I have just returned to the US from my most recent trip to Kenya and even though I frequently visit home, I must say it’s always quite refreshing just being home and each time I visit, there is something new I discover, or observe—and this trip was no different.
I will find time to more fully share my thoughts about what my other observations were on this particular trip but the one that I feel compelled to write about now, relates to my observation or information I was able to learn regarding the vastly changing attitudes and political maturity among our Kikuyu brothers and sisters from Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Muranga and Kiambu counties or just for convenience, let me refer to the whole group by its old name, Central Province.
Having extensively written on the issue of ending tribalism in Kenya, I must confess even as I write about the subject, I am often resigned in the background this is just but a dream wish for some progressives like myself because the reality of it is, old habits die hard.
Thus, even when I suggest as I have in the past that, if I were a Kikuyu, I would start an organization I have variously described as Kikuyu’s Against Another Kikuyu President –or something to that effect—something in the back of my mind keeps telling me this is simply a utopian dream.
I could be wrong and would obviously be glad to be so.
I have hastened to add that I hold that view—of not another Kikukuyu president; at least not this round or next, anyway—not because I have anything against Kikuyu’s—I don’t—but I do hold this view for the same reasons other progressive Kikuyus hold the same view, and that is, it is just neither fair nor just for an ethnically diverse and vast country such as Kenya to have two of its three presidents since its independence, hailing from the same tribe.
It’s the Clinton Fatigue, if you will, that many believe denied Hilary her official date with destiny at the White House; ditto for the Bush Fatigue whereby Jeb Bush who, better than his brother he might be, or even better than his father for that matter he could be, the United States of America simply can’t take another Bush at the White House; not any time soon, anyway.
And that includes anyone who may not be related but has the same name—just not another BUSH!
Same concept for Kenya—okay, Kenya goes more in that not just another Kenyatta (sorry UK) but not another Kikuyu either.
As noted above, not a shred of tribalism in many of us who say so; just a fact of life, if we are to be intellectually honest about these things.
All of us as Kenyans were happy to have and accepted Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as our first president and we lived with the fact that he was to be our president to the day he drew his last breath, which was fine; the man, after all, was very instrumental in our country’s gaining independence.
For purposes of this blog, I am not interested and neither am I evaluating the merits or demerits of Kenyatta’s rule.
That’ll be for another day
Kenyatta was, of course, succeeded by Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi.
Again, I am not interested and neither am I offering any evaluation of these two as our first and second president.
My point is, in 2002, having been fed up with the Moi rule, Kenyans in a euphoria never seen before, showed Moi and his pet project Uhuru the door and ushered in the Kibaki era.
Any informed political observer could not but recognize that, just like his father Jaramogi made the Kenyatta presidency possible, Raila, the son, made the Kibaki presidency possible by his “Kibaki Tosha” declaration.
In other words, Jaramogi assessed what was best for the country, and concluded it was best to put his own political ambitions on the side and make it possible for his friend Kenyatta to become president for the good of the country.
Fast forward to 2002, Jaramogi’s son, Raila, was faced with essentially the same decision, albeit under different circumstances, namely to do that which was politically expedient for him personally, or to do what was right for the country and just like his father before him, Raila chose to back Kibaki with his “Kibaki tosha” declaration, which made it possible for Kibaki, to be elected president.
These were not insignificant acts by either men from the Lake region.
On their own, conducting themselves in their respective times with such unparalleled political judgment and vision, except son mirroring father, coupled with their unmatched sense of self-confidence and sound decision making in the face of the most difficult of times, except as son mirroring father in this only such known example, these are qualities that have already enshrined the names Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and and Raila Amolo Odinga in the annals of Kenyan political history.
But the last chapter has yet to be written about this unique power making ability of father and son that is certain not to be seen again in our country, or elsewhere for that matter.
What reward does either of these men deserve for stepping in at the right time in our country’s critical points and acting unselfishly to save a nation of uncertainty but ensuring her of certainty as to new leadership of its people when doing otherwise would have perpetuated an undesirable status quo much to more suffering of the country?
