TRIBALISM

Central's hatred of Raila is elephant in the room

It behooves the President and those close to him to do everything possible to slay this tribalism-driven hatred

In Summary

• Some people in the 'system' have come around to saying it is futile to forever try and keep Raila from ascending to the presidency.

• Unfortunately, there is widespread and deep-rooted hatred of Raila by many in Central who would rather have the devil be president than him.

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Mt Kenya leaders, including National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? ODM leader Raila Odinga with Mt Kenya leaders, including National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
Image: COURTESY

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga shocked the nation and changed the political landscape when they walked down the steps of Harambee House on March 9, 2018, and shook hands. That event became the Handshake.

Only days before, the country was bracing for the worst, including a threatened breakaway of part of Kenya following the swearing-in of Raila as 'the People’s President'. It was, therefore, a huge relief — shocking as it was — to see the two men smiling and shaking hands, promising to forge forward in the spirit of uniting the country.

This was followed by the appointment of a task force to implement the Building Bridges Initiative.

Like many others, I was skeptical as to how the handshake and the BBI would play out, especially knowing how deeply entrenched the pro-Uhuru and pro-Raila camps were at the time, each wanting the whole loaf and nothing less.

When I saw Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe speaking positively about Raila and the handshake, that was not any less shocking than the handshake. This is because back in 2007, on the Friday before the elections of that year, I sought and Murathe agreed to meet with me at the Serena Hotel.

As Raila’s friend, the primary purpose for the meeting was to urge Murathe, whom I knew to be Uhuru confidant, to prevail on his friends in the system and allow a fair and transparent election such that whoever wins, the results would be acceptable to all, including the loser.

I told Murathe that were Mwai Kibaki to win, I and other like-minded would rally behind and root for his success.

Conversely, I told Murathe that were Raila to win, he, too, and his buddies should rally behind him and root for his success as president. The meeting was jovial but notwithstanding my patriotic plea, Murathe left no doubt in my mind that Kibaki will be sworn in for a second term.

I cannot disclose what Murathe told me about Raila but I can tell you it was something that did not line up with the not-exactly-enthusiastic embrace of the ODM leader following the handshake. This was a significant enough about-turn I never saw coming.

If Murathe could have such an about-turn, I told myself, then there was hope the handshake had, indeed, returned the country back on track to what was promised at Independence and as captured in our national anthem: “May we dwell in unity, peace, and liberty,…[as we] Build this nation together…And the fruit of our labour fill every heart with thanksgiving.”

While I remain optimistic this may come to pass, I am also cognizant of the fact there is an elephant in the room that remains unaddressed — the deep hatred of Raila, especially in Central Kenya.

Yes, wise men and women like the President, Murathe and many others in the 'system' have come around to saying it is futile to forever try and keep Raila from ascending to the presidency.

Unfortunately, there is widespread and deep-rooted hatred of Raila by many in Central who would rather have the devil be president than him.

This is, of course, inherently backward and wrong but it is there and must be taken head-on. Ironically, it is a sentiment Deputy President William Ruto has masterfully exploited as he attempts to plough his own way to the presidency.

Never mind Ruto himself is unwanted as President though not for the same reasons that have bedevilled Raila: Ruto is unwanted for reasons one may easily understand as even noble such as the notion we need a break from yet another Kalenjin or Kikuyu president. A notion now fully embraced by Uhuru and most forward-looking people from both communities.

For this reason, it behooves the President and those close to him to do everything they can to slay this ugly and vicious animal we know as tribalism-driven hatred and lead in turning the tide of hatred against Raila, especially in Central.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator.