WARIGI: Authorities must activate plans to counter post-election violence

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By GITAU WARIGI
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Peace is precious for sure. However President Uhuru Kenyatta should do better by telling us how he intends to restore it if things go haywire in the post-election period.

It is all very well to chant about peace, but it takes a prudent leader to caution anybody intent on disrupting the peace that there are adequate and ruthless measures the authorities can and plan to take.

We all heard the stern warning the President issued to SGR vandals.

He went as far as to say he would not hesitate to sign execution warrants against those caught.

I am not sure the law as it currently is backs death sentences against vandalism directed against the SGR, or other forms of vandalism.

But that is precisely what should be meted out to those who cause bloodshed during the election period.

The police should have no qualms but to shoot to kill those who endanger innocent people’s lives.

I have an unfortunate hunch that this election, like all the previous ones, will be heavily contested.

I don’t expect the loser whoever he will be to accept defeat, however fairly the IEBC conduct the exercise. This is the norm in Africa.

Nobody should expect it will be any different in our case.

All the more reason for every conceivable counter-measure to be planned for in case of a violent eventuality.

President Kenyatta was very much around as we learned of his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, wringing his hands inside State House as the country exploded in post-election violence in 2007/8.

There had been ample, prior warnings in the media and especially vernacular radio that some very nasty stuff was brewing.

Hate speeches from politicians were all over the place.

They were ignored. It is a crying shame that up to today no culprit has been punished for this.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has, for the umpteenth time, warned that hate speech will not be tolerated and will be met with severe sanctions.

Yet, don’t bet your farm on the NCIC rising to the challenge.

We should put our hopes on other agencies with teeth like the police, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, and the Judiciary.

If there is a total breakdown of law and order, these are the people we must blame.

I am not being a pessimist just for the heck of it.

We have been down that road before. It is imperative that we don’t go the same road again. Some people imagine that by emphasising peace one is being cowardly.

That is why it is absolutely necessary to demonstrate that mindless trouble will be met with maximum force.

It is a comforting thought that the government is mulling a big supplementary budget for security. This is not the time to take chances with people’s safety.

For months, we were bombarded with bizarre analyses and social media cynicism about how the SGR engines were supposedly reconditioned, second-hand machines which the Chinese no longer needed.

The record has finally been set straight by China’s vice-minister for foreign affairs Zhang Ming.

While addressing a press conference in Nairobi after the inauguration of the railway, he dismissed with contempt such reports and said his country was not in the business of selling used stuff, whether trains, cars, even down to mitumba clothes. I had no reason to doubt him.

The critics were expecting Kenya was buying high-speed bullet trains that zoom at speeds exceeding 300km/hr.

Such trains which are to be found in countries like Japan, China and Germany are built for ferrying passengers between populous city hubs.

It is only from last year that China started planning to move freight in high-speed trains in the near future.

It helps to keep in mind that SGR’s main line of business will be cargo. The passenger line is a bit of a sideshow for now.

The cost and running of bullet trains is not really configured for poor countries like Kenya.

Sometimes even the tracks are magnetic ones vastly different from ours.

While we yell about the cost of the SGR, we would be screaming bloody murder if the government had gone nuts and contracted for a high-speed train.

In fact, the US presently has no high-speed bullet trains. Domestic air travel works for them better.

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