Raila should not preach ethnic propaganda on Itare water dam

Wednesday February 15 2017

Ongoing construction of the main base of the Sh38 billion Itare Dam in Ndoinet, Kuresoi North, Nakuru County, on February 8, 2017.  PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Ongoing construction of the main base of the Sh38 billion Itare Dam in Ndoinet, Kuresoi North, Nakuru County, on February 8, 2017. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KOIGI WA WAMWERE
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ODM leader Raila Odinga and I share a lot in history. Yet I must be able to criticise him when I think he is wrong and he should be able to criticise me when he thinks I am wrong. This, indeed, is what should keep the whole nation on the right track.

 Twice, Mr Odinga has claimed that in constructing Itare Dam, the Jubilee government intends to take water from the Maasai and Kalenjin of Bomet County to Nakuru County to be consumed exclusively by the Kikuyu. While pushing this ethnic propaganda, he seems to forget two things that we fought for while we were in detention.

First, our fight for the second and first liberation was never for the rule of negative ethnicity and division of society, but for nationalism and the unity of all our peoples.

Second, African patriots embraced nationalism and not negative ethnicity because, unlike the colonialists who used this to divide and rule, our founding fathers used nationalism to unite and harmonise society.

Pursuing the nightmare of negative ethnicity and division, therefore, betrays the dream of nationalism and unity for which we fought and suffered so much. Two assumptions are inherent in Mr Odinga’s ethnic propaganda in regard to the Itare Dam.

The first unmentioned allegation is that for the government to pursue such an exclusively ethnic agenda of building a dam to give water to one ethnic group alone, it would have to be an exclusively one-ethnic government. And yet, while President Uhuru Kenyatta is Kikuyu, his entire government is not exclusively Kikuyu.

Second, for the government to be able to give water to the Kikuyu only, Nakuru County would have to be entirely inhabited by the Kikuyu. But Nakuru is not for the Kikuyu only. It belongs to all the peoples that make up Kenya.  

HAS MANY WEAKNESSES

Since Nakuru County is multiethnic, giving water to only one ethnic group while denying all the others would not be possible unless the county government is an ethnic apartheid created to serve one ethnic group only. While the Nakuru County government has many weaknesses, it is not an ethnic apartheid state that can give water to exclusively one people only.  

If Itare Dam will provide water to Nakuru County, and that water will be given to all Kenyans that reside in the area. Any claim to the contrary is eminently false.

Mr Odinga’s repeated claim that the Jubilee government intends draw water from Itare Dam for the Kikuyu in Nakuru County alone is false and meant to antagonise Kenya’s other peoples with the Kikuyu in Nakuru and the whole country.

Specifically, to claim that water from the Mau water tower is meant to benefit the Kikuyu alone can only be intended to antagonise the Maasai and Kipsigis and especially during the election time, when it is meant to entice them into opposition, which is okay as long as it does not create ethnic animosities whose consequences could lethal.

While seeking power through democratic means is proper, the temptation to use ethnic antagonism to acquire it is always tempting but dangerous if our own and the Rwandan experiences are anything to go by.

Setting ethnic fires to win elections must be resisted at all costs by all leaders who consider themselves to be patriotic.
Legitimate means
Like other Kenyans, Mr Odinga is entitled to seek power, but he must do so through democratic and legitimate means and never by pitting one people against another. He should exercise restraint because we know how dangerous this can be and especially in the Rift Valley, where leaders have before incited conflicts and ethnic cleansing.
Thus the Bible asks, of what value is it, to win the whole world but lose your soul.

Mr Wamwere is a political activist. [email protected]