit next to who. A scuffle ensued, which escalated to kicks and blows and ultimately gunshots. 

Since it was a funeral held at a primary school, a majority of attendees were women and children who perhaps had never seen or heard a gunshot and were scared stiff. They fell over each other as they scampered for safety. It was so sad to see old men and women sprawled on the ground wailing for dear life.

Perhaps the most disturbing was three weeks ago when Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho led a team of politicians for a rally in Migori. Children had climbed trees for a better view of the leaders they only hear about or get to see on TV.

Women were among the attendees of the packed rally when a politician stormed the venue and all hell broke loose. Children fell from the trees, and from where I hid under a lorry to shield myself from the stones and bullets flying all over, I saw a pregnant woman trip and fall as people jumped over her. Luckily, some men picked her up and helped her to safety. It was painful to watch.

The situation no doubt is not peculiar to Migori. But again, we should be cognisant of the fact that Nyanza is likely to be a hot spot right from the ongoing party primaries with the situation likely to worsen as the elections approaches.

The supposedly culture of violence in our politics is pervasive and a tragic indicator of how our societal fabric has been penetrated by intolerance and power hungry greed, at a time when peace, civility and dialogue are not taken seriously.

These violent incidents are often stirred by selfish interests, exacerbated by supremacy battles with no agenda for the grassroots and common people who are often at the receiving end when big men engage in a show of might. While the powers that be use it to retain power, the power seekers use unconventional means to attain change.

What is more flummoxing is that these hate mongers whose acerbic utterances cause violence often escape from political parties and law enforcers without as much as a slap on the wrist.

The youth are not only victims, but are often used as perpetrators of violence. Politicians are known to liaise with youth leaders who mobilise their fellows to carry out heinous acts on perceived opposing camps.

The violence is also discouraging female politicians who are more likely to be victims of election violence, which is not only physical, but also conspiratorial to discourage, suppress or prevent women from exercising their rights as voters, candidates, election workers, observers and journalists.

Social media platforms have also been used to harass and abuse opponents.  The internet and social media have proved to be uniquely dangerous in perpetrating psychological violence.

For the sake of women and children, politicians should shun violence and embrace decorum.