By Dikembe Disembe
Since the International Criminal Court became part of Kenya’s post-2007 violence, a successful political narrative emerged of all attempts to fix Uhuru and Ruto ostensibly for the beneficiaries to assume power. The main beneficiary, had this ‘plan’ succeeded; was to be Raila Odinga.
In the rare instances when this narrative has been threatened by hard cold facts – for instance – on the composition of local “Ruto fixers”, the Jubilee government, and its safe-keepers in Kenya’s mainstream media, have often created a digression, sometimes a distraction, to let the political narrative remain as it is: That Uhuru and Ruto were “fixed” first by Raila Odinga himself; second, on behalf of Raila Odinga; and, by the West – America, Britain and the European Union.
This narrative must be pumped in the vengeful hearts of the ‘6 million’ Jubilee supporters because the survival of the Jubilee government rests on it. Without an enemy of the people, Uhuru and Ruto have shown they cannot achieve anything meaningful and, sooner or later, will face the wrath of the people. To stem the boiling outrage by the people, an object of collective disgust must be constantly pendulumed on the masses.
Kenya’s political power in the post-Moi years, paradoxically, has seen the increased symbolism to tie the government to certain ethnic communities, and its detractors, or ‘enemies’ to others. The independence-era known enemies of Kenya – disease, illiteracy and poverty – somehow, have been vanquished.
The current enemy of Kenya are the communities outside government or who did not vote the Jubilee Alliance. Presently, being “in government” is equated to belonging to certain communities. For example, the current expectation is that all Kikuyus should be “in government” and all Luos out of it. This perception proceeds from the electoral outcomes of both 2007 and 2013. This perception is a creation of the political class of both communities.
For the long torturous fight to be the President of Kenya, the candidature of Raila Odinga has often rested on being the custodian of communal feelings of exclusion and unfairness, often by the ‘government’, and the possibility to correct the injustices caused by isolation. These feelings aren’t unique to the Luo as a single community alone; and explains Odinga’s support across the country in places where ‘enemies’ of the government live.
The meaning attached to what the government is, in itself, has different interpretations across different ethnic communities in Kenya. Because of this; those who see themselves as the government, or the must-be-in-government, see the outside group as their perennial enemies. Kenya’s 2007 elections, in a larger part, proceeded from this fallacy. That, the Kikuyu/PNU were the official custodians of ‘the government’ and Kibaki was the only candidate who could be ‘trusted with the government’. In 2013, those to be trusted with the government were well known.
In the period immediately before the 2007 elections and after; the government increasingly became identified with one ethnic group – the Kikuyu – both in the manner in which state bureaucracy was strategically filled up, and also how systemic state failures were apportioned. Because the government became synonymous with the Kikuyus; government failures, and excesses, became Kikuyu failures; and excesses.
The post-2007 ‘reconciliation’ took this route too. The manner in which the Grand Coalition Government compensated “IDPs” – including ghost IDPs and opportunists displaced by greed and, or kikuyuism, rather than the political violence of 2007/08, saw disproportionately more Kikuyus resettled or compensated more than any other group affected by the violence. The refrain “IDPs”, in the better part of post-2007, largely meant “Kikuyu IDPs”. In fact, when the media wanted to refer to other IDPs, it often qualified such instances, for example “Nyanza IDPs” to mean Luos or “Kisii IDPs” to mean Kisiis displaced by the violence in Borabu border.
Again, the people who were seen to be more concerned by the plight of “IDPs” were the Kikuyu in government. It is them – people like then Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta – who used their offices to ensure the ‘government’ compensated the “IDPs”, I mean, the kikuyus compensated themselves. The rescue of the ‘government’ however begun much earlier. It begun when PEV was still thick. It begun by organizing retaliatory attacks. When time came for actors in the post-election violence to face justice, these actors turned out to be those who organized to save the “IDPs” and those who led to the situation of the “IDPs”.
