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Let BBI rallies not be platforms for spewing ethnic hate, violence

Monday February 24 2020
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ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses Narok residents during the Building Bridges Initiative rally at Ole Ntimama Stadium on February 22, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY

By MACHARIA GAITHO

Looked at from the perspective that it broached some of the serious issues underlined by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga when unveiling the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) two years ago, the Narok BBI rally last Saturday was a qualified success.

Many of the issues that we prefer to sweep under the carpet — including ethnic competition for power and resources, historical grievances, marginalisation, unequal development, land injustices — were not adequately addressed in the BBI report released last November.

They have also been given scant attention in the ongoing series of regional BBI rallies presided over by Mr Odinga, which have been dominated more by political positioning rather than serious, sober reflection on what ails Kenya.

ADDRESS CORE ISSUES

The Saturday rally brought out the issues dear to the dominant community in Narok, Kajiado and Samburu counties, and their kith and kin in Baringo, Nakuru, Laikipia, Isiolo, Marsabit, Nairobi, and other lands in the vast swathes that made up the pre-colonial Maasai nation.

Issues of colonial and post-colonial land dispossession, under-development, marginalisation, political representation, changing land-use patterns to the detriment of the traditional pastoral economy, and so on, are genuine grievances for the Maa people.

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Actually, they are genuine issues for all communities in Kenya, none of which were spared either colonial subjugation or post-colonial dispossession.

These are the issues that are at the core of the very rationale for the BBI experiment; for they are what ultimately lead to ethnic scrambles for power and cycles of deadly electoral violence.

POLITICAL POINTS

We all know that if these core issues are not resolved, Kenya will sooner or later be dismembered by a violent cataclysm.

BBI presents a noble effort to deal with historical injustice and grievances, and craft a united nation where all individuals, group and communities enjoy equal opportunity to prosper and can proudly call themselves Kenyan.

This will happen when we listen to and address issues dear to the Maasai, and also do the same for all others, whether at the ethnic national level or at the administrative or political boundary level.

To that extent, Senator Ledama ole Kina of Narok spoke a truth that can no longer be ignored.

We cannot continue closing our eyes to the issues that fuel perennial conflict. The problem is that the good Senator spoke in the wrong way.

He was not motivated by altruistic desire to right a wrong, but by selfish need to score political points.

Building Bridges cannot be about burning bridges. Something is wrong when the Uhuru and Raila constituencies, moving to end a dynastic feud, result in new fault lines isolating Deputy President William Ruto and his people.

REIN IN OLE KINA

Something is just as wrong when the politics of ethnic hatred and incitement is employed under the guise of seeking to resolve differences between communities.

No one would deny that the Maasai people, particularly in Narok and Kajiado counties, have issues beyond colonial era land injustices.

Contemporary encroachment on their traditional lands has shrunk their grazing areas; it also presents the worry of economic and political domination.

These are issues that need to be addressed in sober, civil fashion; not scaremongering, war cries and threats to displacement, evictions and denial of basic rights to targeted groups.

The utterances of Ole Kina may excite his political base, but they are dangerous, irresponsible and inflammatory.

They can only be seen in the context of Kenya’s history of engineered ethnic violence, starting with President Daniel arap Moi’s desperate attempts in the 1990s to forestall the inevitability of democracy with violent orgies against ‘aliens’ in the Rift Valley.

CIVILISED RESOLUTION

Ole Kina’s Narok County had its own sorry episodes during that period under the then political strongman William ole Ntimama, who departed with blood on his hands from the infamous Enoosupukia massacre.

The Senator may well seek to inherit Ole Ntimama’s mantle as ‘King’ of the Maasai, and is doing well so far in the burly frame, generous head of hair, and articulate expression.

He would do well to remember, though, that Ntimama lived in a different era. In this day and age, it does not do to incite ethnic hatred and violence.

BBI provides a perfect platform for civilised resolution of issues, and must not be tainted by anything, which provides room for detractors to point it out as purveyor of communal conflicts.

Ole Kina may well earn a few political points, but at the expense of BBI and ultimately at the expense President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, who have staked their political careers on the promise of building a new united, peaceful and stable Kenya.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho

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