17 November 2012

Kenya: Uhuru Ultimatum to Central Kenya Bad for His Candidature


Deputy Prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta attending the aspirants meeting at Kasarani sports centre over the weekend.

Finally, the TNA Boss, Uhuru Kenyatta has spoken. And his unequivocal word is to Kenyans in Central Kenya or to be precise, Kenyans of Kikuyu extraction.

They MUST support his candidature for the presidency! If this is his irreducible position, several questions arise. The most pertinent being this: now that 'Central Kenyans' must support a Central Kenyan, why should Kenyans from other regions or from other tribes to be precise, support the candidature of a Central Kenyan?

Why do I raise this question? Because logically, non-members of the communities targeted by the directive can only deduce two things from that statement: first that each community should rally behind one of their own in the race to Statehouse and that failure to do so is a sign of weakness if not stupidity.

Secondly, that the candidate is inclined towards autocracy, which he may impose on Kenyans across the country if elected president. These deductions put not only Uhuru's candidature in the eye of a storm, but also the careers of those political leaders from other regions who may for whatever reasons want to support his candidature.

The statement makes his candidature polarizing and positions his possible presidency as isolationist - the kind of presidency that might divide Kenyans into core and peripheral citizens.

These are terms I would not like to use to describe the leader of a country that is struggling to break free from the yolk of tribalism. But this is logically deducible!

In the same breadth, the statement complicates matters politically for those leaders who have been gravitating towards him in two ways: first they will be seen, by their core supporters, as cowards, incapable of leading their "own people" to Statehouse and therefore undeserving of their communities' support.

Secondly, they could be seen as self-seeking local compradors through whom the TNA leader will spread despotism already imposed on Central Kenya, nationally, much to their own detriment.

Yet this is not all. If presidential candidatures are considered as communal projects, then presidencies must be communally collective. What does this mean?

That communities that have produced presidents before must take collective responsibility for commissions and omissions of the past three regimes. The two communities will be adjudged (though wrongfully so) responsible for the unacceptable socio-economic, ethno-regional and gender-based inequalities that pervade our land.

This is not to mention political and economic oppression and repression that sections of the society have endured at the hands of our past rulers, with some unlucky Kenyans paying the ultimate price through the yet to be resolved political assassinations.

Framing the forthcoming general elections debate in this way will not be beneficial to Uhuru. This will turn the contest into a vote for or against the status quo.

And unfortunately, candidates from communities that have produced past presidents will be collectively considered representations of the status quo.

The question that will be posed to Kenyans at election time will be whether or not they are satisfied with the current state of affairs in which political and economic power is highly concentrated; a situation in which social and ethnic exclusion is highly manifest even in the most sacred of the institutions.

This kind of framing then naturally forces Uhuru and the leader of URP, William Ruto apart. This is because a common ticket with the names of Uhuru and Ruto will then be the perfect representation of the status quo.

The ethnic cards then will be played so deep below the water that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) won't be able to catch anyone.

Yet the campaign will be a de facto 42 against 2, with all the ingredients to plunge us right back into the mess of 2007-2008. This is why I take this opportunity to caution the Hon.

Uhuru Kenyatta to take cognizance of the position he holds in this country and the support he enjoys, particularly in Central Kenya region.

On the basis of these two, his ambition to be president of Kenya is not completely unrealizable, but the path is long and relentlessly winding.

My second message of caution goes to the other presidential aspirants who now enjoy near fanatical following among members of their communities: nowhere in the history of mankind has society ever been sacrificed to save an individual.

But history is full of stories from as far back as one can go to very recent times, of individuals sacrificed to save societies. Just ask members of fishing communities: when you are sailing in the deep waters and it is discovered that the boat is carrying more than its capacity and it is thus in danger of sinking with everybody on board a decision is reached to drown one person and let others sail safely. If you are privileged to lead a community, be careful never to make it feel unsafe, otherwise you might just become the sacrificial lamb.

Emmanuel Manyasa, PhD, Executive Director, Centre for Ethnic Mainstreaming.

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