No return to era of
03. Feb. 2008
THE MURDER OF TWO MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT in a span of three days
has raised questions about whether Kenya has really outgrown the
culture of assassinations that were a common feature of political
life from Independence till the early 1990s? The Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM) — whose members Mugabe Were and David Kimutai Too
were shot dead — have claimed that the killings were political
assassinations, while the Kenyan police hold a different view.
While the Kenya police are still carrying on with investigations
of the two murders and have even made statement as to the possible
motives, the fact that two politicians belonging to one party were
murdered in a span of three days was inevitably going to be seen
in political terms.
The killings may well be coincidence, but they came at a time when
the country is politically charged and when the international
focus is on Kenya. The truth is that these two murders have done
great damage to the image of the country, internationally.
In the run-up to the elections, various opposition politicians,
including Raila Odinga, had expressed fears for their lives on
many occasions, but these statements were generally dismissed by
both the police and the public on the premise that Kenya had made
major strides in democratic governance and would never revert to
the dark days of political assassinations.
But nobody is now sure whether Kenya has indeed moved beyond the
era when politicians perceived the gun as the only way to silence
their opponents, both at the local and the national level. Since
the historical 2002 election when Kenyans elected a popular
president, followed by the successful 2005 referendum, Kenyans had
assumed that they had developed their democratic institutions
beyond reproach. Then the 2007 election, which was supposed to be
an improvement on 2002, turned out to be a major fiasco.
Could Kenyans be burying their heads in the sand, believing that
no politician can be assassinated in the 21st century?
THE REACTION TO THE OUTCOME OF THE December 27 election and the
subsequent violence has shown that the Kenyan body politic is
unsuspectedly fragile, and any slight provocation could result in
uncontrolled violence. As things stand, it will take Kenya a long
time to restore sanity following the killings and the evictions
that have taken place since December 30, when the disputed results
It would be foolhardy to the police to dismiss the allegations of
political assassinations offhand, only to regret it later. Already,
ODM is brandishing a “hit list” that includes eight of their
members, among them the latest victim, David Kimutai Too.
While this may well be a ploy by the ODM to make political capital
out of the two murders, at the same time they are locked in a
delicate mediation with President Mwai Kibaki over the disputed
election results. The police must thus take these allegations
seriously because if they come to pass, Kenya will be plunged into
political chaos from which it will be difficult to recover.
Kenya is fortunate in that there have been no assassinations for
the past 18 years, ever since the murder of former foreign
minister Robert Ouko. On the other hand, none of the political
murders since Independence in 1963 has been conclusively solved.
Such kind of scenario could encourage those who want to eliminate
their opponents to act with impunity, as well as giving credence
to those who want to cry wolf for political gain.
It now prudent for the police and other security agencies to
ensure that talk of political assassination does not arise in the
future, by providing adequate security to the politicians.