Civil society groups, though unelected, play an honourable role of keeping governments in check, besides acting as a channel for the fulfillment of the wishes of the people. Their endeavours qualify them as legitimate stakeholders in any political process or matters of national importance. The need for governments to engage them positively and not regard them as an adversary therefore goes without saying.
A government that is reform-minded, tolerant and genuinely concerned about the preferences of its citizens ought to accommodate alternative forms of political expression and participation. Such practice confers inclusiveness and accountability besides making citizens feel as part of the decision-making process on matters that affect them. These are vital ingredients of good governance, political maturity, human and socio-economic development.
One, therefore, watches with dismay and embarrassment as members of civil society groups in Kenya are thoughtlessly subjected to cruelty, undeserved, even by the worst of criminals. This is played on national television in full view of our children, our leaders in the making, who get a first-hand portrait of what our leaders condone. One wonders what such images instill in these young minds!
Most of the civil liberties we enjoy today were borne of this very kind of civil agitation. Ruthless crushing of divergent opinion on matters of national interest can only serve to leap this country back in time. Despite the fact that the majority of our leaders have the requisite experience and competence to run this country, they cannot claim to be the sole custodians of the same. Such an attitude portrays the elected political class as presuming intellectual supremacy which we all know to be untrue.
One cannot help but wonder where our reformers of yesterday (read Kiraitu Murungi, Martha Karua, Raila Odinga, James Orengo...