UNCHARTERED WATERS

It’s unwise to divide Rift Valley

Rift Valley is at a place it has not been since Independence.

In Summary
  • The unity that Mzee Moi cultivated in Rift Valley enabled the region to stay united and focused in national politics.
  • As a result, the region has always had a place on the national table.

A story is told of a middle-aged man who had two wives—one old and the other young. Each loved him very much and desired that he would look like herself.

Now the man’s hair was turning grey, which the young wife did not like as it made him look too old to be her husband. So every night she would comb his hair and pluck out the white ones.

But the elderly wife loved the grey hair for she did not like to be mistaken for his mother. So every morning she used to arrange his hair and pluck out as many of the black ones as she could. The consequence was the man soon found himself entirely bald.

 

This story can be used to illustrate the situation Rift Valley faces after the exit of Mzee Daniel arap Moi. Going by the events at the Moi burial last week, Rift Valley now has two key leadership pillars.

Mzee Moi, Kenya’s second president, was laid to rest last week. During the burial, his sons made a key political statement in a short ceremony but one that will have a great impact on Rift Valley and national politics.

Moi’s eldest son Raymond, who is also Rongai MP, handed his youngest brother Gideon the ‘Fimbo ya Nyayo’ symbolising the Baringo senator taking the political mantle from their departed father.

It would, therefore, be a mistake to divide the region and, thus, diminish its negotiating power in national politics. The move by Raymond has effectively created two Rift Valley giants seeking to be the ultimate kingpin.

Many have tried to brush this away but it has serious undertones that cannot be ignored. We can’t ignore the fact that this singular move comes at a time when Gideon and Deputy President William Ruto are wrestling to control the Rift Valley vote bloc ahead of the 2022 election.

Rift Valley is at a place it has not been since Independence. The region for many years knew only one leader – Mzee Moi – who strove to ensure Rift Valley was on one route politically. As we get closer to 2022, political competition will increase and more so in the vote-rich Rift Valley.

The unity that Mzee Moi cultivated in Rift Valley enabled the region to stay united and focused in national politics. As a result, the region has always had a place on the national table. It would, therefore, be a mistake to divide the region and, thus, diminish its negotiating power in national politics. The move by Raymond has effectively created two Rift Valley giants seeking to be the ultimate kingpin.

In 2002 after Uhuru Kenyatta lost the presidential election to Mwai Kibaki, Mzee Moi retired as the Rift Valley political kingpin. He continued, however, to play a role in how the region aligned itself politically.

 

In 2007, while some of his political heavyweights had moved to ODM and with Kanu not having a candidate, Moi supported Kibaki. In 2013, Moi did not endorse Uhuru, who had killed his party Kanu by walking out and forming TNA, and later Jubilee Alliance Party.

This is what led to the rise of Ruto as a key political figure outside the Moi family, leading to competition between him and Gideon as well as Kanu diehards. Ruto used Jubilee to build on the clout he had gained with the 2010 referendum campaign.

Before this, Raila was seen to have a strong arm on Rift Valley, with the 2005 referendum and the 2007 election. Since 2007, Gideon has not really played a significant role in the political alignments in Rift Valley like Ruto.

So what will be the political implication of Gideon holding Mzee Moi’s baton, and effectively receiving blessings as the successor?

Well, my guess is as good as yours – only time will tell. But the one thing we cannot ignore is that we now effectively have two kingpins in Rift Valley.  What they decide to do in the next two years will decide who will reign supreme.