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This is why Thika people should be very worried.

People running for safety after rowdy youths hurled stones at NASA leader Raila Odinga's motorcade in Thika town, Thursday, July 13, 2107.
Since the era of our first MP Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Thika Town has never experienced the kind of political intolerance and hooliganism as we are witnessing today. To say the least, what we are seeing from the political arena is simply despicable.

It is worrying that, 20 days to the general elections, all indications are that we are faced with possibilities of violence and bloodshed (God forbid).

Last Thursday, Thika was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons courtesy of the ugly incident at Kenyatta Highway and Madaraka Market Makongeni where some hired goons attacked NASA’s presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga. Already about seven youth are in custody over the incident after they failed to raise a KES. 100,000 cash bail in court.

This was just one of the many incidents that have happened during political meetings within the constituency with majority of them going unreported. Political wars and name calling is also synonymous and very rampant on social media platforms, something that is igniting hatred and political intolerance.

News of politicians, their relatives or supporters being abducted or killed across the country especially about a week to the party primaries in May this year haven’t escaped our ears and there are fears of such scenarios if hooliganism is allowed to take root in Thika politics.

Even though Thika has not out rightly been identified as a possible violence hotspot, unfolding events point out to only one thing; the constituency might end up being as problematic. The situation requires close monitoring, failure to which we may end up regretting the outcome. We are better safe than sorry.

Residents worried.

One critical issue of utmost concern to most residents is the level of anxiety and the threat to the relative peace that we have been enjoying previously. Residents are now more worried about increasing incitement of people, zoning areas exclusively as belonging to particular candidate(s), engaging organised goons to intimidate opponents and disruption of opponents’ campaign programmes. There too, has been talk also of security organs and the administration taking sides with certain candidates which is in clear violation of the law.

It would have been great if at all people understood that the primary function in any election is to select or remove certain political leaders. In mature democracies for instance, the choices made by electorate are conditioned by social and economic transformation. It is simply the process of electing leaders premised on a healthy competitive atmosphere where leaders canvass for votes from the citizens. Indeed, elections provide an avenue for citizens to scrutinise their leaders, find out if progress has been made and above all, make an informed decision about who to vote for in a peaceful atmosphere.

But why this violence? 

One of the key determinants of election violence is individual selfishness especially among the politicians and their supporters. Politicians who have no agenda for this constituency or the nation are now luring youth into violence at the expense of telling them about real issues. They are luring unemployed young men into committing acts of political violence through handouts and by making extravagant promises of employment that those politicians are unlikely, and perhaps unable, to deliver.

The voters have now ended up clustering around the politicians they believe will individually benefit them when they get to power. These are the voters who will turn violent whenever they feel that someone is threatening the possibility of their candidate winning. This lot is honestly getting baffled by what the other side sees in their rival candidates to a point when other people express opinions that reflect the views of a different candidate, their minds automatically and spontaneously assign them to rivalry and get confrontational.

Extremist rhetoric.

Extremist rhetoric has become par for the course of democratic controversy in Thika Town Constituency and in the Kenyan arena. It dominates cable TV news, the newspaper and on social media.

Outrageous and inflammatory remarks make for good copy, and it is often easier to speak in extreme sound bites than in moderate ones. Politicians now use extreme rhetoric in a calculated way to capture the public’s attention, to rally support of single-valued interest groups and to mobilise voters because they can gain at least a short-term tactical advantage by sounding extreme.

In any civilised democracy, controversy is healthy. The public interest is well served by robust public argument. But when disagreements are so driven and distorted by extremist rhetoric that citizens and public officials fail to engage with one another reasonably or respectfully on substantive issues of public importance, the debate degenerates, blocking constructive compromises that would benefit all sides more than the status quo would. .

Police action.

With all said and done, we all hope the police will be more proactive in policing areas that are believed to be flash points. Safe, secure and peaceful electioneering period should be top on National Police Service agenda.

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