The government got indicted in the person of Muthaura, Uhuru and Major Ali. The opposition got indicted in the person of Arap Sang’, Kosgey and Ruto. However, the opposition perpetrators are people who led to the displacements and, or deaths of the government supporters – the “IDPs”. Because the government was already framed as belonging to one community, its supporters (and casualties) became members of that community – the Kikuyu – and so fighting the government in 2007 was fighting the Kikuyu.
This had the effect of playing into the historical perception of “kikuyu vulnerability” due to the combined political hatred and economic envy of other communities, especially from the “poor” and “power hungry” Luo community as epitomised by Raila’s “hunger for power”.
A part from physical violence; the Kikuyu ethnic mass, from my own conversations with some of its hoi polloi, fear the long overdue “economic violence” that will be meted on them and their “properties” if they let the ‘government’ go. This kind of political socialization, where one community, the Kikuyu, see the government as the only resort for their safety, is fraught with an often enduring sense of entitlement. . .serikali ni yetu. . .sisi ndio tunajua kutengeneza mali…abracadabra!
During elections, the fight by non-Kikuyu parties or alliances, however issue-based; is often framed as a fight to dislodge the Kikuyu from power. . .and ‘take over government’. As I earlier noted, to let go is to venture into perilous waters. Because this government-is-ours mentality serves the elites, who promise to share the government downwards, they do everything to make it the major selling narrative. Ironically, the more the Kikuyu elites struggle to keep the government for themselves, the more they make the kikuyu masses fearful and hateful of other tribes so that the fear and hate is turned into votes.
In recent elections, so scared and xenophobic have the Kikuyu masses been that often, some just die of the rumours that their sons are losing the presidency when early voting results suggests so, like reports of that woman in Gatundu during the last elections, or the many reports of self-afflicted early deaths in the first hours when the 2007 presidential results showed Kibaki would lose.
Raila Odinga, twice, became a victim of fear-mongering by the government/Kikuyu elite on the Kikuyu masses as a person hell-bent on taking over power to destroy ‘their’ government. And because Raila also happened to be a Luo; it followed that Luos were condemned to suffer the fate of Raila. This did not begin with Kibaki or the Kikuyus. From early 1980s, that’s how the Kalenjins viewed others; including the Kikuyus! Any attempt to challenge Moi was an attempt to fight the Kalenjin community.
For so long, this propaganda; where the government is equated with the ethnic community of the President, ensured that politicians would easily sway their communities to blindly and uncritically support the government of the day, however abusive, inept, dictatorial and wasteful (corrupt) that government was. During the cold war in the 50s, 60s and 70s; the same propaganda had been used by the same group to fend off the East from accessing Kenya. At that time, the West was the darling of the system.
This propaganda persists, though the players, both local and international, have changed positions. The only groups that have remained in their cold war positions are the ethnic elites! The Kikuyus (and its expandibles) as pro-government and the Luo (in all its shades) as anti-government.
When people like Cabinet Affairs secretary Francis Kimemia- a civil servant every Kenyan pay his services with taxes – openly claims that the ‘government’ is in verge of being overthrown, not by corruption, but by the Americans, he sets the stage for his political masters to add the “local fall back guy”. In the 1960s; that guy was Jaramogi. Between 2011 to now; the “puppet” is well known.
For people like Kimemia, bringing in the West; America and Britain, serves to keep the Kikuyu, and now Kalenjin ethnic masses, very busy fending off imaginary enemies who do not exist. In the process, he cushions Uhuru and Ruto from mass disenchantment by the duo’s core constituency; the tyranny of numbers bloc and the ‘other’ group, from their own mistakes and those of the corrupt in the government.
Because of the fear of the non-existent western enemies; and the fear of the non-existent Luo power-hungry and vengeful people; Uhuru and Ruto can be rest assured they are safe from their own people. In the 1960s, that’s how Jomo Kenyatta institutionalised tribalism and corruption and the West by blaming the East’s communist encroachment, and an enemy of development called Jaramogi. Now, it is Uhuru’s turn to give the East their dues by blaming the West; and, its local stooge, Raila Odinga!
The key to Kenya’s development is not to create a non-existent enemy in one tribe or person – a person who is already wealthy – but to serve all Kenyans.