In Kenya, we have had Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) as the president for 15 years. Moi, so far, the longest serving president Kenya has ever had, was there for close to a quarter of a century. Moi, from the Nilotic speaking Kalenjin, ruled Kenya for a whopping 24 years from 1978 to 2002. The third Kenyan president who is just about to retire, and I pray to oblivion, will have served for another 10 years come March 2013. He also comes from the Bantu speaking Kikuyu. Basically, all these three presidents come from only two ethnic communities. Yes, only two ethnic communities out of over 40 communities forming the so called Kenyan nation.

Among the Kenyan communities, we have the aboriginal Ogiek and other hunter gatherer communities. Though the Ogiek speak a Nilotic language all the other hunter gather communities, on the other hand, speak a mostly Cushitic language. However, I am not sure of the difference between, say, Aweera, Watta and Boni. These to me seem to be the people the Somalis refer to as Bon. My apologies to them in advance if these communities happen to be different from each other. Other communities found in Kenya include the most loathed Somali – I don’t have to qualify this because the indicators in the North Eastern Province of Kenya (NEP) speak for themselves. We also have remnants from the British colonialist who call Kenya home. Though a minority, there also exists a significant number of Indians from the Subcontinent who mostly came as cheap labourers during the colonial days.

Basically, the Kenyan peoples can easily be categorized into three language groups and two non-indigenous groups (the Europeans and Indians). Of the three language groups, the Bantus, no doubt, form the majority with the Nilotic speaking communities being the second largest group. The least of this group are the Cushitic speaking peoples though inarguably the first to inhabit Kenya. Enough scholars have written about the fact that Cushitic speaking peoples preceded both the Nilotes and the later arriving Bantus in Kenya.

So, in as much as the Somalis have a right to be Kenyan just like the Bantu speaking Kikuyu or the Nilotic speaking Kalenjin, subsequent Kenyan governments serving the interests of the two said communities have deliberately and systematically adopted a scorched earth policy towards the people of NEP. Over the years, and throughout the presidencies of all the three presidents Kenya has so far had, untold atrocities have been visited upon the hapless Somalis in Kenya – just because of their being Somalis. So, in the warped logic of the powers that be, the Somalis are nothing but non-Kenyan aliens. Yes, alien in their own home country. What happened in Garissa recently rightly proves the point I am trying to make.

Even despite the so called power sharing agreements being in place, that Kibaki is the most powerful person in Kenya is in no doubt. The Chief of Defence Forces is also a Kikuyu who was promoted for nothing else other than to protect the interests of the Kikuyu. The top dogs in the police also happen to come from the same section of Kenya. Therefore, it is obvious that the coalition government is in name only and Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister, is not as powerful as he should be. It is for this reason that when Odinga gave orders that the business people in Garissa be compensated for their loss, a Kikuyu minister differed with him publicly.
Mohamed Yusuf Haji
Mohamed Yusuf Haji, Minister of Defense

So, in spite of Mohamed Yusuf Haji – a Somali – being the Minister for Defence, nothing can be written home of his accomplishments in emancipating his Somali community from the tyrannical powers of Kenya. In fact, he is rumoured to have been behind the infamous screening card that to date continues to deny a significant number of Somalis – who no doubt are bona fide citizens of Kenya – access to legal documents like the Somali loathed Kipande. Mark you, you cannot do anything in Kenya like opening a bank account, getting a job, etc without being in possession of that reviled Kipande. I can only come to the conclusion that, Yusuf Haji (our own veritable Uncle Tom) serves no interests other than his own (and his immediate family’s) by amassing wealth and power for themselves at the behest of those who perpetuate injustices against the Somalis.

As grim as the situation in NEP might be, the optimist in me believes that hope is certainly in the horizon. A belief emboldened by the numerous polls so far conducted that puts Raila Odinga at the top among the presidential hopefuls. However, not all Somalis are in Odinga’s camp: a huge chunk of them seems to be well behind the other camp opposing Odinga’s presidential aspirations. Actually, the correct word is terrified because they seem to be petrified at the prospects of a Raila Odinga’s presidency. It is for these reasons that the politically daft Aden Barre Duale is being quoted on the Standard recently as such: “We are determined to ensure that the person who is nominated is a winner and Raila does not become (the) next president.”

So, who are these people fearful of Odinga’s victory? As Raila Odinga is wont to say, the presidential elections set for March 2013 is going to be a two horse race. So far, the two camps seem to have completely shaped up. On the one hand, we have Raila Odinga ‘s ODM and a host of many other parties forming the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). On the hand, we have the anti-reform movement headed by none other than the son of Kenyatta, one Uhuru Kenyatta. In this latter group are William Ruto – a Kalenjin and a good student of Moi’s, Musalia Mudavadi and a host of other remnants of the old order; the very order that has denied NEP achieving a decent level of development.

So, given this two options, which party or group should any right thinking Somali follow? I for one, will go for Railas’ CORD and ensure that I do all that is humanely possible for me to vote against those who aspire to follow Kenyatta’s, Moi’s and Kibaki’s footsteps. It is a fact that as unequal as Kenya as society is, NEP is the least developed and not in any way even remotely comparable to the other regions in Kenya. NEP still has the unenviable distinction of being the only province in Kenya that has no tarmac roads connecting any two towns in the region. That is just one of many infrastructures that Somali region should ideally have had. NEP, indeed, leads from the bottom in all human development indicators with the exception of peace and security which, unfortunately, has since reversed to be the worst.
Farah Maalin
Farah Maalin (left), Deputy speaker of the Kenyan Parliament

Regrettably, Duale is not the only one supporting this group; Yusuf Haji seems to be their biggest catch among the Somalis – for, there is no person more powerful than Yusuf Haji among the Somalis in Kenya at the moment. Abdikadir Mohamed and a host of many others subscribe to the tenets of this anti-reform coalition.

While on the other hand, we have Farah Maalim, Mohamed Maalim Mohamud and Mohamed Elmi (and possibly Billow Adan Kerrow) who believe that for the Somalis to realize in any meaningful development they need to join the pro-reform party and sweep all these Moi and Kenyatta era (and, of course, Kibaki’s side of the coalition) demagogues out of power. Anyway, the least we, as the Somalis in Kenya, can do is to come together as a community and vote as a block for the only presidential candidate who has so far shown solidarity with the Somali masses by visiting both Eastleigh and Garissa. Fate, I believe, should be on the side of this latter group, for the polls are so far showing a Raila lead albeit not with enough numbers to conclude the election in the first round. I am headed to Garissa to go and register as a voter. Come March 2013, I am going to vote for Farah Maalim – he is going for the senate against Mohamed Yusuf Haji.
Sadik Bashir