By Kenn Okaka
The ongoing anti-government demonstrations have left a trail of destruction of property arrests of demonstrators, among them political leaders and even more sadly, the loss of lives.
As we aknowledge the right of all citizens, as enshrined in article 37 of the constitution of Kenya, to assemble, picket, hold demonstrations and petition, we also take cognizance that while exercising ones rights, a person is not in any way supposed to infringe on the rights of others.
This can be well expounded by the happenings in the opposition demonstrations. Over the days when Azimio la Umoja calls for demonstrations, the economic life of the country comes to a stand still. Business people are deprived of their right to freely go on with their daily activities for fear of their premises being looted, vandalized and even burnt down.
While arresting opposition MPs in demonstrations on account of their political inclination cannot be justified, it serves to teach important lessons on those in power and how they exercise the power over others as the same power could one day tilt against them.
For instance, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta Interantional Airport onhis arrival from Mombasa. Babu was whisked away and taken to Wanguru Police Station in Kirinyaga County, Kilometers away from Nairobi. The legislator was only produced in court, almost 72 hours later in Nairobi after his wife and team of lawyers went on his frantic search.He was granted bail but then immediately whisked away by the police again as his legal team processed his bail.
Meanwhile, his Kilifi south Counterpart Ken Chonga was sitting pensively in a Kilifi court waiting for his lawyers to seek his release on bail after getting arrested during the Azimio Maandamano in Mombasa.
Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga’s security aide was allegedly abducted by the police on the morning of the three day long demonstrations among other Azimio la Umoja adherents who were also arrested over the demonstrations.
While I don’t support arbitrary arrests and detentions in a country which boasts of a thriving democratic space, this reminds me of the tribulations that Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa underwent during the past regime.
Mwendwa, who was perceived to be a supporter of the then deputy President (Now the President) William Ruto and his Tangatanga movement that gave rise to the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party was on numerous times arrested and arraigned in court for alleged corruption at FKF in cases that were later quashed.
The political witch hunt on Mwendwa was so much that he could get arrested nearly every Friday and made to spend the weekend in police custody while the Directorate of Criminal Investigations frantically sought any evidence to level to level charges on the football boss.
Mwendwa’s tribulations were instigated by the the leaders who were by then enjoying the trappings of power in the handshake regime of former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga.
The same leaders under the handshake, who celebrated the arrests of Mwendwa for his perceived support of President Ruto are today on the opposite side. The tables have turned and they are now crying foul when they get arrested.
By then, Azimio leaders and supporters where supporting the arrest and persecution of Mwendwa but today the tables have turned and they no longer enjoy power. Such is the painful, yet important lesion that every person must learn.
Mwendwa went all through the criminal justice system and was finally vindicated when the court dropped all the cases that had been brought against him.
Clearly, it is testament that those in power then supported the unlwaful arrest of Mwendwa and today, looking from the opposition side, they are all over crying foul when their counterparts are arrested for demntsations. It serves to teach everyone of the power of honesty with the knowledge that the tides can change and the oppressor becomes the oppressed.
Supporting the tribulations of Mwendwa was detrimental, not only his reputation as a person, but the country in the world of football as the government of the day went ahead to disband FKF attracting a ban from World Football Governing body FIFA. Whats was seen as a move to punish the perceived friends of President William Ruto ended up punishing innocent football players, coaches, referees and many other stakeholders due to the ban. Similarly, those in power must exercise the power in their hands with fairness.
Today, the same Raila Odinga, who would call to have Mwendwa re arrested even after his lawyers secure bail is taking to social media calling for the release of his aides and supporters cring foul that they are unlawfully arrested.
Kenn Okaka is a Nairobi based communication strategist