A victory for women, but what about the media?

20Aug 2017
Anne Kiruku
The Guardian
Commentary
A victory for women, but what about the media?

In an unfortunate turn of events, Kenyan society has remained divided over the validity of the victory in the presidential election of the Jubilee Party, with the opposition National Super Alliance rejecting the results.

 

But celebrations are in order for Kenyan women, with numbers of those elected rising substantially from the previous government. Three of the powerful governors’ seats – previously a preserve of men – have now been taken up by women. 

The Senate, too, shall be witness to some changes. Previously referred to as “Nyumba ya Wazee” due to male domination of the chamber, it will now have to find another name after three of its 47 elective seats were won by women. 

The number of women parliamentarians in the National Assembly also rose from 84 to 100. All these are in addition to 47 women representatives, one from each county. The number of women county assembly representatives has also risen tremendously. This is a great milestone for Kenyan women who have for a long time been fighting for equal representation in positions of leadership and for implementation of the constitutionally-enshrined two-thirds gender principle.

But even as we celebrate the winners, we must do so with caution and humility and within the confines of the law. The tensions building across the country, with some claiming that they were rigged out, should be handled with urgency and constitutionally.

Already, the opposition is sounding war cries and protesters have taken to the streets in some NASA coalition strongholds. Lives have been lost – 24 according to human rights groups – while properties have been destroyed and businesses looted. Normal activities have not resumed due to fear of chaos.

It is now the duty of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA coalition leader Raila Odinga to calm the situation before it escalates into full blown political violence.

The president should aim to have an all-inclusive government that is devoid of religious, ethnic or political marginalisation. He is now solely responsible for uniting this country and ensuring it does not slide into anarchy. It is his duty to ensure lives and property are protected, too, and that the rule of law reigns supreme.

The issues raised by the opposition should be addressed within the confines of the law for peace to prevail. It is paramount for the government to appreciate that the opposition has a huge following.

But even as the opposition protest and picket – which is allowed by the constitution – they should not engage in criminal activities of looting, killing and destroying properties. The opposition leaders should advise their supporters accordingly in order to avoid a decline in economic growth.

Accepting the will of the people is a key component of democracy. Those who lost fairly should accept the election results and, in the spirit of national building, join hands with those who won to build the country.

It is unfortunate that once again, the police have been accused of using excessive force when handling protesters. The law enforcers must not step outside the law. The use of excessive force – whether against protesters or criminals – exposes the police to accusations of extrajudicial killings.

The Kenyan media has so far stood the test of time in its election coverage, though it has come under increased criticism from the opposition for allegedly swallowing government propaganda and failing to report about instances of excessive force used by police to quell protests in opposition strongholds. 

Yet, it is paramount for the media to remain non-partisan and cover events as they unfold. Journalists must remain true to their professional ethics and recognise that the first duty of the media is to the citizens, not to the government or any other interests.The media has the duty of uniting the country by airing and publishing peace messages and calling for patience among citizens as election petitions go through the court process.

It was unfortunate when the opposition leader declared that he would not be seeking justice for alleged rigging, but that the opposition would instead go to the court of public opinion. This was bound to result in deaths and destruction of property as well as a decline in economic growth. Investor confidence was bound to suffer, and the critical tourism sector in all likelihoods experience a decline.

Solving disputes using established mechanisms is the key to maintaining peace and harmony. It would be equally advisable for the opposition to seek international mediation rather than resorting to the streets.

As matters stand, the donor community and the wider international arena, regional and African leaders must intervene and unlock the stalemate between the president-elect and opposition leaders if Kenyans are to continue enjoying their ugali in peace.East African News Agency