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Raila Odinga whips up land issue in bid to wrestle Maa vote from Jubilee

By Steve Mkawale | Oct 2nd 2016 | 4 min read

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s two-day tour of Narok County has stirred political waters in Maasai land.

Raila’s continued talk of historical injustices in Maasai land, before and after independence seem to resonate well with the community, which turned up in large numbers for the two days he set camp in the county.

Pundits say the reception during his his tour should worry the Jubilee coalition, which is keen to retain its political grip on the county.

In the 2013 polls, the Jubilee coalition swept almost all elective seats, but the former Prime Minister beat President Uhuru Kenyatta by a slight margin after the final tally in the presidential votes.

In 2007, Raila garnered more votes than former President Mwai Kibaki in Narok County, a region he is keen to keep ahead of the 2017 polls.

Whenever Raila visits Narok, he pulls huge crowds. There are those who believe that he is the community’s best hope in their fight for justice when it comes to issues that have continued to dog it for about a century.

Before he dumped ODM for Jubilee, the late Maasai kingpin and veteran politician William ole Ntimama regarded Raila as his people’s saviour.

“He has the interest of the community at heart. If he one day becomes president, he will take us from Egypt to Canaan,” Ntimama told a rally in Suswa, Narok East, before the 2007 General Election.

As has been his rallying call over the last month, Raila challenged the government to implement the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report, saying it addressed the thorny issue of the land that was taken from the Maasai by colonialists.

Economic exclusion

He claimed the Jubilee administration has also refused to implement TJRC recommendations on how to compensate the community and other minorities for years of deliberate economic marginalisation and exclusion.

“TJRC found that all post-independence governments have failed to honestly and adequately address land-related injustices that started with colonialism,” he said at the rallies.

“Although it found out that land-related injustices have affected virtually every part of the country, the Maasai and communities at the Coast have suffered most and for the longest. They were expelled from their settlements.”

Addressing rallies in Kilgoris, Aitong, Narok town and Murkan on Thursday and Friday, Raila accused the Jubilee Government of sitting on the TJRC report and denying Parliament opportunity to debate and pass it to pave way for restitution.

“Within six months of the issuance of the report, the President was expected to apologise to the affected communities and within 12 months, the government was supposed to formulate, adopt and implement a policy aimed at realising development in marginalised regions,” he told gatherings.

Claiming he is the only person capable of implementing the TJRC recommendations, the CORD leader said the Maasai and other affected communities will not rest until all the lands taken from them are returned.

“The current leaders are reluctant to implement it in fear of losing their ill gotten land. The country will only forge ahead as one after historical injustices are addressed,” he said.

Already, some political observers say Raila has upstaged Jubilee in Maasai land, claiming he will sweep the board in next year’s General Election.

“There is no doubt that he has the community’s support. We see him as a saviour who will right the wrongs that has bedeviled the country, especially on land matters,” says Charles Nampaso, the Narok ODM chairman.

Emotive issue

Ajwang Agina, a political analyst for Deustche Welle says so long as the issue of land is not addressed, the Maasai community will support a presidential candidate seen as sharing in its plight.

“Land is an emotive issue. It has led to the recurrent ethnic clashes. The candidate who promises and is seen as serious in addressing it, will definitely win the affected community’s support,” he says. But Wilson Masikonde, the member of the Narok County Assembly for Olpusimoru, says the community has realised it was duped into blindly following Raila and that Jubilee will win in  the region.

“The community has realised that what matters is development not populism. It will overwhelmingly vote for the president in next year’s General Election because within less than five years, many development projects aimed at ameliorating its sufferings are underway,” he says.

Kajiado East MP Moses Sakuda rubbishes claims that CORD will take the Maasai vote, saying the former PM is deluding himself.

“Huge attendance does not necessarily translate into votes. Most of them are curious, being forced to attend because of his antics. He will be shocked to discover that he has no following,” he says.

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