A Tiger by the Tail – Jubilee’s Fragile Peace in Rift Valley
By Dorcas S
President Uhuru Kenyatta recently gave wide berth to a scheduled campaign rally in Eldoret after intelligence informed the president’s handlers that the event would be marred by violence. So hoping for a friendlier more picturesque reception, the president headed to Elgeyo Marakwet . Unfortunately, the tour was again “marred by bandit attacks and hostility in Chesongoch and Chepkorio” as reports claim that Mr. Kenyatta “came face-to-face with rowdy supporters in Chepkorio”.
Meanwhile, the president’s deputy William Ruto threw his weight behind the fire-breathing incumbent Governor of Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago; a man under investigation by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission because of incendiary comments at a recent campaign event. Mr. Mandago is accused of threatening “a certain community living in Uasin Gishu County” if they vote for his opponent and independent candidate Zedekiah Bundotich.
Mr. Mandago is locked in a battle with Zedekiah Bundotich for the governorship of the highly fertile and arable region. The battle between the two is happening amidst allegations that Bundotich is being groomed, by “outside forces” to neuter the incumbent.
Mr. Mandago’s “warning” prompted former Naivasha MP John Mututho and other leaders in Nakuru to “call on the two candidates (and by extension their respective bases) to “avoid raising unnecessary tension among various communities” – in the region.
Finally, the erstwhile low-level simmer between wealthy/foreign landowners and “pastoralists” in Laikipia is now a full boil with near-daily skirmishes and recent high-profile murders and attacks. Famed author and conservationist Kuki Gallman was shot by raiders at her ranch and former British army officer Tristan Voorspuy was killed while inspecting a vandalized lodge on his ranch – in the same Laikipia region.
The foregoing may read like an attempt to conflate “unrelated events and issues” but I don’t see it that way. Reading the tea leaves, I’d offer that the race for the 2022 presidency has begun and the chess pieces are being positioned by potential candidates and their supporters in the vote-rich and highly desirable erstwhile “White Highlands”.
No amount of avoidance or speechifying will hide the very disturbing reality that Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto’s alliance in the 2013 elections was one of convenience: They joined forces, won and dared the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge and convict a duly-elected president and deputy president of a key country in the volatile horn of Africa.
In 2013, Jubilee – Kenyatta and Ruto – successfully galvanized their respective base against “those (western) foreigners”. In so doing, Rift Valley and Mt. Kenya/Central literally “buried the hatchet”. The one thing the two leaders failed to do – in their myopic and selfish attempts at self-preservation – was to adequately address the underlaying and historical issues surrounding their respective base’s tenuous and dangerous relationship – something NASA and Raila Odinga in particular, has been pointing out.
What’s currently playing out in Rift Valley – as outlined above – is the age-old truism that “all politics is local”.
Kenyans would be well-advised to face up to the uncomfortable but necessary need to directly confront AND craft long-term solutions to their dark past or prove Jorge Santayana right – once again.