The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Why Peter Kenneth is 'Mzungu' to Kabogo

opinion

In Gatanga constituency they will tell you that Mr Peter Kenneth is a muthungu (mzungu). What they mean is that when their MP calls for a Constituency Development Fund (CDF) meeting for 7 a.m., for example, the meeting will start at that very time.

Time, Mr Kenneth has taught his constituents, is money and waits for no man.

Second, they will tell you that when a CDF meeting resolves that a certain amount of money from the Fund's kitty will be used for a project identified by the people as important, not a cent of it will be diverted to some other cause.

And the people of Gatanga know that each project has an objective, and it is to be carried out within a given timeline.

The MP for Juja, Mr William Kabogo, also refers to Mr Kenneth as muthungu. But his reasons for so doing are totally different from those of the people of Gatanga.

Mr Kabongo's reference to his legislator colleague is meant to portray him as an outsider and, therefore, one whose ideas are at variance with, or even inimical to, those of the people of central Kenya.

Election platform

The people of Gatanga who refer to their MP as muthungu have in mind his commitment to making better their constituency; to diligent use of their resources and to meeting the objectives they set themselves or what he set out in his election platform.

The muthungu reference from the people of Gatanga then is a positive attribute to Mr Kenneth, and an acknowledgement of the work he is doing as an MP.

Mr Kabogo's reference to Mr Kenneth as muthungu is negative and derogatory. It is aimed at rubbishing Mr Kenneth's as yet declared bid for the presidency as unwanted and unbecoming.

This is so because the central Kenya region is expected by the dominant political class to back Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta's run for the presidency.

The unstated, but potentially politically damaging, aim of calling Mr Kenneth a muthungu is to paint him as reminding nationalists of those dark days of the colonial era.

Political class

In the same vein, the dominant political class for which Kabogo speaks seeks to derail Mr Kenneth's possible presidential run as sponsored by foreigners.

The upshot of this is that Mr Kabogo gives voice to the pressure being brought to bear on Mr Kenneth to give up his presidential ambition.

It is also a warning to the Gatanga MP that should he run, it is the intention of Mr Kabogo & Co to run him ragged, and possibly out of town, by hammering at his family tree.

If Mr Kenneth wants to run for the highest office in the land, what Mr Kabogo and those he speaks for should do is to attack his platform.

What Mr Kabogo & Co should do is to arm their man for the top job with the best political platform this country has yet seen. Mr Kabogo & Co must campaign for their platform and not attack the person of Mr Kenneth.

And because Mr Kenneth is yet to declare his intentions, the best way for Mr Kabogo to test his mettle is to attack his record in Gatanga, in Parliament and at public functions and previously as assistant minister for Finance and now assistant minister for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030.

But then, again, why attack a man who has not yet declared he wants to be president? Why attack a man this early when the wise thing to do would be to prepare all ammunition for the race proper when the election is called?

The answer is simply that the dominant political class in central Kenya would want to see the region field a single presidential candidate.

At the ballot

But there is an alternative surely. It is that if Mr Kenneth runs, then Mr Kabogo & Co should pull all the stops out on the stumps to ensure that the region votes, to a person, for Mr Kenyatta and not Mr Kenneth.

In other words, my pitch is that the best way to beat Mr Kenneth is at the ballot and not to pressure him not to have his name on the ballot.

I do not know why Mr Kenneth wants to be president but, if he asked me, as a friend, one thing he should do were he to run, I would tell him to first use his nationally recognised success with CDF as a model for his plan for Kenya.

How many Kabogos will escape the CDF landmine in 2012?

Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant opanga@diplomateastafrica.com

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