This time round, do not let sleeping dogs lie

“Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”; William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

From time immemorial, man’s oldest friend has been the object of great affection. The centrality of dogs to human existence has ranged from the Basenjis of Central Africa, to the Queen of England’s Welsh corgis, renowned across the world and portrayed in statues and works of art. This has given rise to a whole litany of dog-centred expressions that capture not only the moods of individuals, but of entire societies or nations.

After six years of puppy love, the bromance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto seems to have run its course. The camaraderie that characterised their first term appears to have dissipated. The bone of contention is that whereas Deputy President (DP) Ruto successfully supported Kenyatta’s bid for presidency twice, Uhuru has been less than effusive in supporting the DP’s proposed attempt in the 2022 elections. This is despite a gentleman’s agreement to that effect. The discourse among supporters of both has quickly gone to the dogs.

Elections in Kenya have always been determined by a coalition of at least two of the three main ethnic groupings. Kikuyus from Central Kenya, Kalenjins from the Rift Valley and Luos from Western Kenya have bestridden the political scene like colossuses.

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Other ethnic groupings have been merely supporting cast in a game of numbers. While Kikuyus have produced three of the four presidents that Kenya has had since independence, Kalenjins have had just one, and Luos, none. It is expected that the next election, therefore, will be a contest between the Kalenjin and the Luo to see who will yield the president.

Reciprocal support

A cessation of hostilities between Raila Odinga, leader of the Luos and Uhuru Kenyatta of the kikuyus has led to a feeling of being out of sorts among the Kalenjin. This is because this new found alliance appears to threaten the sense of entitlement among the Kalenjin; that they have reciprocal support for the presidential bid of their man the DP.

It has not helped that recent arrests of suspects of graft in public offices have been drawn from some Kalenjins, spawning a theory that perhaps there is selective prosecution of corruption suspects intended to paint the community in bad light.

But more striking is the way erstwhile enemy Raila Odinga, now seems to sing from the same hymn sheet as the president. From supporting the war on graft, to recently, decrying “lenient bail terms” given by the Judiciary to graft suspects, Raila has not departed from Uhuru’s script. This has given rise to speculation that it is open season in the Rift Valley.

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But Dr Ruto is the quintessential alpha male and certainly no pushover. He has demonstrated a dogged determination to attain whatever he sets his sights on. His hard-work ethic is evident from his days of selling chicken for school fees, to every ministry he ever headed in successive governments.

Move swiftly

Even as propaganda is circulated to make him out to be as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, it is inconceivable that one man alone can be responsible for the current economic morass that the country finds itself in. More believable is that our economic downturn is the collective responsibility of the government as a result of poor decisions made over time.

Rather than Dr Ruto’s “Tangatanga” development endeavours, Kenyans should be worrying about the attack dogs who are using various media to spew out vitriolic ethnic sentiment against their perceived detractors. There is anecdotal evidence that these are dogs of war, working at the behest of shadowy masters to influence the electoral outcome of 2022.

The events of the post-election violence of 2007/8 are still fresh in the mind and no sane Kenyan would want to go back that road. Which is why all leaders, regardless of party or ethnic affiliation, must be unanimous in vociferous condemnation of such talk. And the government should move swiftly to stem such sentiment before it gains traction.

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The greatest tragedy of our times is not that politicians fall out and are an unprincipled lot who do not keep their word.  There is no honour among thieves, among people who routinely lie, and steal public resources and elections.

The tragedy lies in a gullible electorate who always swallow these lies hook, line and sinker. They are the indifferent ones, content to let sleeping dogs lie. Until they come to a realisation of the awesome power of the vote they hold, even beyond 2022, it will continue to be a dog’s life for Kenyans!

Mr Khafafa is the Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council

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President Uhuru KenyattaWilliam Ruto2022 electionsRaila OdingaHandshake