Ignoring January 30 lessons will be dangerous for Kenya

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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Even in a society as deeply polarised as ours, few can deny that the events of January 30 — and after — were momentous.

This date will remain one of those that we recall with significance, such as July 7, 1990 (Saba Saba), March 31, 1997 when mass action for a new constitution started, and August 27, 2010, when we inaugurated the current Constitution.

There are many takeaways from the 'swearing-in' as we embark on a journey that could determine if Kenya returns to its familiar repressive, corrupt and declining state of the 1980s and 1990s, or if Kenya turns a corner, like Ghana, South Africa and Botswana, gets on a trend of inclusion, integrity, and development.

A crucial lessons reiterated on January 30 is that assemblies, gatherings, and protests are almost always peaceful when the police do not interfere. 

This is a global fact, and its reaffirmation should be food for thought for those whose instinctive reaction to protests they do not agree with is to call for their disruption. 

It would be great if the Jubilee regime would also understand that their obligation is to facilitate protests and gatherings, to ensure security, rather than always launch tear gas and water cannons. 

For what better way is there to measure the feelings in society? 

Indeed, those who complain of losses from protests should instead blame the police and state for inciting violence from people who are simply trying to express their feelings and thoughts.

But I am not holding my breath on this one!

Importantly, not interfering with gatherings and assemblies provides an understanding of the amount of support on any given issue.

The Jubilee regime spent a lot of time and energy intimidating and warning off Kenyans from the 'swearing in', using potential violence and supposed illegalities as the decoy. 

Undoubtedly hundreds of thousands were scared off. 

The massive turnout — despite the intimidation and scaremongering — sent a powerful message that “business as usual” will not be accepted.

Even shutting down live transmission could not hide the fact that a majority of Kenyans want a new approach that fulfils the promises of the Constitution. 

Thirdly, the Jubilee regime should learn to stop digging when it has put itself in a hole! 

It dug itself into a hole with the forcible stopping of live coverage of the 'swearing in', (almost as though it believed the fallacy that not showing it meant that it was not happening).

The shutting down has reverberated internationally, exposing the regime’s weaknesses, fragility and illegitimacy, which puts off investors. 

Worse, rather than stop digging, it has now turned on the media, politicians and others in what is a clear persecution strategy, but which only makes things worse for it.

I guess they are banking on the hope that a show of repression will silence others, but Kenya has come way too far for these actions to have the desired result. 


In fact, their actions have instead raised the profile and hero status of TJ Kajwang, Miguna Miguna, Linus Kaikai, Larry Madowo and Ken Mijungu. 

You can be sure that across Kenya, and globally, we will be hearing of these names a great deal because of the rather silly actions of the regime.

And on that note, while Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i may be basking in his “promotion” to the Interior ministry, he better also know that he will soon become the new reviled bogey man — with William Ruto — representing the face of excessiveness and repression. 

That he can purport — and illegally, too — to proscribe an organisation while he has publicly admitted to being a member of another — as he did with the Chinkororo during the campaigns — boggles the mind! 

Fourth, the loud silence from the international community on the clampdown on press freedom and freedom of assembly and association should remind Kenyans that this struggle is ours alone. 

Many self-proclaimed supporters of democratic values are in bed with the Jubilee regime and their pretence has been unmasked. 

Lastly, until Uhuru Kenyatta decides that Kenya is more important than his ego or position, we will be in constant crisis. 

For Tuesday showed us — including the Nasa leadership — that the people wanting change are far ahead of their leaders.

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