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Kenya, things have changed

Central reflects on post-Kibaki era

Published on May 11, 2008, 12:00 am

Sunday Standard Team

There is soul searching in Central Province with disappointment targeting President Kibaki and elderly politicians who have surrounded him over the years.

With the anger and rebellion that for now is being expressed only in hushed tones, the idea of a generational transfer of power initially associated with followers of the outlawed Mungiki sect, is getting a new life and going mainstream.

Anchoring these is the feeling that the General Election last year left the region hugely isolated from the rest of Kenya, in what some upcoming leaders blame on the old guard. They accuse them of using the community to fight the battles of just 100 or so rich people.

Sources told The Sunday Standard that the clamour by some leaders to have the Government negotiate with Mungiki instead of killing its followers is inspired largely by two issues:

One, old leaders are trying to catch up with, if not all the same hijack and control the idea of a leadership change.

There is also the fear that the youth in this region could soon rally behind Prime Minister Raila Odinga who called for an end to the killing of Mungiki members and advocated for negotiations.

Interviews with various sources familiar with the simmering dissent in the region revealed that people here, especially the young, are beginning to take a new look at Raila, especially after he agreed to share power with President Kibaki, then going with him to the camps for the displaced in the Rift Valley.

Fear

The fear that Raila could run away with votes of ‘the children of the Mau Mau’ and “Central’s Diaspora” in the Rift Valley is said to be the reason behind the determination by President Kibaki to hurriedly resettle the displaced.

The fear is said to be that if it is not done now, the Prime Minister will do it as soon as his office gets fully operational and run away with the prize.

Sources say that as part of the rethink sweeping through Central Province, upcoming leaders have come up with various initiatives to chart the path out of what they see as the “isolated corner” the community has been pushed into and plot life after President Kibaki.

Between January and now, a source disclosed, there have been at least 40 initiatives to address the issues, with many meetings coming up with different names to provide rallying point for the future.

The initiatives have included groupings of people under one name or another, looking into the same issue.

Among the names that have been touted for organisations to rally opinion against the old guard include the Agikuyu Progressive Lobby, Progressive Kikuyu Lobby, Gema, Gema Community Council, and Rift Valley Kikuyu Council of Elders, among others.

Those behind the push for the rethink say they want to embark urgently on building bridges with other Kenyans. They believe those bridges were destroyed by “the old guard who have refused to surrender power”.

While the various initiatives have not consolidated into one big movement, sources say such a development is coming soon, and the main agenda will be to transfer power from the old guard to the young.

The idea of transfer of power is popular with Mungiki followers, who now constitute a powerful voting block in Central Province, hence the rush by leaders to defend the sect.

“Every politician is struggling to be seen to be with Mungiki because the idea is taking root,” a source who was at a meeting two weeks ago said.

“The Kalenjin were able to take power from the old. In Luoland, those who were in power with Oginga Odinga have been pushed aside and they have agreed to retire. The same has happened in Luhyaland. Only Central Province is stuck with leaders who served the colonial, Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki governments,” one source said.

“Moi tried to stop that wave for change in the Rift Valley and failed. Mr Simeon Nyachae tried to stop it in Kisii and failed. We are saying there is need for a decisive breaking of ranks in Central,” the source added.

Explosive issue

Nobody wants to discuss the issue on record. Various sources described it as explosive. “The people against it are those you do not want to be caught going against. It is the kind of topic one can get killed for,” a source said.

“The fear of being called traitors is also stopping people from speaking out. But there is a shared feeling that we must take this opportunity to sort out our problem,” he added.

He disclosed that one of the most recent meetings on the subject took place on Labour Day, May 1. The word “progressive” is being used deliberately to distance the initiative from the old leadership, seen to have presided over the isolation of the community. But the so-called “progressives” still marvel at how entrenched the “retrogressive” forces are.

“The frustration is that as we settle on each initiative, you find some of the same wazees taking the top slots, each time being touted as chairmen, patron and such titles,” a source said.

“The same elite do not want the information to come out that there is a cry for leadership transfer. They fear being seen to be out of control, and Mungiki is causing a lot of upheaval from below in the region,” he added.

The old guard’s fear, sources reveal, is that the Mungiki followers could gravitate towards Raila. “Should they do that, Central’s vote is gone,” a source who has been to various meetings said.

“Part of the reason the Government is rushing to resettle the displaced is fear that Raila could do it once he settles down. They want to do it before he settles. If you want to know the link between Mungiki and the displaced, you need to understand that in Central, people believe it is Mungiki that stopped the onslaught on the community in the Rift Valley,” a source said.

There has always been concern that politicians from central Kenya have links with Mungiki or quietly support it. But few came out openly to side with the sect.

But on May 1, the same day a group was meeting to plot how to steer the region out of the clutches of old politicians, former MPs Njenga Karume, Joseph Kamotho, Norman Nyagah, Macharia Mukiri and Maragua MP Elias Mbau issued a statement calling for talks between the outlawed Mungiki sect and the Government. Mbau was the only MP at the press conference in Nairobi.

Kamotho added that the killing of young people from Central Province was alarming and uncalled for.

“There is a burial in every village in Central Province, especially in Murang’a and Maragua districts. The Government should engage the youth in discussions and not try to suppress them by killing them,” Kamotho said.

Sources familiar with the ongoings say the group of old politicians is trying to catch up with the unfolding events in the region, where the youth are charting a new course, but with strong affiliations with Mungiki.

President Kibaki is caught in this simmering resentment, with some saying he made the community suffer for him, but failed to protect the community when it was attacked.

Some also accuse him of “handing over our power” to ODM. Still there are those who also blame the community’s leaders for failing to stand by the President at the peak of the crisis.

At one meeting, some of the leaders accusing the President of letting the community down listed names of 10 people who were in intelligence and security wings of Government but still could not save the community from attacks.

The group’s reasoning was that when the attacks began in January, Kibaki had been sworn-in as President, Karume was Defence Minister, John Michuki was in charge of Internal Security, Cyrus Gituai was PS in the Ministry, while other members of the community controlled other State security organs.

Part of this disenchantment with the President, one source said, was displayed in Molo, when he visited the refugee with Raila, about two weeks ago.

“There is a lot of feeling that the President never provided leadership when the community was under attack. Even more, there is a feeling that he is leaving behind a community that is rudderless, leaderless and isolated. We are going to start from the scratch as a community,” another source said.

Which way Central Province will go in 2012 General Election, even those behind the new initiatives say is too early to tell now.

What they are agreed on is that the region is in “disarray” and leadership will have to change hands.

Initially, the push for generational transfer of power was seen to favour Gatundu South MP and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. But, a source said, things have changed.

“Central missed out on transfer of power when Uhuru chickened out of the presidential race. He is viewed to have lost a major chance when he joined Kibaki. Had he stayed put, Central would have changed the way Rift Valley did,” one of the leaders behind the new push said.

“There is no structured process now. But there is a lot of running around. Everyone wants to be seen to be the one driving the change,” he added.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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