Uthamakism and the dangers of reneging the Raila, Uhuru Handshake of March 2018
By Nana K A Busia Jr.
Kenyans, “Beware of the Ides of March.” The ides of March as used in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is when the history of ancient Rome was not to be the same again, because of the events of that day onwards. The 2007/8 post-election debacle marked the worst times for Kenya in recent history. The country almost plunged into the same mess after the 2017 post-election fiasco, thanks to the handshake.
To avert a similar mess is dependent upon the outcome of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which was arrived at after the Handshake between ODM leader Raila Odinga, and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The blunt point here is if Uthamakists read and were able to properly interpret the real mood in the country after the August 8th elections. Kenya in 2017 was a country at the edge of a radical social change. One thing was clear, “uthamakist” politics in Kenya was going to be buried forever. The Handshake between Odinga and Kenyatta has given Uthamakism a chance to reform and adapt, an enlightened self-interest to politics or perish.
The old game of crude politics of dominance using chicanery must be liquidated. The culture of reneging on MoU may not be about Mr. Odinga anymore if the Handshake will not yield tangible fruits for the Kenyan people. Regening on the March 9th, 2018 handshake may put Kenya politics on an irreversible slippery slope where a revolution could be the preferred choice by the people.
I would like to give an account of my survey on the background and context of Kenyan politics which has compelled me to arrive at this conclusion. It’s not scientific but fairly indicative. This was just after the August 8, elections.
My observation after the 2017 election
I was able to gauge public opinion and mood during my visit to Nairobi in December 2017 whereby the atmosphere showed the pent-up fury and anger in the people. As a foreigner and an African undertaking “informal” research in an African country, I was mesmerized by the candid nature of the people in expressing their views. First, they noted that I had no ethnic affiliation in the country. In this respect, they freely spoke to me.
After leaving the airport, I approached a young lady in a Kiosk where I had gone to buy airtime for my Kenyan phone number. I asked her why people were boycotting Safaricom products and services since I had read about it on international media. She cut me short before I even before I finished my question. Although she worked for Safaricom, she fully supported the boycott. She expressed outrage on how her “President” supporters were treated when he arrived from the US some weeks earlier.
I asked if she meant President Kenyatta, with anger in her voice she quickly told me “you foreigners are really misinformed” she added, “I am not talking about the President for the Kikuyus but the whole of Kenya, Raila” that is Raila Odinga, but she referred to him simply as Raila. I kept quiet. I asked her if she was not worried that she might lose her job because of the boycott. She kept quiet but was visibly unperturbed by my question. She concluded though that if I am in Kenya for holidays, I should make the most of it because, after the swearing-in of Odinga, things will never be the same again.
In my taxi from the airport, I picked up a political conversation as part of my research. I asked the taxi driver if he attended the inauguration of the President. He replied that the swearing-in of his President has not taken place as yet. I insisted that I saw on BBC the swearing of the Kenyan President, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta whom the taxi driver said was only President for the Mt. Kenya people.
He told me he was from Machakos and complained that the only reason why the Kikuyus, he meant “Uthamakists”, have not been overthrown is that Raila is afraid of bloodshed but if he was willing to give wananchi arms, according to him, the country will be liberated in less than 30 days. In his view uthamakists are cowards and cannot afford a long-drawn war because of their love for money and property.
On arriving at my flat, the caretaker a good friend from Kakamega, was happy to see me but visibly agitated. I inquired what was wrong; he told me he has lost appetite, I asked him what the problem was. He told me of being depressed because Raila had refused to be sworn in and he is not eating and even his wife was complaining, then he punctuated his sentence that we can’t live with these people (Uthamakists) again for another 5 years.
After one week stay, I went to the Nairobi craft market to buy Masai wrist bands I have become addicted to wearing. A lady who plays the middle person’s role by getting me what I want to buy any time I am in the market because I do not speak Swahili, immediately I arrived. she told me not to buy from any Kikuyu. She directed me to buy from an Akamba lady. She said the Kikuyus and Kalenjins have eaten all the money in the country thereby making everybody poor apart from themselves.
The outrage on delay to swear in Raila, was not confined to the general public but even top professionals. The wanted the swearing notwithstanding the provided it brought down the uthamakism. An eye specialist of Kisii descent looked very stressed to me. Earlier in the week, she left the office earlier expecting the swearing-in of Odinga, but it didn’t take place.
Nana K A Busia, Jr. is a Pan Africanist, Research Fellow, and guest lecturer, public international law, ICWS University of London.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of any organization, employer or company.