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Kikuyu-Kalenjin: Ruto needs to mend fences with Mt Kenya people

Saturday March 14 2009

By KWENDO OPANGA

At the height of the controversy over the Mau Forest, I argued here that Agriculture minister William Ruto and the Rift Valley Province were going to be the Achilles heel of the Orange Democratic Movement.

The thing about Achilles, however, is that he was able to walk on that bad heel of his for some 13 odd years. The challenge for ODM then is to survive the remaining four years together and go into the next General Election as one. But as things stand now, ODM’s four years could well be longer and a lot more painful than Achilles’ 13.

Parted company

Ruto and Rift Valley MPs last week shot across ODM’s bows to drive the clear message that they have virtually parted company with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the leader of the party on which they rode to Parliament, and were looking elsewhere for new alliances ahead of 2012.

Indeed, Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, in his characteristic caustic and combative, offensive and unhelpful language, let it be known that the Rift Valley would not support Raila and or ODM in 2012 and would rally behind the minister for Agriculture.

Rift Valley MPs accused the Prime Minister of distributing the half a loaf of bread he was given when ODM and the Party of National Unity (PNU) were forced into the marriage that is the Grand Coalition government to only among his Luo people and leaving out the Kalenjin. That cut and hurt deeply and it was meant to.

It has since emerged that Ruto (William) and Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta are considering a possible political alliance ahead of 2012. Indeed, as I had argued here earlier, it is speculated that Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka would team up with these two.

Now, if that happens or if this is the way it is going to be until 2012, then Ruto and Uhuru would have changed the political landscape with a view to shutting ODM and or Raila out of the vote-rich Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions.

There is one reason why Ruto would want to team up with Uhuru and it has something to do with the problems in ODM, but everything to do with the violence that greeted the announcement that President Kibaki had won the 2007 presidential poll.

It was the Kikuyu who bore the brunt of the violence in the Rift Valley and the Kalenjin leader many believe should have played a great role in preventing the violence is Ruto. The minister needs to mend fences with the Mt Kenya peoples and build bridges as he plots his political career.

Secondly, it cannot be lost on Uhuru and Ruto that since 1991 there has always been poll violence in the Rift Valley. In 1991 through 1994 this violence pitted mainly the Kalenjin against the Kikuyu, with the latter portrayed as using the clamour for multi-party politics as a cover to remove then President Moi and Kanu from power.

It is perfectly in order that Uhuru and Ruto avoid a situation where the country would go into the next General Election with the peoples of the two regions at loggerheads for the slightest excuse could spark fresh violence.

As for Uhuru, he has to put as much distance as possible between him and the revenge attacks that targeted non-Kikuyu people especially in Naivasha and to a lesser extent Nakuru while at the same time seeking the safety of the Mt Kenya peoples who reside in the Rift Valley as he plots his political future.

In other words, while it is tempting to look at the emerging Ruto-Uhuru alliance as aimed at their political futures, it is equally important to look at the factor of post-election violence in shaping their politics. Ruto has been particularly vocal on the matter of punishment of the perpetrators of the violence and taken the position that those in the famous Waki Envelope be taken to The Hague.

Uhuru has recently gone to court seeking to have his name expunged from a list put out by the Kenya National Standing Committee on Human Rights on post-election violence and adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards the Waki Envelope.

Every Kenyan politician knows that to feature in the Gang of Ten – the principal suspects in post-election violence according to the Justice Philip Waki report and his envelope – will be a death blow to political careers.

Sit back and watch

The 10 are likely to become Kenya’s Axis of Evil. This is why I have advanced the view that the 2012 General Election will be about the 2007 General Election and the violence that followed it.

At a different level, Uhuru hardly conceals his disdain for Raila and if his alliance with Ruto would add to the troubles in the storm-tossed ODM and discomfiture of the PM, the minister for Finance would happily look forward to its being ship wreaked ahead of the 2012 General Election.

But the point is: Will Raila sit back and watch as Rift Valley votes go to a rival party? The PM’s presence in the Rift Valley yesterday and today points to the great electoral importance of the area. However, whichever way one looks at events in the province, right now Ruto -- despite his imperfections -- calls the shots here and this fact will not be lost on Raila.

The Vice-President has been very careful and guarded when talking about post-election violence, knowing he could, come 2012, use it to his advantage either by personally accusing his rivals of causing it or using proxies so that he keeps his hands clean and maintains the you-are-safe-with-me mien.

He knows a Ruto-Uhuru-Kalonzo axis would be formidable, but so also does he know 2012 will be about 2007. How will he use it?

The writer is a media consultant. [email protected]

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