Mlolongo 'election' and why DP may not be trusted in Mt Kenya

Voters queue to be counted at the St Mary’s Primary School, Karen, during the infamous mlolongo 1988 General Election. [File, Standard]

In the week Deputy President William Ruto went bare knuckles with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, he had more trouble blowing up for him in Mt Kenya region.

Two of his staunchest supporters, former Cabinet minister Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria told him point blank that they won’t dissolve their political parties to join the DP’s party, UDA. Kiunjuri is the leader of The Service Party while Kuria has Chama Cha Kazi (CCK).

Both cite the 2017 Jubilee party nominations as the reason to have their own parties, lest they get short-changed at the nominations. Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and former Starehe MP, Maina Kamanda, tell everybody who listens that it is the DP who masterminded rigging of the 2017 Jubilee party nominations, more so in Mt Kenya region where he wanted to “plant sycophants” to “sing his song” in 2022.

On Thursday, Kiunjuri said that “this time Mountain people wherever they live will not agree to be blackmailed to vote one way or the other and will not beg for any position in the next government.” 

On his part, Kamanda compares the 2017 rigging of Jubilee party elections to the infamous 1988 Mlolongo (queue-voting) “election” when he contested for civic seat in the city.

In that election, it is candidates with the shorter queue of voters behind them who were declared winners! Many years later, one time Kanu secretary-general Joseph Kamotho would confide in me that the list of “winners” in that election was drawn at State House and the provincial administration instructed to implement it.

Queue-voting. [File, Standard]

He recalled a by-election in Kiharu Constituency where even the declared “winner” could not believe it and hesitated to receive his certificate from the returning officer. He could not tell what mathematical formula had been applied yet his rival had the longer queue. Kamanda alleges it is same formula the DP used to rig out those he didn’t like in 2017 Jubilee primaries.

DP’s insistence that Mt Kenya be rail-loaded into his party, UDA, is seen as equivalent to a return to one-party Kanu rule and the Mlolongo-type “elections” where list of “winners” is pre-determined by one man. The DP is known to be strong-willed and pushes what he wants with zeal.

Those who have closely interacted with him say he brooks no challenge and that he cannot be trusted to allow free nominations in a party he controls. Perhaps they are right. The DP is a dyed-in-the-wool creation of the old Kanu. He began as Kanu youth-winger in 1992 by joining Youth for Kanu 1992 (YK’92).

To refresh memory on how Kanu of those days operated, we reproduce a newspaper interview with one of the party honchos, Shariff Nassir, in early 1988 when queue-vote system was forced on Kenyans. Nassir was also assistant minister in a docket known as – get ready for this – Ministry of National Guidance and Political Affairs!

Excerpts of the interview:

Question:  You were quoted as having said secret ballot system will be scrapped whether people like it or not (Wapende, wasipende!) Were you quoted correctly?

Nassir: I was quoted correctly. When Kanu decides, it will be done whether they (people) like it or not. I repeat it.

Q: The election process involves all Kenyans including those who are not Kanu members. How can you talk about democracy which entails freedom of choice then say it will be done whether people like it or not?

A: What I am saying is this, since a majority of Kenyans don’t want the secret ballot, Kanu leaders who represent the people are going to go by the wishes of the majority.

Q: How did you arrive at the conclusion that the majority of Kenyans do not want the secret ballot?

A: What I am saying is the feeling of Kenyans.

Q: What method did you use to know the feeling of Kenyans?

A: I know the feelings of Kenyans because I meet very many people every day. Other district party leaders do the same thing in their areas.

Q: Should there not be a specific method of assessing the feelings of Kenyans to confirm exactly what they feel?

 A: What method? There is an automatic “referendum” in Kenya. It is that when Kenyans want something, they inform their elected Kanu leaders. Kanu knows the wishes of the people and I am telling you that the people do not want the secret ballot.

Q: It sounds like a threat. Those with opposing views will be afraid of airing them?

 A: That is how things should work. Kanu is a serious political party. It is not a football team or a golf club. The party has no time to play around with anybody.

Q: What then is the role of Parliament?

A: Parliament has many things to do, but not to quarrel with Kanu.

Q: Do you appreciate it is both a constitutional and democratic right to seek redress in the courts by those who disagree with Kanu?

A: But Kanu is the people! How can you disagree with the people? Democracy does not mean wasting time and money in courts. Even judges and magistrates must ask KANU what is the wish of the people.

Q: Perhaps we should work on improving the secret ballot system not scrap it?

A: There is no way you can improve the bad things in the secret ballot. The clerks who count the ballots too cannot be trusted. You never know who will cheat on you.

Q: There are counting clerks in queuing as well?

A: But is a transparent process. What is it that people want to hide in the secret ballot? After all it, it is not even that secret. The clerks handling the papers see what the voter is doing, so where is the secret? Queuing is the best system. Everything is open and there are no petitions.

Q: You also said Kenyans have no time to waste on elections because they want to concentrate on development. Would you like to see a situation where there are no elections at all?

A: Of course. Where people have good leaders, they do not want to go for elections. People do not want trouble. They want development.”

Wow, that is what former DP supporters in Mount Kenya think and fear UDA will take us back too if it is the dominant party!

Postscript: On Tuesday, the DP said his main beef with BBI Constitutional Bill was that it intended to return the country to the days of imperial presidency – that is before enactment of the 2010 Constitution.

He added some “gem” and that he and colleagues had fought against imperial presidency for 30 years. Everybody knows William Ruto led the campaign to reject the 2010 Constitution. Going by his math, it would mean he and company began campaign against imperial presidency in 1980 when he was 14 years old and in Class 7.

As for colleagues he could have been working with then, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen was two years old in 1980, while MPs Ndindi Nyoro and Oscar Sudi were not born yet. But never mind, Josep Goebbels, once said that when you want to conquer men (and women) you first re-write history in your own version. He also told us a lie repeated so many times becomes the “truth”.