By David Onjili
There exists, arguably, the notion amongst the Kikuyu elite that the community is entitled to the Presidency. To them, it is their birth right as has been argued variously by several commentators. As a community, they suppose that they fought and suffered most at the hands of our British colonisers. Conversely, the “rest” of the communities feel equally entitled because “Kenya belongs to 45 tribes, not one or two.”
On the flip side, Kenya’s politics has been synonymous with betrayal. The Odinga family is the epitome of this. While to single out the family may narrow the nationwide pain of this sad phenomenon, to fail to realise that Raila Odinga inherited the baton of betrayal of Kenya’s politics from his father Jaramogi is to bury the head in the sand.
A sober look into the Kenyan political scenario, especially in the context of elections, reveals this “betrayal”. In 2007, it seemed that Odinga, by design or default, had marshalled the entire nation against the Kikuyu but still lost controversially to Mwai Kibaki. In 2013, Kikuyu teamed up with the Kalenjin in a tribal census and won against “the rest of Kenya”, coalesced around Raila. The “crimes against humanity” cases against Ruto and Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court had brought together strange bed fellows and now, the Kikuyu are seemingly teaming up with the Luo against the Kalenjin (Ruto).
Other politicians of “lesser stature” have also experienced this betrayal – Musalia Mudavadi of the “Madimoni” infamy when Uhuru Kenyatta declined to support his bid in the run up to the 2013, and Kalonzo Musyoka who, in 2007, felt he was the superior candidate against Raila, and caused ODM to split.
“The Building Bridges Initiative has to cure the twin curse of ‘entitlement’ viz-a-viz’ betrayal. Any other agenda is peripheral, and the stage is now set for President Uhuru Kenyatta to bequeath the nation a lasting solution to the existing divisions and wounds,” says University of Nairobi lecturer and political commentator Professor Herman Manyora.
“Kenyatta, for the sake of the nation, has to annoy his community by supporting Odinga for president. This will heal the wounds of betrayal and inspire other communities that they too can rise to the highest seat in the land.”
Prof Manyora is of the opinion that physically eliminating Raila won’t fix anything and that he must be made president, even if it is for a short while. “This would be in appreciation of the fact that the Kenyatta family, which has been in power for decades, has to realise the huge sacrifices made by the Odingas; it won’t be fair for them to exit politics at the same time.”
Unfair and primitive
“This may sound like a primitive arrangement in this day and age, but healing historical wounds requires sacrifice, and is the only way to create and strengthen a lasting Kenyan state. While countries like Tanzania, Senegal and even Ghana have nations, Kenya cannot boast of one. We got nationhood wrong when betrayal and entitlement decided who became president; this needs fixing,” says Prof Manyora.
Anyone with cursory understanding of politics will tell you there exists a deep state within Kenya, which controls who becomes president and how the country is run. While there is nothing wrong with it, the sad part is that this deep state has had no political agenda other than the preservation of the Kikuyu entitlement.
Dictionary.com describes the “Deep State” as “a clandestine network entrenched inside the government, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies, and other government entities.” It supposedly controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratically-elected process and elected officials serve as mere figureheads.
Manyora compares the existence of this deep state with the grooming of George Walker Bush and the subsequent victory by Barrack Obama in 2007. The latter’s victory was a response by Americans who have always portrayed themselves as a citadel of democracy and free world where all is possible but who lagged as Islamic nations appointed female leaders and transformed into top economies.
Britain had Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990, Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990) and (1993-1996) Indonesia Megawati Sukarnoputri in 2001. How would The United States of America then claim to be such a democratic nation when minority groups could not ascend to highest office in the land? Obama in 2007 was the response.
The predominant mandate of the BBI is to fix Kenyan politics, according to Manyora. By the time it is done and dusted, a Kenyan from any corner should have equal chance of being president. Of course, winning and losing is another matter.
“Roadblocks to this noble initiative, which is preceded by blatant electoral injustice, must be cured. Kenya has one of the most progressive constitutions, backed by the necessary constitutional bodies, but we still have no credible elections to speak about. This is what haunts the nation today, five decades and counting after independence.”
Casualties of reform
As it is now, both Kenyatta and Raila seem determined to right the wrongs of their fathers, which, inevitably, will be at the expense of a group of politicians who may include Deputy President William Ruto.
Manyora suggests, and I agree, that Kenyatta must whole heartedly champion the re-configuring of the constitution to stop what the country has experienced in recent elections. We all either have seen or can remember two, three or even four big tribes gang up to distribute elective posts among themselves in the ill-advised winner-take-all electoral system – this in scenarios where the electoral body has not often inspired confidence with genuine, transparent processes.
Where the founding president Jomo may have started the country off on a path of individualistic amassing of wealth, it is his son, Uhuru who can refocus the nation’s psyche by ending this notion of entitlement by supporting an Odinga presidency at the end of his term.
Statesmanship and greatness are usually thrust upon men once in a lifetime. Abraham Lincoln had his and he seized the moment in his Gettysburg Address, where he honoured the dead and reminded those present the purpose of the sacrifice, equality, freedom and national unity. Nelson Mandela walked out of Robben Island with a desire to heal South Africa from the wounds of apartheid.
What will President Uhuru bequeath the country? (