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Culture of cover-up of political violence in Nyanza

13 December 2011, 19:15 Hon. Raphael Tuju

Open letter to the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, IEBC, NCIC, Media Houses & Select Embassies/High Commissions.

Following a shameful stoning incident directed at my convoy in Kisumu a few weeks back, some political operators went on over drive to ensure that the story did not see the light of day in the media. Fortunately, the footage capturing the barbaric act was dramatic enough besides having all the hallmarks of dreadful déjà vu for TV stations to ignore. So, much as this exposé did not feature in our main dailies, there was nonetheless decent coverage to adequately forewarn the public about a reemerging culture of political barbarism in the country. 

Consequently, to much national outrage, the Orange Democratic Movement top brass manufactured a pathetic theory that purported that I stage-managed the stoning of my own convoy. In other words the self-stoning theory implied that I was out to test fate. If indeed that were so, given the vim of the stone-throwers caught on camera, that  would have been the most headless manner any living creature could possibly court death.

Today I release excerpts of recordings of an interview on Luo language Ramogi Radio where the Honourable Prime Minister’s cousin, Mr. Jakoyo Midiwo went on air in the aftermath of the incident to assure those who had been arrested that the ODM party would come to their aid.

For me the Kisumu incident is water under the bridge and I have since then continued with my campaigns in different parts of the country because I do not wish to be engaged in petty and pointless maneuvers.

However, when I learnt of the political violence incident in Rongo involving ODM supporters last night, I could not shut up and watch a culture of political hooliganism take root in Nyanza again. Why should Kenyans ignore this incident as “normal” political violence simply because it happened in a part of the country “naturally predisposed to violence?” And who said Nyanza is home to political violence anyway?

I decided not to ignore it last night particularly when one journalists from one of our leading media house informed me of attempts by some ODM leaders to manage the news emerging from this incident so that the number of those reported dead could be downplayed, if the story could not be “killed altogether”. 

At this point, may I congratulate the Standard newspapers for the exhaustive coverage they have given this story on page four. Nation managed to put a pinch of it on page 37.

Knowing them, the next arena for ODM to fight this matter could well be at the level of avoiding arrest in order to ensure that suspects temporarily disappear from the scene to cool off. You can be sure that should police arrest some of the culprits complicit politicians involved will be at hand to bail them out. If the matter ends up in court, the suspects are likely to go out on bail granted on mere tokens. 
I believe so because those caught on camera stoning my convoy causing damage to my vehicles running to close to Kshs. 300,000 were granted Kshs. 10,000 bail. Jakoyo Midiwo confirmed in a radio interview thereafter that ODM would pick the tab. Meanwhile, ODM reactionaries arrested after beating Omingo Magara senseless and leaving him for the dead a few days back are out on bail after paying Kshs. 20,000. On his part, Magara incurred Kshs. 260,000 on hospital bills.

If that is how some of us we fight political battles then as a country we are not serious in spite of addressing high profile Kofi Annan-sponsored conferences in Nairobi. And if indeed media houses can be manipulated to play down stories on political violence by certain politicians, where deaths have occurred then the rest of hapless Kenyans are sunk forever.  However, those in leadership that are part of the conspiracy to subvert the rule of law are setting the platform for mass murder of innocent Kenyans as it happened during the post election violence of 2008.

And things seem to be getting a lot worse. 

A few days ago, some media practitioners were being threatened by certain politicians following which the Standard Newspapers issued a stern statement. In recent seminars sponsored under the Kenya Hope Foundation some journalism professionals informed us of a deadly mix of tools of manipulating the media by certain political operatives that include tribal blackmail, money and the threat of violence for those who would decline to toe the line.

If you belong to tribe A, the line being pushed is that the agenda of the politician is to protect the interests of that tribe. In this conspiracy young journalists are put under pressure by their seniors from the tribe. Money is the second big weapon in the arsenal of these political operatives. Some journalists are arm-twisted to ‘kill’ stories, slant them or just work for the interests of certain politicians to paste alien flavours to clear facts in certain stories.

My submission is that when human life is on the line and people are killed, then our media practitioners must be able to draw a line in the sand for the sake of our beloved country.

Finally, the next weapon is the threat of violence. Those who refuse to cooperate or change their minds about cooperating find themselves in the kind of situations that precipitated the threats directed at some journalists, as reported by the Standard recently.

Questions to ask

The Rongo incident is a reflection of the culture of violence and impunity in the political process in Kenya and Nyanza in particular.

Here is my challenge to Kenyans and the international community;

1.    Which political party or actors are responsible for various forms of political violence that we have seen in this country for the last two months?

2.    Which political party or actors were responsible for political violence that occurred in 2005 during the referendum, and in which towns did the first deaths occur?

3.    Which political party or actors were responsible for the murder of facts administration policemen before the election in 2007?

4.    Are our media houses and governance institutions, including the Commission for National Cohesion and Integration and the IEBC, the judiciary, and the media ready and have the backbone to confront this impunity in the political process or do they fear being branded anti-reform if they do anything that appears to remotely suggest they are countermanding a political culture nurtured by ODM (the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga’s party).

5.    What are the chances of women and less-aggressive men having a chance to participate in the political process given this type of impunity and violence in the political process?

6.    Did the dead youth of Rongo stage-manage their deaths – assuming that it is also true that I stage managed the stoning in Kisumu?

** Political violence is a culture, a mindset, and not just an incident. The incidents that have resulted in the ICC process are the symptoms, not the disease. The disease is still right here with us. The principle causes of the disease and the patrons of the violence proudly walking in our midst. Can some of the brilliant minds in our media do an analysis to show us the common thread in the major political violence in this country – or are we scared of the tyranny that may follow such an exposé?

7. And so, did Omingo Magara stage-manage the cuts to his head the other day?

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