Defensiveness is a psychological reaction to undesired feelings, circumstance, or scenarios. It is a highly deceptive emotion that clouds rational judgment. As such, it robs an individual of a fair chance to make better decisions when facing a certain challenge or a problem. Defensiveness occurs in many forms. The common ones are sarcasm, bursts of high energy, a desire to say the final word, hearing what one wants to hear, and being highly critical (Tamm, 2004).
This paper analyzes one scenario of defensive behavior. It concerns the unfortunate events that gripped Kenya, an East African country, after the eventful Presidential elections of 2007/2008. The leading contenders in the polls were Party of Nation Union (PNU), under Mr. Kibaki, and Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The outcome of the polls was contested, with each of the two leading parties claiming victory. This led to chaos before world leaders prevailed on them to govern the country as a coalition.
The process of power-sharing was punctuated with intrigues and trickery as each side of the divide sought posts of government. Each side was as defensive as the other. The close call of the result in PNU’s favor gave the party negotiators a reason to push for a lion share in governance with the excuse that they had won the election. On the other hand, ODM claimed their victory was stolen. This was a bruise too painful to bear; hence, they agitated to make up for it by laying claims to the most powerful government portfolios. Although the country was in chaos, none of the opponents was willing to cede ground. The key posts with great appeal to both parties were the Finance, Energy, Internal Security, Defense and Agriculture dockets. Another burning issue was that both Kibaki and Raila were equal principals in the government, a claim that the PNU side opposed vehemently. In many occasions, deals were reached and even sealed, only to be broken the next day as each party detested the possibility of being short-changed by the other one. Each side believed in what was best for them and not necessarily that of the country.
PNU took a defensive position having been declared the winner by the electoral body. The fact that Kibaki had been sworn in gave PNU an excuse to unfairly use state machinery to their advantage. Meanwhile, ODM was bruised, angry and power hungry. This state of affairs set a stage for a grueling fight with each side being defensive without any remorse for the country’s safety. Desire by the two parties not to let down their tribal supporters fuelled this defensiveness even more. Although this defensiveness was finally broken, the extent and impacts of the process had set a precedent on how future politics and disputes would be handled. It suffices to note that, among the many outcomes of the defensive stance is the ongoing case of criminal charges against Kenya’s president and his deputy. The two were key lieutenants of Kibaki and Raila respectively.
- Tamm, J. W., & Luyet, R. (2004). Radical collaboration: five essential skills to overcome defensiveness and build successful relationships. Pymble, N.S.W., Australia: HarperCollins.