As the scramble for votes takes shape ahead of the 2017 elections, the ruling Jubilee coalition and the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) have turned their focus on the Maasai community.
Deputy President William Ruto pitched camp in Narok County while Opposition chief Raila Odinga has made forays into Laikipia, Samburu and Kajiado counties in the last one month.
Political observers say Raila’s strategy has been to portray the government as corrupt, incompetent and not concerned by the plight of the pastoral communities.
“In his visits to the three counties, his message has been that of corruption, frustration of devolution and marginalisation of communities, especially where land and other natural resources play a critical role in the economic life of pastoralists,” said Ledama ole Kina.
In his visit to Lakipia, Raila opposed the Community Land Bill 2015, saying it will disenfranchise the landless in counties where land and other natural resources define the livelihoods of residents, majority of who are pastoralists.
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In one month, the former PM has toured Kajiado County where he sought to strengthen ODM ties with the Maasai Community. In one of those visits, the CORD leader attended the burial of Mosiro Ward Representative Peter Kurrinyo, where he warned locals to reject the proposed Community Land Bill. According to the ODM leader, the National Land Commission would be stripped off the responsibility to manage land if the proposed laws are passed. That, he said, will be a recipe for disaster.
Mr Kina said Raila knows land matters are dear to pastoralist communities, and is using it to sway the community.
As the country laid former First Lady Lucy Kibaki to rest, the opposition chief was in Ildamat village, Kajiado County, attending the thanksgiving ceremony for Kajiado Central MP Elijah Memusi. Again, Raila used the opportunity to criticise the Community Land Bill.
“I am with Kajiado residents in issues affecting them like land ownership, management of county natural resources and exclusion from governance,” Raila told the ceremony.
In 2013, Jubilee and CORD shared the votes almost equally in Narok County. Raila had an upper hand though, garnering 118,623 (50 per cent) of the total votes against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 109,413 (46 per cent).
However, Jubilee scooped all the parliamentary seats, save for Emurua Dikirr which went to Peter Keneth’s Kenya National Congress (KNC) party.
But a number of elected Narok leaders have since fallen out with the Deputy President and Governor Samuel ole Tunai. Discontent among the local leaders caused ripples in the region, with the ‘rebel’ legislators openly criticising the Jubilee government and holding protests against Governor Tunai.
The rebellion was led by Senator Stephen Ole Ntutu, MPs Patrick Ole Ntutu (Narok West), Johana Ng’eno (Emurua Dikirr), Korei Ole Lemein (Narok South) and Moitalel Ole Kenta (Narok North).
Ntutu has declared interest in the Narok governor’s seat, although his choice of political vehicle is still unknown. During the Kericho senatorial by-election in March, Ntutu and Emurrua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno openly campaigned for the Kanu candidate.
Former ICT PS Joseph Tiampati, who was axed by the President late last year, has also declared interest in the governor’s seat. The former PS had in 2013 vied for the seat through KNC but lost to Jubilee.
Former Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama has asked the community to unite ahead of 2017.
Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Alex ole Magelo has vowed to convene a leaders meeting to chat the way forward for the community.
Ntimama and Magelo say the Maa community, which inhabit Kajiado, Narok and Laikipia counties, should speak in one voice regardless of their political affiliations.
Jubilee crusaders in Narok led by Governor Tunai, Woman Rep Soipan Tuya, MP Lemanken Aramat (Narok East) have vowed to deliver the county in 2017. But other Jubilee legislators have given conditions, saying they will only support the coalition if their demands are met.
Some of the issues they want addressed include the contentious Mau Forest.
“We want the President to tell us why some people are still in the forest. Members of the Maasai community were evicted but other communities continue to encroach the forest,” said Kenta.
Other grievances include waiver of loans taken by wheat farmers from Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and the establishment of a livestock market. The leaders also want more appointments to top jobs.
Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal and Senator Naisula Lesuuda (Nominated) down-played the CORD leader’s political foray in the region, saying the former PM was wasting his time.
“The Samburu region is a Jubilee zone, he should not waste his precious time looking for votes here,” Lesuuda said.