MWAMISI: Somalis likely to tilt national political equation in 2027

Somalis and Muslims move together in one file which presents a learning point for the others.

In Summary
  • Somalis have absolutely smart people in and outside the Kenyan government.
  • They are strategic in positioning, stealth and calculative in politics, economics and are uncompromisingly family-oriented. 
A political rally at Kerugoya stadium.
A political rally at Kerugoya stadium.

Kenya’s national politics is more ethno-based than anything else, and it is genuinely difficult to claim with any sincerity that things will change any time soon.

For this reason, tribal chieftains are burdened with various responsibilities, although few of them are strategic in championing the interests of their people but will be absorbed in the adulation often received from their disadvantaged kinsmen.

A few of Kenyans communities have mastered the art of rallying together around political activity and have reaped immense benefit for decades. These are mainly the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities who indeed have held the presidency for more than 50 years between them.

However, things are about to get murkier. Somalis have always been strong in the economic kingdom in Kenya but have operated with only one foot in the spotlight, ensuring not many eyes are cast to them but strengthening their foothold in the political dimension.

Though near ubiquitous in all areas of Kenya, Somalis have had a good number of elite politicians in eye watering positions but always meticulous about getting themselves into the simmering pot of chaos that is Kenyans politics where they always play meticulous supporting roles.

They have a strong culture of honesty, and loyalty that makes them difficult to coax away from positions they take. They have a firm work ethic and zero emotions when it comes to business. They operate largely in unison and will tone down any banter that might arise among the community.

The relationship between Kenyan and Somalis in Somalia is undeniably strong, they are perfectly intertwined with an unsaid understanding that Somalia has untapped potential but Kenya remains a safe haven for many of Somalis who run away from their troubled country.

Somalia has a coastline only second in size to Madagascar’s being larger than even South Africa’s. With the war in Somalia, the black market has been vibrant for decades raking in big money for Somalis in Somalia and also Kenya who have massively invested in the real estate among other sectors.

In an interview with France 24, President Ruto was asked by a Marc Perelman whether opening the Kenya's border with Somalia was a good decision since it had led to a resurgence on al Shabaab attacks in the country. He was insistent that it was the right decision and remains so. However, the rising incidences of attacks linked by al Shabaab in Kenya appeared to poor cold water on his reassurance to the world that Al-Shabaab would not be able to muster a comeback.

On October 14th 2010, two blasts at a political rally organised to oppose the proposed Constitution of Kenya 2010 -which would later be promulgated in 2013- killed at least four people. It was interesting that such explosions, the nature of attacks al Shabaab is known to undertake, would happen at a political rally.

Those opposing the proposed laws were led by William Ruto who is now Kenya's President. Among the contested proposals was a clause which was going to recognize courts used by Muslims, and another that would legalize abortion for mothers in danger during childbirth.

Those opposing the constitution staked their angle that the attacks were fashioned against them even but the government then condemned the attacks saying everyone had right to support or oppose the proposed laws. There is no doubt that al Shabaab is a real menace and danger for Kenya with the unforgettable April 2, 2015 attack at Garissa University where the loss of 148 students’ lives is still etched deep in the hearts of Kenyans.

Have al Shabaab matters been used to gain political clout or achieve certain ends? That would be preposterous indeed. Flashing back, the attacks that happened on May, 14 2010 were strange considering the political tussle that was ensuing in Kenya then pertaining the proposed constitution. Even though, they appeared to be the kind engineered by al Shabaab, the possibility that they were politically instigated for useful political optics or by Islamic extremists concerned about the opposition to the respective clause, could not be ruled out.

The current Cabinet Secretary for Defence Aden Duale is a Somali with a plethora of individual achievements in political leadership. Maybe he is the perfect solution to tackle the Al-Shabaab and the border dynamics, having a great understanding of the region as he hails from Garissa and having been a legislator in north eastern county for a significant period.

Nevertheless, there are fears among Kenyans on the street that many Somalis have been coming into the country in droves from Somalia and quickly getting documentation like identity Cards giving them permanent Kenyan residency. This is an unspoken matter even within the media fraternity with many hesitant to dig deeper and ascertain.

Some have audaciously claimed that this is part of a larger strategy to raise voter numbers for the incumbency heading to the 2017 election, not knowing how the Mount Kenya people -who voted for Ruto almost to a man in 2022- will behave in 2027.

The harsh economic conditions and if the agenda of raising taxes is sustained with many Kikuyus being the holders of small businesses can make the situation dicey, lending credence to the political claim. Somalis, on the other hand, seem to have unimaginable resources especially capital for business and hardly feel the economic heat with many of them always running an array of businesses with what appears to be an inexhaustible capital base. The president recently called upon Somalis in the diaspora to come back to Kenya to "reconstruct and stabilize" the country.

Indeed, in 2021, Duale had asserted that Somalis would stick with Ruto in the 2022 elections and help propel him to victory. Duale, who belongs to the larger Ogaden clan, is not the only prominent Kenyan of Somali descent in Ruto's government, the Director of the National Intelligence Service Noordin Haji and the Director of Criminal Investigations Amin Mohamed are his kinsmen.

Somalis have absolutely smart people in and outside the Kenyan government. They are strategic in positioning, stealth and calculative in politics, economics and are uncompromisingly family-oriented. They are setting up the community for generations to come.

While all kinds of claims will be made in politics, the act of opening of the border itself, with the renowned level of corruption in the Kenyan system, it means that those with financial muscle are likely to have their way in manipulating structures to get naturalized as Kenyans in record time.

It is said that in terms of voter registration numbers, Somalis could now be on par with the Kamba. Unlike Christians in Kenya, Somalis and Muslims move together in one file which presents a learning point for the others. While the aim of this commentary is not to disparage Kenyan Somalis, it would be wise for strategic decision makers to check the movement of Somalis from Somalia into the country and ensure something of a reset so that Somalian Somalis stay in their own country.

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