Election campaigns are in full swing and one would be forgiven for thinking that Kenyans would be going to the ballot in a few weeks. As is the norm during every electoral cycle, hopefuls, particularly those aiming for the highest seats have been touring the country trying to sell their agenda ahead of August 2022. With this comes the discrediting and calling out of opponents on anything and everything that could work to sway the electorate in their favour. While politics is just that, politics, riding on passion, fanaticism and to some extent sycophancy there is a level of tolerance that is lacking in the practice.
Recent news has seen irate crowds attacking politicians and their property. The reasoning behind these actions doesn’t really matter because there really is no excuse to act in a manner that could cause harm and have a ripple effect in the grand scheme of things. Our country has a history of things taking a turn for the worst during electioneering periods. The 2007/08 post-elections violence will forever be etched in our minds. Having this in mind, we should exercise restraint. The essence of a democracy is to allow for different thoughts and perspectives to co-exist and let those who can convince the masses take the day.
It is discouraging to see politicians resort to insults and even deploying goons to disrupt their opponents’ rallies. Where is the room for debate? Where’s the room for rebuttals based on fact and research? While passion is essential in this quest for leadership, wisdom should prevail. Careless remarks could easily set the stage for violence for an election that is expected to be highly contested. Politicians ought to remember that they have a moral and ethical duty to run clean campaigns. A lot, if not all, of them ought to look inwards and remember that the country and safety of its people is bigger than them.
As they do so, we the electorate should remember that we also have a role to play in all of this. Our civic rights are enshrined in the Constitution. That in itself is a powerful reminder that we have a duty to determine the course of our governance and politics through non-violent means. We have a duty to choose to rise above the hate and dig deeper. We have a duty to be instruments of change rather than be tools of war. We have to elevate our politics to a point where we question politicians from an opposing side from an informed place. The passion we have can be channelled into interrogating manifestos that are being sold to the masses or quizzing the incumbents on what they have achieved in the last five years and why they should be re-elected. This is more likely to yield better leaders in the coming elections.
If we understand the link between the politics of the day and prices of basic commodities, for instance, we would be doing ourselves a solid in determining those who would advance and protect our interests in their respective offices. All of us have to make a conscience choice to take part in politics of tolerance unless we are willing to go down a road of loss and destruction that benefits no one.