The Daily Monitor’s Tuesday, February 2, 2008 editorial attempts to analyse President Paul Kagame’s reading of the situation obtaining in Kenya as reported in the news media based on the interview the President gave on January 31st, 2008 in Kigali.
While the President cited a range of possible institutions that should be looked upon to bring about stability in Kenya, including Parliament, the Judiciary, Police and the Security forces, owing to the grave situation that has spiraled out of control costing hundreds of lives and with no sign of abating, the media have chosen to focus on the military aspect of the President’s opinion.
Indeed given the escalating violence and loss of lives in Kenya, the President’s views were neither far-fetched nor outmoded. As the Daily Monitor itself points out, the President’s outlook and possible solution to the sad situation in Kenya, “appears to be gaining currency in the region”.
I can go further to state that President Kagame’s opinion is shared beyond the region; a day after part of the President’s interview was published in the news media, Mr. Adama Gaye, an eminent Senegalese analyst and expert on African Affairs appeared on CNN putting forward the view that military intervention to put an end to the murderous violence in Kenya should be seriously considered. Incidentally, some of the principal protagonists in the Kenyan national elections equation are now calling for an African Union military peacekeeping force to save a desperate situation.
Perhaps what many analysts have missed is the fact that the Kenyan armed forces are already involved to some extent in the efforts to bring an end to the violence; Kenyan military helicopters have been in action in operations to disperse violent mobs.
Heavily armed military personnel have been active in clean-up operations, as well as manning roadblocks. If the Kenyan armed forces, therefore, stepped up their activities to save the nation, it would not be out of the ordinary, given the fact that the country is on the very brink of obliteration.
The current level of involvement by the Kenyan military was precisely dictated by a security and humanitarian crisis in the country.
Clearly, in the January 31st interview, President Kagame expressed his personal reading into the situation that has been developing and this was not necessarily a government position, a thing he made clear to the reporters present. On the other hand, President Kagame was, as a leader in the region, reminding the Kenyan leadership that the escalating violence and failure to protect the citizens would inevitably create a vacuum that would have to be filled in one way or another. Naturally, that is what the situation would dictate.
As for the military’s role in politics and national stability, much as we all subscribe to the ideal that the military should be solely responsible for the security against external aggression, in situations like what is happening in Kenya, soldiers have stepped in and saved lives. Indeed there are numerous cases that can be cited where civilian governments have not performed any better, having instead contributed to the violence and instability by whipping up tribal sentiments. Just because it is a civilian regime, it doesn’t necessarily make it any better.
Whether civilian or military, the primary responsibility is the welfare and protection of the citizens and there can be no excuse for any party or government to either incite violence or standby and watch as the entire nation goes up in flames.
For those who hold the view that the military should not play a role in restoring stability in Kenya because this would be out of the ordinary, what is happening in the country is not ordinary and it calls for extraordinary measures. Otherwise it might simply be too late. As for the hammer and the nail, if it is broken you fix it.