Uhuru’s Comments In Kisumu Welcome
Several months ago I suggested that Uhuru Kenyatta should go and engage Luo-Nyanza on his political ideologies. My rationale was that there was no way he or anyone else would genuinely say they were running for President of Kenya, while ignoring engaging one of Kenya’s most political communities. I specifically called him out because his absence in the region has been quite visible.
I believed he needed to do it if he was to convince the skeptics amongst us, that he was not running for President as an ethnic chieftain. I also built my argument on the fact that Prime Minister Raila Odinga; his primary rival for presidency next year, was deliberately going out of his way to engage Central Kenya on the stereotypes and myths that the region held of him.
I was of the opinion that Uhuru Kenyatta could move his nationalist credentials a notch higher by replicating the PM’s engagements with Kikuyus; amongst Luos in Nyanza. My arguments was buttressed by the fact that the Odinga-Kikuyu; Uhuru-Luo relationships are the most glaring of Kenya’s ethnic political divisions and if both leaders were seen to be deliberately reaching across to the other community, Kenya would fare better as far as ethnic relations in politics are concerned as we head to the next general elections.
I even networked them with a Nyanza-based NGO that was willing to host the first Uhuru & Luo Community forum in Kisumu. Surprisingly the reactions I got from Team Uhuru were extremely hostile. Uhuru’s spokesman went as went as far as to question my motives, and then to state on my facebook page, that Uhuru Kenyatta did not need people like me telling him where to go and when, in his politics.
When I asked Team Uhuru when Uhuru was last in Kisumu I was basically told to mind my own business. Clearly and without realising, I had touched a raw nerve. Fortunately the Deputy Prime Minister finally visited Kisumu last week. Uhuru did not set aside time to explain his political agenda to members of this region; or to explain how Luo-Nyanza would look like under an Uhuru Presidency next year; or explain several statements he has made around his woes with the ICC which directly suggest that the Prime Minister is to blame for his case at the ICC; or explain why he rarely campaigns in Luo Nyanza, etc.
This, I hope, he will do the next time he is there. However what he did was simply brilliant. He made one of those innocent statements that political analysts are prone to call ‘game-changing’; a statement that not only opened the door for future engagements with the region’s inhabitants, but indicated that whatever political competition there is between him and Prime Minister Raila Odinga is not a matter of life and death.
Uhuru Kenyatta, while in Ndhiwa, publicly and for what I am sure is the very first time, stated that should Raila Odinga win the next election, he will support him! This is the proverbial paradigm shift in Uhuru/Raila political competition dynamics, especially considering that Uhuru has in the past been known to bang tables in frustration with Raila Odinga.
I am also grateful that Uhuru made this clarification publicly because it puts to shame those unscrupulous politicians and their political operatives who have been trying to sell the message that a Raila Odinga Presidency will bring nothing but doom, blood-shed and destruction in Kenya. I am especially concerned that this statement be circulated far and wide in Central Kenya and sections of Rift Valley where these unscrupulous operatives have been trying to build a siege mentality amongst Kikuyu voters by telling them Raila Presidency would be nothing but added hardship to them.
Someone must explain to them that if even the ‘muthamaki’ (‘King’) has said that he can work with him should he win, then clearly he cannot be all bad. Uhuru Kenyatta has lit a candle in the dark room of negative ethnicity in Kenya’s politics and he must be commended. Prime Minister Raila Odinga has responded in kind and at a rally in Kangema he also confirmed that should Uhuru Kenyatta win the presidency in 2013, he will work with him.
This is a powerful statement of intent coming from what is essentially the front-runner and first runner’s-up in the 2013 presidential polls. Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta are basically telling Kenyans and the world that Kenya is larger than their own individual ambitions, and that they are willing to lay down this ambitions should Kenyans choose another way apart from them. It is also a call-out to all the other Presidential aspirants to do something similar.
It could even be an answered prayer to Chief Justice Mutunga, who some time back asked if all Kenyan Presidential aspirants are willing to share a common platform where they call for peace, state that each will support whoever amongst them wins, and declare their commitment to a peaceful Kenya during and beyond the next general elections.
The writer is the head of Change Associates.