PROGRESS CAN NEVER TOLERATE INTOLERANCE

In our struggle to become a united nation, several obstacles have continued to thwart our quest.

One such obstacle is undoubtedly tribalism . Just like you,  I have been involved in many discussions on tribalism. Most of them will quickly degenerate into a blame game with the politician on the receiving end.

While the politician remains indicted for his tribal dance moves, we must concede  that it’s the mwananchi who is playing the tribal music.

The ordinary Kenyan thrives on irrational love and irrational hate. .’While irrational love may at worst engender foolish acts of indiscretion,’  Chinua Achebe warns that ‘irrational hate can endanger the life of a community’ It is our failure to heed this warning that led to the Kenyan conflict of 2008.

Why are Kenyans including the young and the educated so intolerant in a century that demands the opposite?

This past week social media has been ablaze with accusations directed at Abraham Mutai who recently made headlines for exposing corruption in Isiolo for which he was arrested and detained.

Abraham Mutai , going by the twitter handle @ItsMutai  is accused of having attended the recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa on alleged government sponsorship.

Despite him showing the invitation letter from the AU which invited him to attend the meeting as a journalist, the attacks have gone on and nearly gone viral.

This wave of attacks serves to reveal an archaic political culture that for long has remained polluted with despicable intolerance and militant extremism.

In this old and outdated model, the lines between the opposition and government are written in blood red. Supporters are then herded like cattle into holding pens that are styled as political parties when in essence they are no more than slave cages.

The culmination of this hate driven politics is that loyalty is measured by your capacity to be in agreement with all your party policies and positions no matter how obnoxious they are.

When in govt. the expectation is that you incessantly sing praises to the the government of the day like a parrot in a permanent trance of sycophancy.

Any attempt to see sense on the opposite side of the political divide is quickly met with preposterous accusations of impropriety.

There are parliaments on this planet, in which voting outside your political party’s preferred position is not viewed as a capital political offence.  On the contrary you may be praised as a maverick who places national interest above partisan positions.

If we were a country devoid of political intolerance, I would have expected to see several govt. MPs vote with opposition and some opposition members vote with government on the security bill last December. Such exercise of political maturity and patriotism appears like an abomination in Kenya.

The culture in our country that being in opposition means enmity to govt. and vice- versa is way past its ‘sell-by-date’ if it was ever palatable.

We don’t expect the govt to be always right and in that regard an opposition movement must offer an alternative policy.However, should the govt make the right call , shouldn’t a genuine opposition be honest even humble enough to applaud it? Again in this country honesty and humility often leads to political crucifixion.

Recently this policy of intolerance in the two major political movements was explicitly put on display during the call for a referendum on constitutional reforms. Both Jubilee and CORD coalitions threatened their members who would dare use their conscience before making a choice on whether to support the referendum or not with dire consequences including expulsion from either movement and loss of their seats. If you thought that such threats were so KANU, you share one more ideology with me.

We have unwittingly grown into a nation that criminalizes freedom of association.

Today, when an opposition member is seen in a photo with the president, they must quickly clarify (as did Hon. Hassan Omar Hassan ) or face allegations of being moles (as did happen to Hon Ababu Namwamba).

It makes me wonder how convictions built over a lifetime can all be lost in one moment of handshake with the president. In fact such a stance confers non-existent ‘mystical powers’ on the latter.

If our nation is going to enjoy the fruits of unity, progressive voices must loudly rise above petty and calculated extremism. We must assert that we can no longer tolerate intolerance.

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