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Suswa, where Maa community meets for key political decisions

Azimio la Umoja Coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga in Suswa, Narok County on July 30, 2022. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Suswa, a nondescript town, tucked away along the Mai Mahiu- Narok Road is laden with political symbolism among the Maasai community.

Here is where the Maasai leaders meet to make critical decisions on important matters to the community. Whenever there are critical national debates, Maasai political leaders and elders converge at Suswa, a dusty shopping centre along the road that leads to the world famous Maasai Mara National Game Reserve, to make declarations.

The historical Suswa ground has in the past been used to make major declarations, including presidential endorsements. Most of the Suswa declarations have yielded results that have gone a long way to determine the political path for the community and its leaders. Dubbed as the ‘holy-grounds,’ Suswa Township was the significant venue where the 2005 decision to vote “No” in the referendum was made.

The declaration was led by former Cabinet minister, the late William ole Ntimama opposing the proposed changes to the Constitution supported by the “Banana” side. The “No” symbol was an Orange. It was the 2005 Suswa declaration that affirmed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as a political party that went into the 2007 hotly contested presidential election. In the run up to the 2013 and the 2017 General Elections, Suswa ground played a crucial role as Maasai elders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, pledged their support to both.

According to Maasai Council of Elders chair Kelena ole Nchoe, Suswa is blessed and will continue being the community’s venue of declarations.

“Our Maa leader the late ole Ntimama identified the venue and elders blessed it,” said Nchoe.

The Maasai struggle for land rights, historical land injustices and marginalisation by successive regimes, have always been articulated at this venue. It is here that the tone of the Maasai politics and leadership is shaped and escalated across all the five counties occupied by Maa speaking people. In 2013, Raila won the hearts and votes of the Maasai people when he concluded his campaign here in Suswa.

He made the Maa counties of Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, Nakuru and Laikipia his political stronghold. In 2017, he lost the plot to Uhuruto under the Jubilee Party and has since been fighting to regain control of over one million Maasai votes scattered across the five counties. His closest political rival Deputy President William Ruto, who is seeking to succeed his boss in the August 9 polls, is also eyeing a chunk of the Maasai vote. 

In 2017, Raila garnered 50 per cent of the 400,000 votes compared to Uhuru’s 46 per cent in Narok County.
In Samburu, Raila got 58 per cent against Uhuru’s 41 per cent. Uhuru won in Kajiado with 52 per cent. It is also at Suswa where the Maasai initiate morans into community elders in ceremonies that involve prayers, slaughtering of bulls, and other rituals.

And as the electioneering campaign enter homestretch, Raila returned to Suswa yesterday to seek the blessings of the Maasai elders in a bid to solidify the vote.