Jaramogi was briefly rewarded with vice-presidency, only to have it taken away and he sent on permanent political exile.
I do always find it very poignant about Kenyatta, however, when he declared in Kisumu that, but for his friendship with Jaramogi, he would have had him arrested that day.
That alone is all anyone needs to study and understand about Kenyatta, Kenya and our politics, vastly changing as it is today: but for friendship…
What about Raila? What was his reward for “Kibaki tosha?”
What about the friendship between the two, born from that period of campaigning when a wheelchair bound Kibaki could not much campaign but his friend did so for him?
Was this friendship for naught as many feared following the elections of 2007?
Is it still for naught even long after the signing of the peace accord in Kenya?
Again, this is an analysis for another day but those of you who follow my writing, you’ll know I have previously and on more than one occasion suggested in open communication to Kibaki that, what a sweet irony it would be, for him to hand over power to Raila, the man who made him president to begin with, and the man who believes he stole the presidency from him in the second place.
Now, that’s a toast everyone would have to agree will be the mother of all toasts for our country not just because of the irony in it all but it shall be an essential and necessary point of closure as well.
I say essential and necessary point of closure as well because I believe closure must occur to complete this historic saga between the two men from the Lake region and the two men from Central, respectfully.
It’ll also mark the end of tribalism as we know it for other tribes will and must follow suit, especially given the likely healing to take place with Raila’s presidency.
It will be, of course, purely a matter of great intrigue were UK to wake up one of these mornings and head up to Raila’s residence and ask RAO to make him Vice President, thus, the son of our First President seeks Vice President from the son or our First Vice President who never saw the inside of State House as president thanks to the father of the son who now seeks the VP spot from the son who likely will occupy the office his father was unable to occupy as all roads to it were blocked by the son’s father whose own road to the State House appears to be all but blocked.
Purely a matter of great intrigue but I am afraid the time of it has come and gone.
In other words, there would have been a time this could have been possible, intriguing or otherwise.
That time has been overtaken by events.
The dynamics in Central are changing so fast, even a scenario where UK were to be VP Candidate will be quickly rejected by the good people of Central, telling Raila he could do better and he must.
But not without help from the good people of Central.
I think they hold the key to majorly dealing with tribalism in Kenya.
It’s their right of first refusal, and I truly hope and believe they take up the opportunity and just deliver.
Otherwise, by failing to do so, does not and will not mean we cannot end or deal a major blow to tribalism come 2012: we shall and we must I just wish our brothers and sisters take heed and provide the leadership.
They have risen to the occasion in the founding of our nation but that was only half the battle.
The major battle lies ahead in combating the trio vices of tribalism, corruption and impunity.
We are well underway in dealing with the other two, but tribalism looms large and must be confronted from all directions.
Asking the Agikuyu to lead in this war (to end tribalism), should and is intended to honor them and their contribution in our country’s history.
No one and certainly not I wishes to render any of them irrelevant or less important as we move forward with a new Kenya.
By historical nature and other considerations, the Kikuyu shall and will always be an integral part of the Kenyan social-economic and political fabric.
What I am urging, is a recognition of this and looking beyond 2012 and for our brothers and sisters to decide now and presently how best to proceed together towards these idealistic goals we must attain as a nation.
How Kikuyus vote in 2012 will reveal quite a bit about how the community sees its role in the vastly changing and new Kenya: vote as a block for one of their own and remain stuck in the past or move in the direction of new Kenya by spreading their vote around as they ought to, even on a limited and constrained manner.
As I always say, if there is tomorrow, there is hope.
I have been thinking about the Kikuyu factor last several days and putting aside those who belong to two voting blocks at the national level, which I believe will shape and even decide the politics of 2012 and that is the Youth and Women voters blocks, there are three voting blocks in Central that I can see as follows:
- The Progressives Group A. This group is relatively young, intelligent and sophisticated enough not to be swayed by cheap politics. You’ll insult this group, if you try to get their vote by telling them you are so or by flashing your ill-gained wealth. To get this group’s vote, you’ll have to tell them precisely why you are running for president, what you intend to do and what difference will that make to the country, let alone their own bottom lines. This group is very quiet and merely observing the noise makers but in the end, will cast their vote or not at all, depending whether they are impressed by any of the candidates. They are willing to accept, and in fact would prefer a non-Kikuyu president so long as that person makes the case and persuades them they deserve their vote. This group will be the swing vote in Central just as their counterparts will be in other regions of the country.
