Sunday, July 13, 2008



July 13, 2008
Sunday Nation

This is a letter to Prime Minister Raila Odinga regarding the Ethnic Question. Greetings Sir and a happy Sunday! I write to you for two reasons.

One, the country is not healing. Your peace accord with President Mwai Kibaki did not erase the hate in Kenyans’ hearts; their emotions are still raw and the anger runs deep.

And this is what the Amos Kimunya fiasco showed Kenyans last week. All we need is a trigger, and the fire will go on! But you can stop this – not as prime minister, but as Mr Odinga the political animal.

My second reason regards President Kibaki.

The old man has done his course. And, as the Holy Bible says, “… old men (like him) can only dream dreams, while young men (like you) should see visions.” In other words, the President is about the past; he has no future.

To the contrary, the future is yours and you must see visions of tomorrow.

The question, however, is: can you? Are you able to drop your populist politics and become a visionary statesman?

More fundamentally, can you resolve the thorny Ethnic Question and reconcile the country? Explore some thoughts with me.

Although the anti-Kikuyu sentiment existed before the last elections, the Orange Democratic Movement campaign fanned the flames. No, I want to put this strongly; your campaign fed and flourished on the sentiment.

And, to give the devil his due, I think it achieved much with this strategy. However, you had no way of containing the aftermath.

To date, you have no strategy on how to deal with this monster.

Do you, in fact, wish to end this tribal resentment? If you do, then the issue is not economic as argued by some; it is political. Many people believe that this resentment was conjured to fight an enemy — President Kibaki.

If the Kikuyu are not interested in the presidency after Mr Kibaki, why would anyone fight them?

In my view, ODM’s enemies have changed and its tact should follow suit.

And, while changing tact, you should actually resolve the Ethnic Question in your favour. I am compelled by two reasons here.

Fight enemy

One, should President Kibaki die in office, the wounded Kikuyu would support Mr Kalonzo Musyoka to the last man. In such a situation, your chances of losing are high.

What is more: there would be no power sharing, no PM position for you and no Cabinet jobs for ODM. You would lose big.

In the alternative, you can begin courting the Kikuyu before Mr Kalonzo Musyoka becomes desirable to them.

Two, and related to one, the Kikuyu are looking for a non-Kikuyu candidate for 2012.

They want someone dependable and whose candidature is bankable. Mr Musyoka is neither.

The way he treated his running mate, Dr Julia Ojiambo, makes him unreliable.

Similarly, a deal to the Kikuyu has to be ‘‘mali kwa mali’’. Mr Musyoka does not provide this.

Because he has no troops, he has to rely on the Kikuyu to make him president. And this is what makes his candidature unbankable.

In my view, the Kikuyu could embrace you for 2012 or any time before. But before they do so, you have to reconcile them with the rest of the country.

Populist politics

And, in my view, you have to do it on their terms; you have to make right some impressions you created in the interest of politics.

If you do so, you will have moved from populist politics to statesmanship. But, more importantly, you will begin the process of national healing; a process where we celebrate our diversity.

You will be leading us into a celebration of “Kikuyu expansionism and arrogance,” “Luo intellectualism and poshness”.

In fact, in my visits around the continent of Africa, I always find a Luo professor in some posh city university, and a Kikuyu businessman in the most unlikely dingy places.

And, when I visit the West, I always meet a Kalenjin somewhere running his way through college.

Sir, the Luo intellectual, the Kalenjin runner and the Kikuyu expansionist are gifted differently. And from socialisation, the Luo is posh, the Kikuyu is arrogant and the Kalenjin is humble. These are our defence mechanisms against each other.

That is why we cannot mobilise the Meru people to fight Luo poshness. Similarly, we cannot organise a civil society demonstration against Kikuyu arrogance or against Kalenjin dominance of the marathons.

What is my point? If the Kikuyu question is political and not economic, you are the one to resolve it. It benefits you politically, and gives you a chance to unite our divided country.

You must recall that the ‘‘rainbow’’ dream of 2003 was your idea.

And because President Kibaki could not appreciate it, he botched it and chose to revive the economy instead.

Nobody asked him to revive the economy and that is why his achievements did not matter during the last election.

But the two of you can turn things in your favour now.

The President can continue with his economic reforms as you unite the country.

Is this too much to ask?