The Institute of Economic Affairs(IEA) on Saturday, pitched camp in the Eastern Region to review the Political Parties Code, to tame the effects of intemperate language use in political discourse.
The workshop, which brought together representatives of all the political parties in the country, comes in the wake of the intolerance speeches that had bedevilled the political discourse in the country, as election 2012 draws closer.
The code, which was reviewed prior to the 2008 elections, had provisions such as the abuse of incumbency barring political parties from using state resources for party campaigns and banning of parties from turning state functions into party campaigns rallies, among others.
Justice Emile Short, former Commissioner at the Commission for Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), who chaired the event, said the 2008 code had enforcement bodies within the ten regions, most of whom were representatives of the various political parties.
“This style, rather than being strength, in my view, is an inherent weakness,” he said.
He noted that political intolerance was manifested among supporters of the political parties in the presidential and parliamentary primaries, resulting in the violent clashes in some instances.
“The disregard for the Political Parties Code of Conduct and Public Order Act in the scheduling of campaign events, resulted in violent clashes among party supporters”, he said, adding that, some District Chief Executives used public resources and time for partisan campaigns.
He advised the leadership of political parties to educate their supporters on conflict prevention, adding that, political parties and their agents must pledge to uphold and be held accountable to the provisions of the agreed code of conduct.
He said the media, particularly radio stations, that had partisan affiliations must desist from using their platforms to incite supporters for unlawful acts and provocative behaviours.
Justice Short said, though those precautions were taken prior to the 2008 elections, according to the recommendations of CODEO, the presidential and the parliamentary, including the by-elections, had several reported cases of violence.
He cited Chereponi and Atiwa where about 1200 police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order but violence still erupted, resulting in injuries to several people.
“The most disturbing fact is that, to date, we have not heard any report of the perpetrators of the violence or the persons who mounted the roadblock being arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
“The post elections violence that took place in Kenya with its disastrous consequences and the equally bloody conflict in the Ivory Coast are still fresh in our minds, we cannot afford to be complacent or indifferent to the threat of election related violence given the political temperature in the country.”
He noted that: “The most serious challenge to the code is the politics of insult, which has taken centre state in our body politic.”
He said in “this verbal warfare not even the high office of the President has been spared, adding that, the results had drowned the issues and one wondered what those politicians involved in such behaviours were teaching the young ones”.
He said the participants must focus on enforcing mechanisms of the code, adding that, the code needed to be structured differently because the enforcement mechanisms of the 2008 code were weak.
“Given the posture of the two rival political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP), the provision for amicable resolution of dispute is overly optimistic,” he said.
Justice Prof AKP Kludze, Senior Fellow of IEA, in a welcome address said: “We cannot fail to draw attention to the acrimony and the vituperation gaining grounds in the political discourse”
“We blame the press and rightly so for some of the problems in this regard,” he said.