OMWENGA: Uhuru must preempt implied threats in Rift Valley

Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto campaigning at 64 stadium in Eldoret during a tour of Rift Valley Photo/DPMPS
Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto campaigning at 64 stadium in Eldoret during a tour of Rift Valley Photo/DPMPS

Our Constitution guarantees every person has the right to acquire and own property in any part of the country.

However, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission found in 2013 that discriminatory cultural practices relating to access, use and ownership of land remain persistent, despite these constitutional and legal provisions.

These cultural practices flare up during elections, when politicians use land and property ownership by “outsiders” to whip up ethnic emotions and violence. The worst of this was in 2008, when the country was at a verge of a civil war following the stolen 2007 election.

The government has failed to address historical injustices going back to colonial days that underlie these hostile and at times violent cultural beliefs and practices. The TJRC found that the seeds of inequality and marginalisation were planted by the colonial administration mostly through its “divide and rule” strategy. The failure by subsequent governments and in particular the Jomo Kenyatta government to correct this injustice by restoring communities to their lands from which they were forcibly evicted from by the colonial government are largely to blame

Nowhere is this more refined and delicate than in the Rift Valley, where the Kikuyus are often the targets. Kiambaa church tragedy summed up how grave these threats can be in the hands of politicians who incite the masses, although one can’t rule out organic mobilisation within the community independent of the politicians.

Be that as it may, this must not be allowed to be the case and any politician or individual who threatens or implies threats to harm or otherwise interfere with any community’s property rights.

It is very clear that a strategy is emerging to create a narrative that only William Ruto can protect the Kikuyus’ rights and interests in the Rift Valley, ostensibly pursuant to some pact he had with Uhuru Kenyatta. This is a false and dangerous narrative that cannot be allowed to spread. The President must nip it the bud with help from Raila Odinga.

It’s a false narrative because it’s not an individual who protects anyone from owning land or living anywhere in the country. The Constitution does. A President who doesn’t protect these rights violets his oath of office and can therefore be impeached.

Even if you were to assume — for the sake of an argument — that an individual could make a difference in protecting Kikuyus rights in the Rift Valley, Ruto is obviously not the only one who can do that. There are many others who can do that, again, because it’s what the law requires.

This narrative is dangerous because of its implied threat that if he’s not president we’ll somehow have forced displacement of innocent Kenyans from the region.

That cannot happen and it must never be allowed to happen.

Put differently, let those even criminally thinking about it know the consequences against them would be and must be harsh. And this time we wouldn’t worry about the ICC as we’ll take care of them locally.

Meanwhile, the President and Raila must do everything in their powers to make sure the Building Bridges Initiative recommendations

are fully and promptly implemented.

It’s a foregone conclusion that a referendum is inevitable to cement this handshake deal and that will be a good thing for the country.

Meanwhile, those interested in 2022 presidential election and their supporters must be reminded not pursue their objectives by divisive means and certainly not by any means that stoke violence or worse.

That cannot be tolerated and we’re confident the President will make sure that’s the case.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the United States