January 3, 2015 Mad Hatter


You have seen hash tags like #StoptheDrunkPresident, extremely disrespectful to the Presidency, but how would a hurting republic respond if the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate it to a stripping hash tag with #Mypresidentmychoice. If the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate the Presidency to a campaign against marauding perverts, they surely cannot cry if that will be the spirit with which people start seeing the President.Wadi

The second day of the year saw Kenya record a mix of fortunes on its quest to secure basic freedoms. On one front a high court suspended several controversial articles in the recently enacted Security laws Amendment Act (2014) that touched on human rights. On the same day, a magistrate sentenced a University Student to two years in Prison on account of hate speech and undermining the President.

An Amin Dada coined phrase seemed certainly applicable; to paraphrase it, in Kenya you have freedom of expression, but freedom after expression is not guaranteed.

A look at what Wadi posted clearly suggests he went overboard. And such is undesirable. My intention though is not to question the legality or lack of it of what he did; my view is to demonstrate that the deterrence sought by the state cannot be achieved by this selective prosecution of a few.

It will interest Kenyans to know that Wadi is not at all an irrational or extreme person in entirety. In fact, in many instances the young man is strikingly reasonable even opining against the political outfits he vehemently defends.

After the election 2015, when Kenya was politically charged and ethnic rhetoric on social media at peak, Wadi, having been a sworn supporter of Raila noted in a post, that in any democratic contest, you either win or lose, and in this, his preferred candidate had lost. He wished the new President well.

Even Raila Odinga was not as magnanimous.

But what actually is fueling this mode of writing: In my opinion many things, these range from the government’s own mod of communication, general liking by Kenya of sensationalized talk and the inherent nature of Social media communication.

Wadi’s trend of posting changes towards extreme hate as the first year of Jubilee government wears off. And this trend can be observed with many other bloggers who have a leaning with CORD in what appears to be heightening rhetoric since the coalition feels helpless.

In part, what is so common in the way Wadi posts is his view of the fact that Raila is much hated by what he calls ‘mumbilee’ folks. In my own judgment, the extreme posts Wadi then starts to post is a natural response to attacks on what he considers as his political association.

There has been in the last two years extreme hate perpetuated by government leaning bloggers and sometimes even sacred state instruments which has attracted corresponding hate from opposition sympathizers.

And it would appear that the government is okay with hate if it is not directed to it. Kenya has experienced a unique trend where demonstrating extreme hate for a tribe gets one elected unopposed. The only incidence I recall when the President strongly came out against his own supporters was when Otieno Kajwang’ died.

It also appears that the Kenyatta Presidency is the architect of how opposition bloggers address the President. The overly loaded political rhetoric on social media, mostly unsubstantiated by key government installations like the PSCU invite hate from those who do not directly associate with the President.

An official government website for instance carries a statement but calling Raila Odinga a terrorist; why would an Odinga fanatic resort to calling the President a criminal.

The sympathizer is wrong, and his statement is disrespectful to the Presidency, but a state agency equally has no business in being politically insensitive and expecting respect.

As a society if we choose to be intolerant to social media or media abuse, let us do so completely and not selectively. I will be interested to see Kalonzo Musyoka in court for saying your name betrays you, Moses Kuria in court for the multiple insults he hurls. If not, this is a system where the poor are the ones being subjugated, it’s not about the dignity of the presidency or otherwise, it is about a poor man should not speak what a rich man can say.

Politics is an art of mediating largely different interests. It’s an institution that is meant to create a relative harmony in societies with competing identities, views and associations, and political communication, if it has to serve its purpose, must always be true to these principles.

The handlers of the Presidency invite extremism not just from opposition, but even from very key supporters of the President.

You have seen hash tags like #StoptheDrunkPresident, extremely disrespectful to the Presidency, but how would a hurting republic respond if the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate it to a stripping hash tag with #Mypresidentmychoice. If the handlers of the Presidency are willing to equate the Presidency to a campaign against marauding perverts, they surely cannot cry if that will be the spirit with which people start seeing the President.

The structure of any society calls government to greater prudence than the opposition. It cannot be the business of a government to compete with the opposition on who can release the hardest hitting of statements. In this case, recklessness of talk can be a luxury minimally enjoyed by the opposition, but it cannot define a government’s communication.

On another level though, this throw-people-into-cells attitudes is another typical response of a government oblivious of the issues it is dealing with.

Monitoring and control of social media has to go beyond traditional retributive mechanisms. Even extraordinarily closed societies like china face great problems in controlling social media.

Face Book is its own culture, regulated by the uniqueness it brings to communication. It gives audience that would naturally be hard to get, a support base of people that traditional models would not offer. And this cause an excitement that lowers self control.

In a research by Columbia University published by the wall street journal browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.

Most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image—and the encouragement we get, in the form of “likes”—boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.

As a result, people will tend to be always rude on social media. The only sure way of curtailing excesses on Social Media is a strong value system that furthers self restraint and accommodates divergent opinion.

This culture has to be built by the first citizen; the President. The drafters of our constitution had a particular goal in mind when they stated that the Presidency is a symbol of national unity.

What amazes me is the irreconcilable difference between Uhuru Kenyatta, an exceptionally warm and simple person at a personal level and a very arrogant presidency that the institution is becoming.
The molders of an Uhuru Narrative are losing the script. Our country is becoming way more divisive that it should be. We are letting go a chance of the second republic, which in my opinion the President would have secured an enduring legacy.

The Wadi incident has rekindled claims of selective justice; when a crime is committed by anti-government fellow, the machinery swings into action. When it’s done by the pro-system fellow, the system does not condemn it.

A government cannot be glad to enjoy support of legislators who call for mass murder or abuse all communities, then hope to secure prudent use of social media by jailing a university student whose only influence is to get likes of 70 other people.

If we want to deter negative use of social media, we must be sincere to condemn everyone in equal measure and forge a government where the minority feels that their voice can at least be hard.

Finally, to secure respect for the Presidency, a clear distinction needs to be made between political communication and government communication. Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of Kenya, not of Jubilee or TNA. It would be prudent to have state communication fashioned in a deserving all accommodating tone.

I would be happier is the PSCU can shift to be a communication frontier for TNA. Kenyans should be given a chance to dissociate the Presidency from the routinely acerbic communications characteristic of this entity. Or at least it remodels its communication, after all, its Directors are civil servants who are required by law not to be partisan.

All said and done, the Presidency deserves respect. It is the first institution in our Republic, and with or without the law; no one should be able to hurl insults at the President. But for us to create this society, we must be ready all of us to work for it. And respct to the President can exist even with criticism.

Allan Wadi committed an offence under the law; he up dated his status with the rage but from a humble hostel. He apologizes, of all things, this is an offence against the head of state, and THE PRESIDENT SHOULD PARDON WADI

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