- The Progressives Group B. This group is relatively older, and in some cases very old. They are intelligent and sophisticated as well, if less than their Progressive Group A counterpart. They are old school in every respect: conservative and old fashioned, that is. They will not vote for a woman for president so any aspiring woman for president may as well not waste much time with them. Ditto for every presidential candidate. They know precisely who they are going to vote for but would not admit publicly. Having value and political capital associated with their names, and especially having been around for so long, their value is in quietly rooting for their victor. Any candidate will get mileage merely by being publicly seen with them but that in by itself shall remain a rarity until perhaps very close to elections day. Their word is bankable and so are bills in their overstocked wallets. They are a swing vote but for a different purpose: they will determine how far tribalism is to be tackled in Central Province than any single group. Unlike they younger counterparts in progressive thinking, they are not all that gang-ho about voting for anyone outside of central. The goal is not to have them say not in which case it’ll be a definitely road to nowhere by the recipient of such a curse from any one of them, which in essence is a collective force for they think alike, drink tea alike and influence votes alike.
- The Village Kings. They are old with very little formal education but they can write a thesis on Central politics. They are to Central what Central is to the rest of the country. A force to reckon. They are not likely; in fact, they will not vote for anyone outside their own backyard or frontyard, if at all. They have never been happy with any president, including Kenyatta himself but he stands and will always stand tall than any you can dare compare him to; from near or afar. Theirs, is a question of loyalty to the House of Mumbi . Nothing more nothing less. To vary their thinking to the point they can vote someone outside Central, will take something of a small miracle. In fact, it’ll take a fairly large miracle of the kind not seen lately within our borders. Any presidential candidate is advised not to waste their time seeking votes from among this group. Only bet is to work with the Progressives Groups A or B in the hopes they can persuade a handful of them to cast their vote for them, and even then, merely as a token of appreciation for the effort and nothing more. In a tight race to the top, that handful may be the ones just necessary to get over the top and thus the advice never to give up hope, even on a tough group like this one. Indeed, one might even be surprised and find a bit more than a handful of votes from any of their counties. Every vote counts. This is what this expression is meant to describe.
For those who follow my writing, I have repeatedly made the case of all the presidential candidates, only Raila appears to be the one to beat and I can now categorically state contrary to the mistaken belief by many, by saying Raila is the man to beat does not mean Raila will be beaten by another man (or woman in that matter) rather, he will be beaten by the only force than can stop him and that is, tribalism or more specifically, what Kikuyu’s decide to do about it.
If Kikuyu’s were to look back at history, the choice for president for them come 2012 must be Raila, even if their own son is on the ballot.
This is because, as I have noted above, it’s neither fair nor just to deny others a chance at the presidency simply because your own is running.
Rather, there has to be a shift in paradigm on tribalism, which ought to and must begin in 2012.
Jaramogi was not looking at Kenyatta as a Kikuyu in deciding not to throw him under the bus and assuming the presidency himself.
Neither was Raila looking at Kibaki as a Kikuyu in deciding not to throw him under the bus and either heading to the State House himself, or throwing his weight behind someone else who would have been equally elected as Kibaki was in 2002.
Both men from the Lake region obviously knew the two individuals they supported in their respective times, were Kikukuyu men but that was not the deciding factor in their choosing to do what they did: they both looked at the men in their respective times and concluded each was fit and, indeed, the best person to take the helm of power in Kenya as president at the critical times in our history when, by their unselfish and nationalistic move, each declared their man tosha and the rest is history:
Jaramogi, in his mind, said “Kenyatta tosha” and that was enough to usher in the Kenyatta era.
Raila said “Kibaki tosha” and that was enough to usher in the Kibaki era.
