Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of Mungiki and Human Rights

Now I can afford to speak (or is it write?) now that the dust is settling down. Over the last few days, there has been a lot being written about Mungiki and Human Rights activitists, with human rights activists on one hand condemning the extra judicial killings of people mainly suspected to be mungiki adherents and others commending the work that the police are doing in 'eliminating' mungiki. I hold no brief for the human rights NGOs and neither do I admire Mungiki. What I strive to do is to understand where they are all coming from.

Kenyans have for long taken the Mungiki phenomenon at face value, easily dismissing it as criminal outfit that should be dealt with by force. There was a round of condemnation when Raila initially suggested that the governement should dialogue with Mungiki. The mungiki thing seemed to die only to emerge once one UN professor had dished out his findings on extra judicial killings. And this is what worries me. I remember sometimes back, there was a heavy handed operation aainst the Mungiki that looked to have dealt with the menace. Then they re-emerged during what we call the PEV. What we are seeing is an organization that seems to weather the storm and survive with its core intact, perhaps even stronger. It is therefore foolhardy to beleive that one murderous operation against the young men of central province will eliminate this. By going on an unlawful terror spree against Mungiki, the government admits that it has no idea on how to deal with this. If any government can no longer protect its people, it has no business being in power.

There is a callous arguement that has done the rounds that human rights activists only speak when police gun down the mungikis but are silent when the mungikis murder innocent people. It is the work of the goverment to protect its citizens against the excesses of criminals...and it is the work of the civil society to shout when the government metes excesses on its citizens. For those cheering loudly when the police gun down people in disregard to the law, I am sure they have never been at the wrong place at the wrong time. We cannot cry against the culture of impunity today and tomorrow commend the police for extra-judicial killings, we have to be consistent in our values, otherwise there is no difference between us and the politicians we condemn everyday.