BWIRE: This level of online intolerance threatens our national security
By Victor Bwire
It’s time the leadership of the major political parties in the country came together and diffused the tension that is building up in the country; otherwise, unfortunately, we are headed to similar post election violence seen in 2007/2008.
While I might sound fear mongering, the conditions being witnessed especially from various leaders and discussions online, point to a country that needs national healing and reconciliation.
While IEBC has the constitutional mandate to manage elections, there is a higher responsibility to ensure that Kenya remains a peaceful nation. I am afraid, what is happening and the hatred that is boiling threatens our national security and by extension existence. Will elections happen in such an high volatile environment – how safe will be the election officials, voters and other players, if such tensions, suspicion and open hostilities continue?
I have been reading the Justice Waki and the Kreigler reports and we seem to be going where we thought as a country we had moved from. We are aware that violence has been part of Kenya’s electoral processes since 1991, save for 2013, because state institutions fail to anticipate, prepare for and act on such in time. The level of impunity in the country is alarming and without serious intervention, we might just regret.
A nation easily breaks into anarchy when extreme positions are taken on national issues and the general public loses patience and direction, and start vomiting such dangerous and poisonous words as currently being spewed online and via the media.
As usual, the responsible national and non-state institutions are sitting on the fence and waiting for the country to tear up to act or write reports. That’s why I feel the President needs to act on the growing tensions in the country. It’s worrying. How will elections be held in such an environment of hostilities and bad blood between Kenyans.
While the ongoing political processes present serious challenges to the country and pushing people to start saying or imagining the possible, the fact that we had peace during the elections is a sure sign that a number of Kenyans want a peaceful country.
Looking at the venom by Kenyans online, which is not necessarily by journalists or traditional media is something analysts need to explore and show Kenyans if the current physical peace in the country is genuine. While previously, and more specifically following the 2007 post- election violence, media was said to have contributed to violence – by the way they covered the elections related issues-this time round- media is being said to have been muted – thus did not incite people to violence.
While the absence of physical violence in Kenya thus far is great- I am not sure- the ongoing hate and angry exchanges online by Kenyans- at each other and amongst each other – over sometimes very mundane and sometimes – serious national issues- deserves mention and attention.
The one major lesson that I believe this teaches us is that these elections and the discussions that follow – has the debunked the myth – tribalism is not for illiterates and average Kenyans – tribalism in Kenya is an elite problem. It’s the elites who are tribal to the tilt in this country – the words and expressions on the online forums are dangerous – and are being peddled by the elites who can access and use the forums.
It’s the elites who want the scare resources or jobs and they are expressing it badly online in the name of freedom of expression.