Monday, August 9, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 8, 2010

Now that celebration and mourning period has subsided for both sides that campaigned during the referendum, it is now possible to soberly analyze the performance of both sides without hurting anybody’s feelings.

Soon after Parliament endorsed the draft constitution without amendments, battle lines were drawn. Some evangelical churches soon joined forces with disgruntled MPs and former president Moi to scuttle the process, since these MPs had failed to have their way at Naivasha, Kabete and at the MPs Kamkunji consensus forums, they chose to rally behind the church to get the necessary numbers to defeat it at the referendum.

And from the beginning, the No team looked organized, exuded confidence and seemed to believe that with the Catholic Church, the evangelicals and Moi on their side, nothing could possibly go wrong in this contest.

To hammer their point home, they read the document and zeroed in on the most emotive issues that would draw the attention of the electorate at home and sympathizers abroad. They chose abortion clause, chapter s on the Kadhi’s courts and land ownership. They knew that most Christians preached pro-life dogma worldwide and abhorred abortion in all its forms. Therefore any mention of this taboo would turn voters against the draft and vote against it. They also believed that the fear of Islam, Islamic laws and its terrorist stigma worldwide would set Kenyans thinking and oppose the Kadhi’s courts being in the constitution especially when they added that in future, this country may turn out to be an Islamic state with Sharia laws as practiced in neighboring Islamic states.

The land issue became a campaign platform and an attractive one in Rift Valley simply because it has been an issue in that region since independence. It was in the same area that colonial settlers acquired vast acres of land for nothing and when they left nearly fifty years ago, new ownership has always been a thorny issue. The Kalenjin community that consider themselves the rightful owners of the area always considered non Kalenjins as either settlers or new foreigners. It is this emotive attitude that informed ethnic clashes in Molo, Kuresoi, Burnt Forest, Kipkelion and other parts of volatile Rift Valley in 1992, 1997, 2002 and then 2007. Land ownership was a message that resonated well with the Kalenjins especially when their political leaders put fear into them that their lands would be confiscated or taxed by the state depending on how much land they owned and how well they utilized them.

But more importantly, it was also in Rift Valley where for a quarter century of Moi’s rule, vast public lands and national forests were dished out to his cronies and family members such that before the referendum, there was forced eviction of forest dwellers that had devastated the Mau Forest water towers- many of their being members of the Kalenjin community. This issue therefore became a very attractive issue on which the Rift Valley Kalenjins could reject the constitution.

It is important to remember that before this referendum, there was nothing really in common between William Ruto’s ODM faction in the Rift Valley, Moi’s family and Evangelical churches.

If anything there was noticeable animosity between Moi and Ruto considering that he rebelled and campaigned against his sons in 2007 causing them to lose elections at that time. Moi on the other hand, though a devout Christian of many years, he was in fact a confessed traditional Christian having been brought up in the African Inland Church all his life. Once in a while during his presidency, he would be invited in to this church or that crusade but he remained a faithful member of mainstream churches. And for a quarter century, Moi ruled Kenya with the Kadhi’s Courts in our law books without having problems with it. He was not about to start a war with Muslims at this late hour in his life.

This scenario gave birth to three distinct groups on the Red corner with different agenda. Moi was in it to protect vast lands he had acquired in Rift Valley including Mau Forest area. He also needed to protect the Kalenjin community from future retribution arising from crimes they might have committed against the state when they were in power. These crimes were largely economic, land grabbing, acquisition of government buildings in the twilight of Moi’s rule and displacement of thousands of non Kalenjin settlers in the Rift Valley.

Ruto and his MPs from the region were in it simply because they had a bone to crack with Raila Odinga; the man they had supported to a man in 2007 but they now considered to have abandoned them. If they could defeat this constitution that looked like Raila’s baby, it would be sweet revenge.

The Evangelicals though in this together with politicians were in it simply on issues of dogma. To them, including the Kadhi’s courts in the draft while leaving out other faiths was tantamount to elevating one religion above the rest in a country where Christians were the majority. Coupled with the clause that permitted abortion under special circumstances, the men of the cloth were ready for battle royal.

However, when the votes were finally counted, this three pronged assault on the constitution could only manage 20% of the total constituencies, 30% of the votes cast and 22.5% of registered voters. Never mind that Christians, especially the NCCK had promised to mobilize 20 million registered Christian voters to defeat the constitution. Now the question to ask is this: what happened to the numbers?

In terms of regions, the combined No team mastered 30 constituencies in Rift Valley, 8 in Ukambani, 4 in Mt. Kenya, 1 in Nyanza and 1 constituency in Mt. Elgon. And even in Rift Valley where they managed over 1 million votes, Eldoret North and Cherangany constituencies proved elusive for William Ruto and Joshua Kutuny.

Now that the referendum is over, will Daniel Moi, the Catholics and evangelicals continue to keep Ruto’s company? Will the NCCK, Cardinal Njue, Joshua Kutuny, Kapondi and Kiema Kilonzo still lie to Ruto that they have following in their respective constituencies? The jury is still out there.