Opinion

Who said the law is an ass? It only kicks NASA in Kenya

East African Women in Perspective

February 10, 2018

By Anne Kiruku,

East African News Agency, Arusha

As Burundi prepares to host one of the largest summits in the region, Kenya is on the verge of collapse due to impunity and high-handedness by the ruling regime.

The country is quickly turning into a classic example of how a strong and democratic nation can destroy itself.

It is unfortunate that a government should be in the forefront in disobeying the rules formulated and instituted for justice to prevail.

The media has faced the wrath of the government, which shut down three TV stations for airing the swearing in of National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga.

The latter declared he was elected president but cheated of that victory in August and was sworn in last week, after months of political intrigue.

The shutdown and subsequent disregard of a court order directing the Communications Authority to open the media houses shows the levels of impunity in the ruling party.

In the same week, the NASA lawyers, who conducted the swearing in, were arrested and court orders directing their release from police custody have been disregarded.

Impunity violates the very basic human rights of citizens. It is worse when the said impunity is seen to be committed by the people who should be protecting and upholding the law of the land.

The simple message passed to the people is that the law is to be obeyed at will and when it is favourable. It strips the government of the moral authority to demand obedience of the law by others.

This is a sad situation that can easily slide a country into lawlessness and anarchy.

The Constitution was presented to the Attorney General of Kenya on April 7, 2010; officially published on May 6, 2010, and was subjected to a referendum on August 4, 2010. The new Constitution was approved by 67 per cent of Kenyan voters. The Constitution was promulgated on August 27, 2010. PHOTO | VOA

The attack on the media by the Kenyan government, the institution supposed to stand on the side of justice and fight for the rights of the masses by exposing evils and atrocities, is the height of dictatorship.

Ordering the media not to give the opposition coverage during its events – failure to which the relevant media houses would face dire consequences – violates the freedom of the press.

The democratic space that Kenyan citizens enjoy, especially the rights of assembly and the freedom of the press, were all fought for in the streets; any attempts to take those rights away may tear the country down.

It is unfortunate that the opposition’s calls for dialogue that could have unlocked the current stalemate have been ignored, with the government claiming that the opposition only wants a share in the government and the trappings of power that comes with it.

The ruling party must understand that it carries a huge responsibility in ending impunity.

The government must commit to take urgent measures to put an end to the continuing grave violation of international human rights obligations and humanitarian laws, including targeting people based on their ethnicity or political leaning.

It is the responsibility of the Kenyan government to accelerate efforts to address discrimination, violence, displacement, and economic deprivation affecting various ethnic and religious minorities in the country, without discrimination.

It is crucial for the current regime to combat the apparent climate of impunity that seems to have emboldened certain extreme elements, especially in government, to take the law into their own hands and mete out their own brand of justice.

Indeed, there must be accountability and justice must be done and seen to be done for ordinary people to be reassured that no one is above the law.

The people responsible for ensuring that laws are followed must be prepared to apply the law uniformly to everyone regardless of racial, ethnic, age, gender, and level of education or other considerations. Everyone must feel that laws are not only just and but also dutifully implemented.

Kenya, being the regional economic powerhouse, must lead by example not only in economic growth but also in other respects, including strict adherence to the law of the land.

The Constitution is not a piece of paper formulated and shelved to gather dust. No, it is the supreme law of the land and must be followed to the letter. The spirit of the Constitution must reign supreme.

Kenya civil society groups protest along the streets of Nairobi against the government closure of three main TV stations in the city on February 5, 2018. PHOTO | AP

For the region to stand, all the region’s citizens must be alert. It is critical that other regional partner states stand firmly on the side of justice and speak out against the injustices happening in Kenya.

So far, only the United States has condemned the media shut-down. No East African Community partner state or regional organisation has raised its voice against the ongoing violations of human rights and media freedoms in Kenya.

That is a dereliction of our collective responsibility for each other as East Africans.

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