GENESIS

'Blemish or spot': Madoadoa phrase explained

Politicians are resorting to using coded language and ethnic stereotyping during rallies.

In Summary

• Politicians are resorting to using coded language and ethnic stereotyping during rallies.

• These are the times, people will trade barbs, talk back at each other, slander each other and even fight if need be. And all these are caused by some of the words uttered by leaders.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi after he was arrested by DCI detectives attached to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission over his remarks during a rally in Eldoret on January 7, 2022.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi after he was arrested by DCI detectives attached to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission over his remarks during a rally in Eldoret on January 7, 2022.
Image: HANDOUT

As the country heads towards the August general elections, matters of hate speech have begun filling the air.

In Kenya, months leading up to, and after, elections have always been the most violent period.

These are the times, people will trade barbs, talk back at each other, slander each other and even fight if need be. And all these are caused by some of the words uttered by leaders.

The use of certain terms that divided the country was the genesis of the 2007/08 post violence elections in which 1,300 were killed and 600,000 displaced.

But even with this, the leaders have not learnt their lesson or what the power of the tongue can hold.

Over the weekend, Senator Mithika Linturi was arrested over his Madoadoa remarks that are said could spark poll chaos that was witnessed in the 2007 elections.

But what exactly is this Madoadoa?

GENESIS

This is a Kiswahili word when translated, connotatively refers to a spot or blemish.

However, according to the commission on Inquiry on the 2007 post-election violence (PEV) it was used denotatively to profile individuals.

The term has been used since 1992 - in reference to certain communities that were settled in the Rift Valley after independence. 

This was the desire to remove 'foreigners', derogatorily referred to as “Madoadoa” or “spots” from their midst.

According to the Akiwumi commission report, the reference was mainly towards the Kikuyu, Kisii, Luo and other communities who had found permanent residence in the Rift Valley.

The utterances were carefully planned to exploit the existing Nandi ambition to recover ancestral land and to drive away the "madoadoa" in order to achieve the main political purpose of making Nandi a Kanu zone.

The attacks were also carefully executed and followed a common pattern.

A witness testified that the Assistant Chiefs used to threaten the non-Kalenjin with dire consequences if they supported or talked about multi-partyism.

CODED LANGUAGE

Paul Kipkemei Murei said about November, 1991, he heard that the Luo, the Kisii, and the Kikuyu were the "madoadoa" because they were perceived to be supporters of multi-partyism or its sympathizers, would be driven away.

Another witness told the Commission that the following terms were routinely used against Kikuyu: madoadoa (spots), maharagwe (bean), bunyot (enemy), sangara (wild grass) with the additional notation that they should be “uprooted".

As a result, this sparked the violent eviction of individuals from the region.

In retaliation, the Kikuyu community engaged in social 'cleansing'. The push and pull led to violence that took many lives.

In order to avoid a repeat of the nationwide violence following the previous elections, the government is ensuring that such terms are not used to fuel up ethnic tensions ahead of the elections.

To get around the new rules, politicians are resorting to using coded language and ethnic stereotyping during rallies, whose subtleties are often appreciated only within the community.

SORRY

Even with the madoadoa debate irking Kenyans, the Meru senator has apologized over his remarks in Eldoret during Deputy President William Ruto's rally.

Linturi said his ‘madoadoa' remarks were not meant to incite or propagate hate speech.

“Today, while addressing the UDA rally at Eldoret, I expressed myself using words which in certain context, have acquired sinister political overtones and come to be associated with incitement and hate speech,” said the Senator.

“At that moment, I was vigorously urging our supporters to offer full support to UDA candidates in this year's election, and was oblivious of the possibility that my choice of words might assume negative meaning,” he added.

Even with this apology, some politicians are not seeing what is wrong with the utterances.

Two legislators allied to Ruto have urged the government to avoid intimidating their teams with arrests during rallies.

They claimed that the ‘madoadoa’ slur uttered by Linturi did not mean removing other tribes not supporting Ruto from the Rift Valley.