Community News

EDITORIAL: Ethnic genie rears its ugly head

Kajiado MP Memusi Kanchori, speaking at a funeral in his constituency, has said that Lenku was going about deceiving people that he had decamped from the Jubilee Party and joined ODM on the pretext that Jubilee was insisting he must appoint a Kikuyu as his running mate

Inflammatory utterances by Kajiado politicians have raised the spectre of ethnic animosity rearing its ugly head ahead of the August 9 polls.

This is reminiscent of previous electoral cycles that have been characterised by inter-communal violence since 1992. If not nipped in the bud, the repercussions could well be severe and tear apart the remaining vestiges of our nation-state.

Addressing his supporters in Kiswahili, politician Tarayia ole Korres pointedly said that despite its cosmopolitan outlook and multi-ethnic composition, Kajiado had its “owners”. He then asked the charged crowd: “Shall we agree to outsiders entering the bedroom?” The response, undoubtedly, was a resounding “No!”

But this is not an isolated case. Kajiado MP Memusi Kanchori, speaking at a funeral in his constituency, has said that Lenku was going about deceiving people that he had decamped from the Jubilee Party and joined ODM on the pretext that Jubilee was insisting he must appoint a Kikuyu as his running mate.

“What sort of leader lies to the people in such a manner? Jubilee is not a Kikuyu party. He wants to put the Maasai community at loggerheads with other ethnic communities living in Kajiado. I am asking him to desist from such utterances.”

This trend towards ethnic bigotry by some politicians is as frightening as it is unfortunate. The very fabric of this nation was at great risk of unravelling following the highly contested presidential election of December 2007, leading to post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people lost their lives, property of immense value was destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were internally displaced.

It is too soon for politicians to have forgotten the lessons from that unfortunate period of our history and to begin stoking ethnic tensions once again.

Indeed, it has been customary over the past three decades for some politicians to seek to displace communities that they consider “outsiders” if these blocs of voters appear to favour alternative candidates. Whereas every Kenyan has the constitutional right to work, settle, and own property in any part of the republic, election years have been a time of grief and uncertainty for millions of people. This should not be allowed to continue.

Unlike other volatile multi-ethnic regions of the county, Kajiado has been relatively peaceful in past elections. Indeed, a sprinkling of non-Maasai leaders have found their way to elective office. The actions and utterances of some politicians, if not tamed, now serve as an existential threat to the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of various ethnic communities in Kajiado.

An ethnic conflagration in Kajiado, so close to the seat of power in Nairobi, will have a huge impact not only on ethnic harmony but also perceptions and investment decisions by both local and international investors. With rising land prices in the capital, much investment and new settlement has flowed to the surrounding counties of Kajiado, Kiambu and Machakos.

A campaign of resentment by one community against others could raise temperatures throughout the country and lead to unintended consequences for everyone. It behoves all leaders to put the genie back in the bottle and ensure they campaign without resorting to appeals that will raise ethnic tensions.

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