Kenya: Uhuru and Ruto sowing seeds of discord
The virulent speeches and chest thumping by two of Kenya’s presidential aspirants, both suspected of committing crimes against humanity, is extremely worrying. The government needs to act quickly and firmly and the people should reject these politicians.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and MP for Eldoret North William Ruto organized what was billed as a ‘peace/prayer rally’ on Friday, January 27, 2012 at the 64 Stadium in Eldoret.
But the event was anything but a peace and prayer rally.
In fact, it was quite the opposite and can easily be classifiable as nothing but a rally designed to incite and extol racial hatred and animosity in contravention of not only our constitution, but the International Criminal Court conditions under which they and another two Kenyans are walking free instead of being in cells awaiting trial at The Hague.
According to a source privy to the planning of this event, the public rally was attended by over 45 legislators including Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, former MPs and presidential aspirant Raphael Tuju and another ICC suspect, Joshua arap Sang.
The same source indicates the number of current and former MPs invited was more than the number of those who actually showed up. According to another source present at the meeting, prayers took exactly 11 minutes and immediately thereafter, the rally quickly morphed into a full-fledged political rally with all the speakers making statements laced with hate speech and/or incitement.
Speaker after speaker took the mike to yelp what was clearly a well-rehearsed script, with nearly all the speakers stating that should Uhuru and Ruto (Ocampo-2) be barred from vying for the presidency, then Kenya will not have elections.
The speakers made incendiary statements, at times insinuating that it was not the Ocampo-2 that were on trial but their respective communities which they said should unite to resist or defeat the ICC process which in turn they claimed is the end product of NGOs working with Prime Minister Raila Odinga through the international community.
Belgut MP Charles Keter kicked off the storm with a rallying call. ‘Just as we said in 2007 that ‘No Raila, No Peace’, we will say ‘No Uhuru and Ruto, No Elections.’
Embakasi MP waititu said in Swahili: ‘Lazima tufanye kila kitu kuzuia huyu mjaruo kuingia state house tuingie huko wenyewe ndio tuvuruge hii maneno ICC…’ (We must do everything we can to stop this Luo man [Raila] from ascending to State House as president. We must be the ones getting in there so that we can mix-up this ICC nonsense.)
MP Gideon Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ said: ‘Hakuna vile tutakubali mtu wa jina linaanza na O asaidiwe na cousin yake huko America wa jina linaanza na O washikane na Ocampo kumaliza watu wetu….tutapambana nao’. (There is no way we can let someone with a name that starts with ‘O’ to be helped with his cousin in the US with a name that also starts with ‘O’ to work together with Ocampo to finish our people…we will deal with them)’.
Another MP Isaac Ruto said: ‘We know the international community and the civil society have a preferred candidate but let them know we shall not allow them. Uhuru and Ruto must be on the ballot.’
Eldoret East MP Peris Simam said that, ‘We will vote for them irrespective of where they will be. Let those NGOs stop going to court. I am stating that the government is here.’
Eldama Ravine MP Moses Lessonet added that, ‘It is the people of Kenya who will decide on the leadership of Kenya, not the courts and NGOs.’
Another speaker at the rally, Lucas Chepkitotony belted: ‘We stand today by our people who are being mistreated but what we know is that by the end of the day, the truth shall come out. Mosop MP David Koech added, ‘We announce today that whether they like it or not, the leader of this country is with us today.’
‘The trial of Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya’s first president) by the colonialist did not stop him from being president just as the incarceration of Nelson Mandela by the whites never stopped him from being an African leader. I tell you today, be of good courage,’ Eugene Wamalwa, too, belted while re-confirming his lack of depth and complete lack of knowledge or understanding of what the men he cited stood for in comparison to the Ocampo-2.
One theme that was clear with each speaker was the false narrative that civil society organizations (CSOs) and the prime minister are responsible for the woes facing the ICC suspects.
For his part, the source says, Kalonzo Musyoka ‘insisted that he was not the one to benefit if the suspects are tried’ because of his so-called shuttle diplomacy that he claims was ‘a fight to have the cases brought back to Kenya’ but his efforts were ‘thwarted by known people in ODM and the CSOs’.
