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Grounds where the Rift Valley charts its political paths

POLITICS
By Steve Mkawale and Titus Too | July 4th 2021

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto in a jovial mood during a rally at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru County. [Charles Kimani, DPPS]

From Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Nandi County to Suswa grounds in Narok, the Rift Valley region has never been short of places where key political declarations are made.

In every election cycle, communities in the region convene at the venues to make declarations that would influence their voting pattern.

Most of the declarations have yielded results that have determined the political path for the communities and their leaders.

The Eldama Ravine Declaration of January 2006 that saw a group of 14 MPs converge at Koibatek, Baringo County, and declare they would support Deputy President William Ruto, then the MP for Eldoret North, was a big break.

Former Minister Musa Sirma was behind the Eldama Ravine Declaration that propelled Ruto from a little-known MP to the position of Kalenjin community spokesman.

From there, his influence grew in Kalenjin land and beyond. The self-declared ‘Hustler’ is now focused on the presidency in 2022.

The Eldama Ravine Declaration was followed by the ‘Kapkatet Declaration’ in Kericho County in 2007.

Here, the Kalenjin community gave former Prime Minister Raila Odinga a nickname, Arap Mibei, and declared that he was their preferred presidential candidate.

In July 2017, the Jubilee team, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto, chose Kapkatet Stadium for their final re-election campaign rally.

During the occasion, the president acknowledged the stadium’s place in Kenya’s history.

“Kapkatet Stadium is one of the most important stadiums for Jubilee as this is where members of the Kalenjin community have historically met to deliberate and take common political stands which have shaped the country’s history,” Uhuru said.

Joshua arap Chumo, who is in his 90s, and who served as the first Myoot Kipsigis Council of Elders chair, traces the stadium’s role in politics to the pre-independence era.
“I was among the Kipsigis elders who in December 1962 installed the late Moi as a Kalenjin elder at Kapkatet Stadium. He was then a Kadu party leader,” he said.

Earlier in 2012, Uhuru and Ruto solemnised their political marriage at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium, another venue of key political declarations.

This is where Jubilee Party was unveiled and Uhuru and Ruto declared that Kenyans would never again spill blood over an election outcome.

But is the Suswa grounds in Narok County that has over the years stolen the show when it comes to political declarations in Rift Valley.

Dubbed as the ‘holy grounds’, the small dusty field in Suswa township is a significant venue for the Maasai community.

Among the declarations that have been made there is the “No” vote in the 2005 referendum.

The declaration spearheaded by former Cabinet minister, the late William ole Ntimama said the pro-constitutional change team – the Banana’ side – did not consider the interest of the Maasai community.

In 2013 and 2017 elections, Suswa grounds played a crucial political role as elders allied to Uhuru and Raila, promised 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 William ole Ntimama identified the venue and elders blessed it. Whatever the declarations made there are key to the Maa members,” said Nchoe.

Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Kapsabet, Nandi County, is another venue that arouses memories of strong political declarations mooted by the Kalenjin community.

It is particularly remembered for the declaration for the support of Majimboism, in September 16, 1991, by then Eldoret South MP and Agriculture assistant minister Joseph Misoi.

[Additional reporting by Nikko Tanui and Robert Kiplagat]

 

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