Tom Mshindi: Righteous anger can’t wash away violence allegations

Kenya may not be the most corrupt society, but it certainly ranks very high as one of the self-declared democracies in which leaders exhibit an extraordinary disregard for the values of right and wrong.

Even more profound is that they know they are being hypocritical and leading a double life, but so what? Kenyans are gullible, accepting and corruptible.

This week’s amazing histrionics from some leaders is a powerful example.

We have seen Cabinet ministers William ole Ntimama (National Heritage), William Ruto (Agriculture), Sally Kosgei (Higher Education), Najib Balala (Tourism) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Trade) angrily condemn a report that implicates them in the planning of the mayhem that followed the disputed election results in December 2007.

Buret MP Franklin Bett has also registered his indignation and demanded that his name be expunged from the report and a full apology issued.

The report: On the Brink of the Precipice: A Human Rights Account of Kenya’s Post-2007 Election Violence, was prepared by the Government human rights watchdog, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

It is one among several written by varied organisations on that cataclysmic event, but it is unique for actually naming senior leaders that it accuses of direct involvement in planning the chaos.

I have considerable respect for some of these leaders, a few of whom have contributed remarkably to the struggle to advance freedom and democracy in Kenya.

But the vitriol they are pouring on the report betrays a little more than mere umbrage at baseless allegations by one uppity organisation that lacks credibility and prestige.

First, the KNCHR is a very serious entity that has courageously investigated and reported on issues of public probity without fear.

It is also populated by people who, individually and collectively, combine knowledge, prestige and personal integrity that cannot be dismissed simply because its report has upset some people.

Merely by being a product of the KNCHR, the report should be read with sobriety. Second, and equally important, are the facts around the violence.

It is a moot point that the mayhem was not spontaneous, that there was a deliberate plan that the aggressors were following before those targeted retaliated.

This is quite clear in the reports and evidence that has been adduced before the various committees investigating the violence.

It is equally moot that the violence was planned and executed along ethnic lines. That is how, for example, the Kisii and Kikuyu found themselves to be victims in virtually all these areas.

Ethnic politics and loyalties ultimately gravitate around a tribal leader and nowhere is this phenomenon dramatised more graphically than in Kenya.

The political socialisation fostered first by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and refined by retired President Moi, arraigned communities around ethnic chiefs who acted as direct links to the centre. These are the structures that were used to deadly effect during the violence.

Rather than rant at the report and stir the same ethnic passions the leaders are trying to distance themselves from, they should do what assistant minister Danson Mungatana suggests: Step aside like former Finance minister Amos Kimunya did and invite an independent probe into the allegations.

They could also go to court and challenge the same because, as Mungatana says: ‘‘You do not discuss your innocence in the media, the press cannot clear you...’’

If they cannot step aside, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga can do Kenyans that favour?

The responsibility for ultimate action may sit with these two gentlemen, but where is the surprised anger and public outcry that greeted news of the sale of Grand Regency?

Clearly, Kenyans are making a very telling statement here if one assumes, as we should, that on the scale of evils, the suspicions against these leaders are any less onerous than the ones against Mr Kimunya.

Any surprises therefore that to be corrupt in Kenya is a sure ticket to fame, riches and political power?

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