Ruto urged his supporters to make sure that he and Uhuru are not locked out of the presidential race. He also ‘spoke for about seven minutes in his native Kalenjin Language rallying ‘his people’ to ensure that if they are locked out of the race then they should frustrate the holding of the elections by all means.’
In a clearly orchestrated fashion according to the source, Gideon Mbuvi, Ferdinand Waititu, Kazungu Kambi and a youth leader from Nyanza made derogatory statements against the Luo community calling on other tribes to ‘shun the community because its leader is a conman and untrustworthy.’
They even went as far as calling anybody saying Uhuru and Ruto should not vie for the presidency ‘mashetani’ (devils).
They then each vowed to gang up and urged others to join them in ‘denying the Luo man from having a say on the management of the coalition government’ and ‘promised to shield the president from attacks from the ODM wing of the government’ in addition to vows to resist calls for Uhuru to step aside as the deputy prime minister, including those from CSOs.
The four, with cheerful approval of the rest of the speakers, called on the president to disregard the National Accord and ‘rule the country as he deems fit since they are the majority and they will stand with him.’
Several things can be said about this grim turn of events. First, Kenyans must simply not allow these characters to once again put the country on a path to election violence.
Second, the president must come clean on his stand regarding this clear insinuation that he is an accomplice to this revving up of tribal animosity and hate by two individuals pitting their respective communities against the rest of the country.
Third, it is amazingly shocking that Mzalendo Kibunjia, the chairman of the National Integration and Cohesion Commission has been completely mute on this obviously actionable hate speech spewed at 64 Stadium. Unless Kibunjia is already acting on this in some form or fashion behind the scenes, which is doubtful, given the gravity of this matter, someone should shake Kibunjia, wake him up and promptly tell him he is sacked and the whole NCIC dismantled. What is the use of that body if it cannot address this very egregious violation of the law, a body charged with the responsibility to enforce in order to prevent a recurrence of election-related violence?
Fourth, the Supreme Court should take up the question of whether or not our constitution and laws of Kenya bar any of the ICC suspects from seeking the presidency. The Court should do so with extreme urgency because any delay will accord these characters more time to continue the dangerous path they are on relative to peace and harmony in the country.
Finally, Uhuru and Ruto should step back for a moment and answer the question, is stopping Raila from becoming president worth shedding the blood, let alone death, of a single person?
Is their ambition to take the presidency one they are willing to pursue regardless of how their quest further divides the country?
Do the people of Kenya beyond their respective tribes mean anything to them, or are they in their minds idiots they need only scheme their way to State House and to rule regardless of what divisive and backward manner they gain the presidency by?
Of what good is it to seek the presidency to govern a country up in arms or in flames or simply in total chaos?
Does Ivory Coast, Libya, Egypt, Syria and what has happened with their leaders any lesson for Uhuru and Ruto or are they so naïve as to believe Kenyans and the rest of the civilised world, for that matter, would accept or stand by and watch as they incite or pursue the presidency as if it’s a matter of birthright?
These are questions Uhuru, Ruto and those cheering them on must ask themselves, answer and act accordingly.
Regardless of whether or not they do so, the president owes the nation handing over to the next president under a climate that at least demonstrates that all the blood that was shed in 2007-2008, all the property that was stolen, taken over or burnt, all the displacement of people from their homes that occurred, all the rapes and the deaths, must never be seen again in Kenya.
His failure to do so would not only be an unbelievable letdown of Kenyans and complete evisceration of the goodwill they have given him, even notwithstanding what happened in the 2007 elections and its aftermath, but it will seal his legacy in a manner no one wishes to be remembered in history.
Some say President Kibaki doesn’t care about his legacy; others, including this writer, beg to differ and hope they are not wrong, for in the end, what Kibaki does will impact on how the next elections are conducted and concluded.
The alternative is for the people themselves to override him and anyone else who still believes they hold sway over public anger and resentment for being taken for granted and abused at will.
Let those who care about our country pray that Kibaki does the right thing.
Samuel Omwenga is a Kenyan lawyer and political analyst in the US.
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