In Summary
  • Democracy is under threat even in countries that were once hailed as the beacons of tolerance and pluralism.
  • Kenya could have risen above the fray if the Uhuruto government had not panicked and poured fuel on an already volatile situation.

The past two weeks have been a public relations disaster for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Local and international media, not to mention social media, have been awash with bad news about Kenya.

One of the most scathing indictments came from the Washington Post, whose editorial board accused the President of “leading the country back towards the autocracy it thought it had left behind”.

The Post also blamed the President for raising tensions in the country by “shutting down the media, ignoring court orders and charging peaceful opponents with treason”.

If I were President Kenyatta, I would terminate the contracts of the expensive PR firms hired and fire all my in-house propagandists for allowing my name to be dragged in the mud.

But then there is only so much a PR firm or a propagandist can do.

No amount of spin doctoring can erase the events that have shocked and dismayed the world, from the illegal detention and deportation of lawyer Miguna Miguna to the withdrawal of the passports of leading Nasa figures.

People are wondering what the government will do next. Perhaps re-open the torture chambers at Nyayo House?

Is this the beginning of Kenya’s rapid slide back into dictatorship?

The Uhuruto government seems to be following the manual that Daniel arap Moi adopted after the attempted coup in 1982.

This dark period witnessed unprecedented levels of repression across the country and the mass exodus of some of our leading intellectuals.


Kenyans who stayed behind or who had nowhere else to go to remember those paranoia-filled days – when Moi’s opponents were tortured or jailed and when press freedom was just a mirage – and cannot imagine that the same scenario could play out again 30 years later, and especially nearly two decades after we had our own “Arab Spring” that ushered in a new government and gave birth to a progressive new Constitution.

But then we must also remember that many revolutions are unsuccessful and are often followed by even more repressive measures.

Most of the countries in North Africa and the Arab world that had their "Arab Springs" are now worse off than they were before their citizens revolted against their governments.

Egyptians may have removed Hosni Mubarak from power, but the current military regime is no less dictatorial than he was.

In fact, intolerance seems to be its hallmark.

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