Is there some unfinished business between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities of the greater Rift Valley region?
I ask this question in view of former Molo MP Joseph Kiuna’s utterances, captured last week in a press interview.
The former legislator’s angry outbursts came at a time the ruling party Jubilee has begun the year with ominous squabbles barely a year after forming government.
The party, whose two greatest support rests mainly on two large communities – Kikuyu and Kalenjin – has for all practical purposes, began jostling for who will be its flagbearer come 2022. David Murathe, the immediate former vice chairman of the party threw the first salvo, just as the year started, by claiming that the Deputy President, William Ruto, should not imagine he is in the pole position to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr. Murathe, a former politician, who was confined to the political wasteland by Peter Kenneth in Gatanga constituency in 2002, is not your usual heckler who wakes up one Monday morning and tells the Deputy President to his face that he should forget about being the fifth president of the Republic of Kenya. A scion of a wines and spirits conglomerate family business, that used to be ran by William Murathe, a great friend of Jomo Kenyatta, he is not only an equally great friend of Mr Kenyatta, but also serves as his adviser.
In the run-up to the 2013 general election, Uhuru Kenyatta, who had been ''anointed'' by the late John Njoroge Michuki as the Kikuyu presidential flagbearer after Mwai Kibaki, hence considered the Kikuyu nation’s de facto leader and William Ruto, the rising star of the Kalenjin politics, teamed up to run for the presidency against a loose coalition of opposition politicians led by Raila Odinga. Uhuru and Ruto, then 2013, as in 2017, ran a tight ship, exhibiting a brotherhood not witnessed in the Kenyan political landscape in recent times.
Political promises were made in 2013 and beyond. The body language of the duo, who for all intent and purposes operated as a co-presidency, spoke the same language: appearing in press conferences together, sometimes wearing similar outfit – of white shirts and red ties. It was a team made for political perpetuity. Had anybody has much hinted that this was the calm before the storm, he would have been accused for ''incitement and spreading propaganda''.
Both Uhuru and Ruto had been fingered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged participation in the post-election violence (PEV) of 2008. Calling the court's bluff, the duo, crisscrossed both the Kikuyu and Kalenjin ethnic strongholds and shouted from the rooftops to all who cared to listen that they were being victimised for standing with their respective people.
In politics, if, as political barons, you succeed in mixing martyrdom and victimhood, you get a deadly concoction of fanatical troops, ready to commit political harakiri on behalf of their political masters.
It is against this backdrop that the utterances of Murathe and and Kiuna should be viewed.
What’s going on? Is it possible that the camaraderie between President Kenyatta and Ruto could be on the wane? So far, it is only the President’s wing of the Jubilee Party that has been rocking the boat while he has steered clear of the commotion, just like his deputy. But I reckon it is only a matter of time before Ruto’s troops respond in kind.
Are Murathe’s unsolicited statements on the Ruto’s unviability for 2022 paving the way for the Jubilee Party’s politically different trajectory as we head to what some are already billing as the most tumultuous presidential election yet? Why did he resign abruptly, soon after saying he was headed to the courts for an interpretation on whether Ruto should retire with President Uhuru, or he could still vie in 2022? Oh, but did he resign or was pushed out?
It is Murathe, in the height of the build-up to Uhuru and Ruto’s 'bromance' in 2012 that said ''when two brothers fight, they often become friends,'' in response to Kiuna’s Kikuyu-Kalenjin truce that bore KK alliance? This is the cure,'' said Murathe, referring to the alliance.
After the hugely contested 2007 general election, the face-off between the two main contenders was deadly and poisonous. The mere thought that some people could be orchestrating a return of the violence chillingly frightening.
The politics of the Rift Valley region is largely directed by these two communities. The region has remained, to date, the hotbed of Kenyan politics, since pre-independence days when Kenya was agitating for political freedom. These subterranean tensions have always surrounded the unsettled fragile land issue and for all those years, they have never ebbed away hence remaining a sore point of rapture anytime there is a political discordance between sparring politicians from the ethnic divide.
If politicians continue issuing inflammatory statements, their utterances can lead to a repeat of the 2007 skirmishes in this region.
But like Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time I politics. Maybe the Jubilee Party will wither the storm.
Mr Kahura is a senior writer for 'The Elephant', a Nairobi-based publication.