Saturday, April 7, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
April 2012

The GEMA community leaders have met to endorse Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s next president. This is quite in order. There is nothing wrong with another Kikuyu president following in President
Kibaki’s footsteps.

In quick succession, the KAMATUSA community leaders have also met in Eldoret and endorsed William Ruto as Kenya’s next president. Again there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Never mind that a Kalenjin like Ruto ruled this country for 24 good years with dire consequences for the social and economic wellbeing of this nation.

What needs to be said here and now is that Kenya is a state that is far from being homogeneous. It has 42 major ethnic communities that have never understood why state power should alternate between two tribes.

If indeed the GEMA and KAMATUSA tribal outfits have nominated their presidential candidates, does the constitution provide for tribal candidates some of who have no political party at the moment? Why can’t the KAMATUSA and GEMA stop pretending and register as political parties?

Since independence we have never liked one another that much. Our beef has always revolved around the sharing of national resources, which at best has been skewed to largely benefit the elite of ruling communities.

It is these ethnic biases that led to the fallout in Kanu just two years after independence. Whereas Jaramogi, Bildad Kaggia and Achieng Oneko among others detested land grabbing, the other wing led by Jomo Kenyatta saw nothing wrong with amassing tracks of land at the expense of the landless freedom fighters.

When 15 years later, Moi assumed the presidency, he did nothing to correct the mistakes of his predecessor.
Instead, he followed in the footsteps of the Mzee. What Kenyans did not know was that he would better what Jomo did over and over again.

Moi started with outlawing tribal affiliations. In the process he banned Luo East Africa, GEMA, Akamba Union, Abaluhya United and any other ethnic welfare association he could come across.

At the time Moi was cracking on ethnic associations, he camouflaged it with patriotism and nationalism. He claimed to be doing it for a united Kenya. In a way he was trying to copy what Nyerere had done for Tanzania for two decades. His point of departure with Nyerere was his desire was the Kalenjins domination of the political landscape. When he was through with us, Nyayo torture chambers had flourished. A few unfortunate ones like Robert Ouko were dead. Suddenly there were more Nyayo professors all over the country singing his praises.

When Moi finally left, the economy was on its knees. Every piece of public land had been grabbed by Nyayo boys. Even protected forests were not spared. Had Wangare Maathai had not stood firm, Karura Forest and Uhuru Park in Nairobi would have been grabbed.

Two things stand out in the regimes of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and that of Mwai Kibaki.

Although Jomo Kenyatta was elected on a popular vote by all Kenyans especially by Nyanza, Central, Eastern and parts of the Rift Valley, he never lived to deliver on the promise of a better life for all Kenyans. In fact he never even delivered for the majority of his Kikuyu community. The poor and landless Kikuyus remained so as he and his cronies amassed tracks and tracks in the Coast, Central and Rift Valley provinces.

Kenyatta also encouraged negative ethnicity. Jomo surrounded himself with the GEMA elite and ruled this country like an imperial emperor. He caused the constitution to be amended several times to suite his unchallenged imperial power.

For all his 12 years in office, Kenyatta could only be found at State House in Nairobi, Nakuru State House and Mombasa.
All that time, he was surrounded an ethnic cabal that made it impossible for outsiders to see him. Even Moi his Vice President had a hard time surviving his job for those 12 years.

When Moi took over in August 1978, he did exactly what Kenyatta did, replacing Kikuyus with Kalenjins in major political appointments. Twenty four years later, Kikuyus had been marginalized just like the Luos..

When Mwai Kibaki assumed office in 2002, many Kenyans were weary of another Kikuyu but at that point, getting Moi out of power was an uphill task. After all, Moi’s anointed successor was also another Kikuyu. So Kenyans banked their hopes on Kibaki that was perceived as the gentleman of politics. Due to his exposure, Kenyans including Luos voted him to a man and woman. Kalenjins opposed him. We could breathe change in the air. And his inauguration speech did not disappoint.

Ten years later, negative ethnicity has tripled. In fact, compared to Moi and Kenyatta, Kibaki has done pretty badly in this department.

However, the one area where Kibaki has excelled has been giving Kenyans their freedom back and respecting human rights. Since he took power, no Kenyan has been jailed or detained for expressing his or her opinion. The economy has flourished. Infrastructure has been expanded. We have adopted modern technology in our communications system. Our children now learn for free in primary schools.

Unfortunately, all these gains will go down the drain if his regime allows ethnic warlords to balkanize country along ethnic lines. The KAMATUSA and GEMA are no longer tribal welfare associations. They have ventured into politics and anointed their flag bearers in the same way political parties do.

If this trend is allowed to take root, other communities will take the cue and do the same. If they do, chances of having 42 presidential candidates on the ballot paper are very high. Is this the legacy Kibaki will want to be remembered for?