After 13 years in elective politics, Garissa Township MP Aden Barre Duale has become one of the most influential politicians in the former North Eastern Province, on the national stage and within the Horn of Africa region.
With sway within Muslim circles and pastoralist tribes especially in NEP, Upper Eastern and Tana North, whose interests he has championed, Mr Duale has equaled or surpassed the influence his father-in-law Gen (rtd) Mahmoud Mohamed and his brother Hussein Maalim Mohamed wielded in the Moi regime.
His stature within Kenya’s politics and growing support base outside his home region has made Mr Duale a much-sought-after ally and politician of national stature, said Mombasa-based political observer Abdulkarim Mumin.
“Many people want him to retain his seat even though some say that if he loses it, any other Kenyan outside North Eastern should occupy it because it is not hereditary to the region,” Mr Nurdin Elmoge, a journalist and Wajir-based political analyst, said.
The journalist notes that the MP’s support for religious causes has cultivated support among the clergy.
Critics dismiss him as a symbol of powerful clan/business interests in his native Garissa county, but also admit, according to Nairobi-based analyst Hussein Issa, that through his own political cunning, Mr Duale has come out of the shadow of his initial mentors and benefactors to “create his own persona and represent the collective aspirations of Kenya’s Somali so much that the manner in which he’s removed from his current seat could determine the future of the détente between the long marginalised tribe and the Kenyan state.”
Mr Issa believes Mr Duale is in the “fight of his political life and requires all shades of pastoralist, Muslim and Somali opinion to his side”, adding that apart from resentment furled by his close ties to DP William Ruto, a tiny faction within Jubilee is exploiting the current crisis to “cut to size a rising star from North Eastern to solve old scores.”
Mr Issa adds that like all important politicians, Mr Duale has made mistakes and fuelled resentment against himself through bellicose attacks on critics by using language that often made him appear arrogant and overbearing.
“If he survives the purge in Jubilee, he will be a very different politician. The fact that Yusuf Haji is intervening for him shows he is not yet out of the woods yet.”
The political analyst suggested that President Kenyatta “appears reluctant to remove Mr Duale out of recognition of his capabilities and respect for Senator Haji and the retired general who appear to be leading the lobbying for Duale, but some in the Uhuru’s camp are trying to persuade him that retaining him will amount to allowing a person with split loyalty in his government.”
Critics and admirers describe Mr Duale as an industrious man, an effective and calculating political tactician and pugilist that any politician would love to have in his corner. Under a united Jubilee, he was its most dependable enforcer who frustrated opposition propaganda and plots.
“It’s an honour for me to have occupied this office for seven years as the first Leader of Majority under the 2010 Constitution,” he told the Nation yesterday.
Within the Horn of Africa, Mr Duale is a leading architect of Kenya’s foreign policy on Somalia. He has backed Jubbaland leader Mohamed Islam Madobe’s and Kenya’s claims to the territorial sea also claimed by Somalia. Mr Duale echoes the best interests of the Kenyan state, against the wishes of Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmajo and his Kenyan acolytes.
Mr Duale has not always been the traditional sycophant singing regime praises. In 2015, his appeal among the Somali people soared after he publicly, rebuked the Jubilee regime for forcing many, mostly ethnic Somalis into “concentration camps” at Kasarani Stadium.
At that time, the state had launched a so called Usalama Watch, to weed out illegal residents in the wake of several terrorist attacks in Kenya blamed on Somalia-based Al-Shabaab.
Until late yesterday, it was not clear who will replace Mr Duale should President Kenyatta make the final call for his removal.
Among those in the race are MPs Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri), Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Adan Keynan (Eldas).
Additional reporting by Onyango K’Onyango