Friday, 31 August 2012

Mombasa Riots Should Not Be Taken Lightly

There is something very wrong with this country, isn’t there? There is something wrong with our leaders, there is something wrong with our people, and there is something really wrong with our children, or at least that is what our political leaders would like us to think.

This week Muslim Cleric Aboud Rogo was brutally shot to death right in front of his little daughter. The sheer horror of such an attack, in front of the man’s family is certainly enough to justify an outraged response and protest. As the cleric was laid to rest, his followers and supporters condemned the assassination in protests. But what started out as a legitimate protest soon turned into something else entirely.

For 3 days, Mombasa has been turned into a battle zone, with rioting youth vandalizing churches, homes and businesses, and indulging in a rampant crime spree that has left the nation in shock. Grenade attacks targeted at the police have resulted in deaths and the government seems completely incapable of bringing the situation under control.

What is most shocking about these riots and the chaos that is ensuing is that we have leaders and people who wish to downplay the seriousness of the matter by claiming that these are idle youth who are taking advantage of the situation to commit crimes. Some are even talking about perceived historical injustices as a motivation and some are blaming unemployment and idleness, poverty and being marginalized as a reason why the young people are running riot.

But there is no excuse for planning the indiscriminate murder of police officers. The idea, that because we suffer the effects of injustices that occurred several decades ago, we can now run riot and kill policemen, itself is criminal logic. The notion that because a Muslim cleric was murdered we thus can burn and vandalize churches reeks of injustice and intolerance. None of these acts make any sense, politically, nor ideologically. These acts are not a protest against perceived historical injustices, these are crimes committed with the intention of inciting conflict in Mombasa.

Can I dare to say, what the leaders of Mombasa are reluctant to acknowledge? There are some evil elements based at the coast whose main objective is to create civil strife, fire tension between religious groups and in the melee they created, they attack the police directly in order to inflict the highest possible number of casualties they can, and they are using the young people of Mombasa to do it.

There is something terribly wrong, when leaders call the youth “Watukutu” or naughty, when these young people are tossing grenades around. I’d say, that throwing a grenade, with the intention and knowledge that it will kill, is more than just being naughty. Such acts are more than just crimes, they are an indicator of just how vile and twisted our young people have become.

But who are we to blame? Is it the police who are overwhelmed, under resourced and yet have to abide by the tenets of law when dealing with unscrupulous tactics? Or is it the very same political leaders who for the last few years have repeatedly reminded the people of Mombasa of how the Kenya Government perpetuated perceived historical injustices against them.

There is nothing wrong with agitating for one’s rights, and there is nothing wrong with leaders campaigning for the civil rights of their people. But there is something very wrong with leaders inciting young people to hate, hate that then expresses itself in crimes against other religions, and the general public and crimes against members of the police force. There is something very wrong when political leaders, by their words and actions, create terrorists, and then brush off their behavior as “naughty”.

What happened this week in Mombasa surely will be enough reason for parliament to push through the Anti-Terrorism Bill that is geared to mercilessly crush criminal elements that are suspected of terrorist acts. We already know that the Muslim leaders are against the enactment of this bill because they feel it can be used to target members of the Islamic community. But the Anti-Terrorism Bill is capable of doing more than target one religious community, because the bill itself contravenes several sections of the constitution as regards the rights of citizens and suspects of crime.

In as much, as we all wish to bring an end to the chaos, to live in peace and to bring the threat of terrorism under control, we cannot afford to add fuel to the fire by pushing through unconstitutional laws, that only creates more injustice. But more to the point, the leaders and the people of Mombasa must finally accept one thing, which is, we are in big trouble, if this keeps up. The youth of Mombasa are not just being naughty, they are being turned into a dangerous enemy of government and they are not afraid of inflicting innocent casualties.

It is when a leader can see death and destruction, murder and arson and then state that the perpetrators are just “naughty” youths that we, as a nation should finally realize and come to the understanding, that there is indeed something very wrong with this country isn’t there.

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