Battle lines drawn as clan politics heat up in Kajiado race

The two major Maasai clans in Kajiado are Orok Kiteng’ (black cow) and Odomong’i (red cow). [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

As Kenyans enter the new year, a scramble for votes ahead of this years’ General Election is expected to take shape.

However, in Kajiado county, the clan factor is something that cannot be wished away since it is a major determinant in the outcome of elections in Maasai land.

Also, the fight between allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party (JP) and those of his Deputy William Ruto is likely to play a major role, not just in who becomes the next governor, but shape the battle for other seats as well in the county.

The two major Maasai clans in Kajiado are Orok Kiteng’ (black cow) and Odomong’i (red cow). Here, the contest is the hottest between Kaputiei and Kisongo sub-clans.

A supremacy battle has ensued to unseat Governor Joseph Ole Lenku, who is serving his first term in office.

Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito and his Kajiado East counterpart Peris Tobiko, as well as former governor David Nkedianye have thrown themselves in the ring to square it out with him.

Others said to be eyeing the seat include former National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) boss Francis Meja and former Olkejuado county council chairman Taraiya ole Kores.

Lenku, who is defending his seat told The Standard yesterday that he is confident he will be re-elected based on his development record.

“Among other things, we have improved health services. We have upgraded major health facilities including Kajiado County Referral Hospital and Oloitokitok Sub-county hospital that are serving thousands of patients every day. The facilities are equipped with theatres,” said governor Lenku.

He added, “I shall defend my seat because my development record speaks for itself. I will be asking residents of Kajiado for a second term so I can complete several other projects I have initiated.”

Lenku and Metito hail from Ilkisongo sub-clan while Peris and Nkedianye are from Ilkaputiei sub-clan. Meja and Kores belong to Ildamat and Irkekonyokie sub-clans respectively. 

Metito and Tobiko are the only hopefuls on the list currently supporting DP Ruto and his hustler slogan. The other candidates are allied to Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

However, the clans among the Maa people in Kajiado are drawing their battle lines in readiness for polls, a factor that could determine who carries the day.

Although the community can be classified into two broad clans, the Odomong’i and the Orokiteng, the influx of other communities into the County has also come in to neutralize the impact of clannism in the overall outcome of the poll results.

The Odomong’i, commonly known as the Red Cow has dominated local politics with all the county seats going to them in 2013.

Dr Nkedienye, former Senator Peter Mositet and current MPs Memusi Kanchory( Kajiado Central), Ole Metito, George Sunkuyia ( Kajiado West) and Women Rep Janet Teyia all come from the Red Cow.

The dominance of the Red Cow was neutralised in 2017, with the election of Lenku, Black Cow, as Governor.

Former Cabinet Minister Stanley Oloitipitip was the Black Cow to call the shots in the 1980s. The latest leader to be anointed in a cultural ritual is deputy Governor Martin Moshisho.

A section of the Maasai Ilmerueshi age group gathered to bless him and handed him a club as a sign of leadership.

The ceremony was done in the morning before sunrise and was performed inside a cowshed. ‘’We are gathered here to anoint this young man because he seems to be up to the task to succeed the current governor after his tenure, said Napuko Ole Risa.

In 2017, the majority of the Odomong’i backed Odinga and his line up, with the Orokiteng’ backing President Kenyatta and his line up, including the Governor.

Now, it seems the shoe is on the other foot, with Lenku now rallying his Orokiteng clan to back an Odinga presidency.

Metito, Ms Tobiko, and  Meja, all of them Odomong’i, are supporting Ruto. They are expected to seek the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket in party nominations in April next year.

Governor Lenku admits clannism dominates Maa politics and that it has influenced outcomes, especially for lower seats.

“It is unfortunate that some people are in office purely because of their clans and some better choices lost leadership because of the same factor. It is critical to evaluate a leader from a personal ability level,” said the Governor.

He said the demographics of the County is that for one to succeed, he or she must look beyond clan votes as the real swing votes are with other communities that have settled in Kajiado.

However, former Kajiado East MP Moses Ole Sakuda, has appealed to the maa community to shun the issues of retrogressive clanisim and voting patterns.

Speaking to The Standard, Sakunda said he has watched with much concern the divisive politics that is sprouting up among the Maasai people.

“So where is this headed to? That is a question I asked myself. Shall the Maa community retreat to their clan boundaries? Are we moving retrogressively instead of progressively? posed Sakuda.