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Era of ethnic delegations to State House returns under Jubilee

By Billow Kerrow | May 1st 2016

One of Kanu regime’s defining characteristics of imperial power was the trooping of delegations from various ethnic communities to State House to seek ‘development’ for their regions, often after unequivocal expressions of undivided loyalty or ‘nyayoism’ to the Head of State. The visit would then end in a lofty pledge to undertake actions or projects sought by the delegation, often led by the group’s real or desired political maestro. And the visit would ultimately herald the political transition of that community to the ruling party, whether or not the pledges were met.

In recent weeks, the same trend of ethnic jingoism has emerged. First, the Luhyas trooped to the Deputy President’s home, ostensibly to discuss development for the region. Shortly afterwards, the Kisii community followed suit. And before long, it was the folks from Ukambani, thousands of them. And as was the practice, it is often the communities from the perceived opposition areas that make these political pilgrimages. The Luhyas, Kisii and Akamba communities largely voted for CORD and form the backbone of the opposition. Old habits die hard! Even after the new Constitution, little has changed in how we conduct our business. The temptation by CORD elites to dance with Jubilee may be an indication of their uncertainty in taking power come the next elections. Perhaps even more pertinent is the uncertainty surrounding the flag-bearer for the opposition between Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula, which could have triggered these communities’ professionals and politicians flocking to Jubilee. What is certain however is that development is not the motive for the visits but merely the plausible excuse to migrate.

Former Premier Raila, CORD brigade’s de facto leader, must be pretty uncomfortable with this unrelenting foray by Jubilee into his territory. I do not believe for one moment that the other two principals have the gravitas to grab the mantle from him in the coming election. The heightened incidences of political drama by his ODM followers are a pointer in this direction. For instance, the whistles in the National Assembly to disrupt the president’s speech, the march on IEBC offices, the fervent Kibera rallies, the Eurobond myth; all seem to be led by his ODM brigade. Consequently, his overt overzealous attempts to raise political temperatures and paint the regime bad have thrown President Kenyatta’s lieutenants into frenzy to check him. Kenyatta is raising the stakes by not just visiting the opposition strongholds but tempting the rank and file with development goodies. The billions of shillings he has pledged in Kisii heartland, to the Ukambani at State House and the announcement to restart Pan Paper Mills in Western is bound to set tongues wagging. Prior to all these, he made appointments from these communities to various state corporations too, warming their relationship with the establishment.

While this carrot approach may not have found abundant favour with folks at the Coast, it is likely to shake these three regions whose communities are not used to being in the cold, or watch carrots being dangled before their eyes. In the Kibaki era, the National Accord kept them in government. Jubilee may have challenges in their strongholds as we have recently seen in the Kericho by-election because of unfulfilled promises, but the marginal engagement in CORD territory may yield a bounty harvest. By focusing on the Luhyas, Akamba and the Kisii, President Uhuru will have chipped away at critical pillars of each of the three principals of CORD. Clearly, an outmaneuvered Raila is turning to the trenches — the streets — to change the tide. Still, it would be interesting to see whether his supporters will continue to flock to State House regardless of the political theatrics of their master.

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