What Lesson From Kenya?

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

The Daily Post rug in the Trokosi Sub-Republic of Ghana is not well known for publishing stuff that is worth the critical thinker’s while. And so when I came across an article captioned “Insulting The President On Facebook – The Lesson From Kenya” (Ghanaweb.com 2/2/15), I knew right off the bat that the content of the article was bound to be another gratuitous tirade against members of the country’s main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). The Kenyan springboard which inspired the Daily Post writer to presume to impugn the integrity of the fiery likes of Mr. Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, the no-nonsense NPP-MP for Assin-Central, in Ghana’s Central Region, told about the quaint but all-too-predictable case of a 25-year-old student who was recently convicted and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for allegedly writing and posting hateful speech about President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of the latter’s family.

Considered inexcusably virulent, it appears, was Mr. Alan Wadi Okenga’s call for President Kenyatta and his majority Kikuyu ethnic group to be confined to only certain parts of that country. Hateful speech, indeed! What the Daily Post author of the article in question conveniently failed to add, obviously because it would not advance the logical trend of his argument, is that the Kenyan leader was not long ago indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, the Netherlands, for callously and unconscionably ordering the massacre of other bona fide Kenyans for reasons that clearly appeared to entail a combination of both the ethnic and political.

In sum, even as the ICC maintained, Mr. Kenyatta is not widely known to be a very decent personality. We must also significantly observe that recently when the ICC prosecutor decided not to proceed with the criminal charges leveled against Mr. Kenyatta, it was purely as a result of scarcity of logistics, or the heavy financial cost involved in generating the kind of airtight evidence needed to effectively nail the high-powered criminal suspect. And, oh, we forgot to add that Mr. Okenga, the alleged hate-speech culprit and criminal convict,was also hit with the relatively hefty fine of $2,200 (or E1,400) in addition to his one year’s jail sentence. And should the convict fail to pay the fine, he would be forced to serve another year in the slammer.

As of this writing, I had not availed myself of the original report which, according to the Daily Post writer, appeared on the website of the BBC, but it is almost certain that the Daily Post writer stretched matters a bit when he rather pontifically noted, citing the news source, that “many people think Mr. Okenga overstepped the mark, as they felt his comments were personal abuse that was not fit to be published.” Well, I have been an active journalist for nearly three decades, long enough to be able to promptly ask the relevant questions. And one such question is as follows: Who were the people interviewed by the BBC reporter who strongly felt that Mr. Okenga had overstepped the bounds of free and decent sppech?

What would the same people have said when Mr. Koku Anyidoho, the former Communications Director for the late President John Evans Atta-Mills, publicly insulted former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, to the effect that the latter’s face was too uncomely, or ugly, for any human being to espy? And so when Chairman Jerry John Rawlings, the founding-father of Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress, called Mr. Kufuor a thief and compared his immediate presidential successor to Mr. Ataa Ayi, Ghana’s most notorious armed robber, did the Daily Post writer call for the prosecution of Togbui Avaklasu I?

The Daily Post writer also deliberately fails to highlight the fact that the surest way of getting rapidly promoted up the political rungs of the Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress is squarely predicated on how vitriolic a cabinet appointee behaves towards prominent members of the main opposition New Patriotic Party. Indeed, so rankly rampant is this rhetorical culture of abuse among the top-echelon membership of the National Democratic Congress that not long ago, a distinguished vanguard feminist parliamentarian of the main opposition New Patriotic Party publicly demanded to know whether the largely unprovoked trading of abuse against their rivals and political opponents was an article of faith among the leaders of the National Democratic Congress.

And yet, wonders of wonders, the Daily Post author of the afore-referenced article would have the world believe that the ignoble politics of rhetorical abuse, or insults, is the especial preserve of the membership of Ghana’s main opposition New Patriotic Party. What a shame!

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