Kenyatta is not around and neither is Jaramogi but I am willing to bet, had you asked Kenyatta, he would have preferred that Jaramogi succeed him as president and this I say notwithstanding the bitter ending of their once very warm relationship.
I am equally willing to bet Kibaki in his warm heart wishes Raila succeeds him as president, again notwithstanding the bitter rivalry between the two, especially leading up to the elections of 2007 and the aftermath.
This can be only a natural thing to do, unless one is not prone to natural tendencies.
All Kibaki has to do, is to call a rally anywhere in Central and simply say, Raila tosha.
He, of course, would have to say that in Kikuyu and that’s not being tribal; there is nothing wrong in expressing ourselves in a language that needs no translation in meaning, if it’s for good, not evil purpose.
Kibaki so declaring will accomplish several things:
First, it would show that Kibaki himself is not afraid to say to the country, “we need a break from another Kikuyu president.”
Second, this would reaffirm what most Kenyans being surveyed are saying to date and that is, among those who have declared their interest in the presidency, Raila really is the man so saying Raila tosha in this sense will replicate the history of 2002 and the euphoria that followed.
We need a good doze of that this time around and who better is positioned to deliver this than Kibaki himself.
Third, this would publicly remove the myth that exists out there that Kikuyus from Central will never vote for anyone from outside their region.
My sense of it, this is no longer the case but who can better eviscerate this myth than Kibaki himself.
Fourth, such a declaration will put an end to the permanent campaigns that are taking place even before MPs pass legislation implementing the Constitution under which the new elections must be held, which in turn will focus the energy now being expended in search of tribal groupings, to something more productive, if any.
Fifth, such a declaration shall put to rest this notion that Kibaki is not decisive.
I have said several times in the past that Kibaki is one decisive president we have heard, he just gets bad rap on this aspect of his presidency.
Kibaki has played his cards well as to the succession politics and I have no doubt he is busy doing things to both rehabilitate and solidify his legacy.
A declaration of Raila tosha in Central surely must and ought to feature somewhere in his bag of tricks and if not, he should seriously consider it.
I am willing to bet of my 3 groups I analyze above, one will be fully in support of such bold, objective and decisive move by Kibaki. One may be lukewarm and the other one would absolutely condemn the move.
Indeed, the challenge for Kibaki is how willing is he to dare the most adamantly opposed to the idea that he is his own man and can call the shots in full recognition of his responsibility as both president of the Republic of Kenya and the son of the House of Mumbi.
No one stands above him and neither can there be anyone who can dare question his wisdom, if he were to dare to do so.
Yes, they’ll call him names. Yes. They’ll curse him out.
But in the end, he will stand tall and fade into the glory of our country’s history as a shining example of true leadership beyond any we have witnessed in the country.
He will surpass both of his predecessors by far by just that one action to end the vile disease of tribalism.
His role in the passage of the new Constitution will be simply his other major accomplishment.
2007 will pale in comparison.
This is a dare.
Going by what I saw in a number of events in Kenya last week, including some I personally attended in Thika and Kandara, Kibaki’s message of Raila tosha will be very well received because my sense is, the people of Central are ready for such bold moves and declarations from the leaders from the region.
Raila can deliver the message and I am sure it’ll continue to be favorably received, with the help of his other supporters from the area but would it not be such a fresh day in Kenya consistent with the new spirit of a new Kenya if Kibaki were to make such a declaration, and not even stop there—CAMPAIGN for RAILA to succeed him as president!
Why not; what should he be afraid of? As FDR famously said, fear nothing but fear itself!
Yes, it’ll be earth moving stuff akin to earthquakes and tsunamis but Kenya needs nothing less to do deliver a major, if not a fetal blow to the debilitating disease of tribalism.
Okay, Kibaki need not say exactly “Raila tosha” in those exact words or even in Kikuyu; he merely needs to give a very strong signal to the people of Central—and all Kenyans for that matter, that we must henceforth judge and vote for our leaders, especially at the presidential level, not based on what ethnicity or tribe they hail from, rather, by their proven qualities of leadership and on this account alone, I have no doubt Kibaki will be comfortable and confident to say, Raila tosha.
Let’s hope he does so.