Opinion

Lenku’s outbursts: Who’ll tame the new warlord?

The spectre of losing an election does not have to turn anyone into a warlord. When Dr Nkedianye lost in 2017, he took it with grace and has lived to fight another day

BY MEMUSI KANCHORY

From a confident all-powerful governor, Joseph ole Lenku is now a shadow of his former self, uncertain of every step he takes. Having ridden to power in 2017 on a multi-ethnic platform, he is now the disgraced epitome of ethnic bigotry. For a man who once commanded the respect and support of a wide array of the population in Kajiado County, the fall has been so remarkable that he has been reduced to making appeals to his own clansmen to help shore up his rapidly-declining support.

But rather than learn from his precarious situation and change tactics, Lenku continues desperately clutching at straws — criticising the Kikuyu community in Kajiado at every turn, organising an aborted demonstration against his rival Dr David Nkedianye’s running mate Joseph Manje for the crime of being Kikuyu, and attempting to divide the ethnic Maasai voting bloc based on the traditional clan line-up of Black Cow vs Red Cow.

It is tempting to ignore these kinds of tactics. They are not just obnoxious, but also equally outdated. But a wounded buffalo is the most dangerous of animals, and Lenku has been badly wounded in his faltering campaign to retain his gubernatorial seat. Unlike in 2017, the numbers are not in his favour. His erstwhile friends with whom he dined and wined have turned him into a pariah and no longer want anything to do with him. The bells of electoral defeat are tolling, and it would be foolhardy for anyone to take his words and actions against other communities as empty threats.

This is why the police stopped the planned demonstration against Manje in its tracks. But more needs to be done to stop Lenku from developing into a bloodthirsty monster. The history of this country shows that threats from politicians against other communities should not be taken lightly. Memories from the ethnic clashes of 1992, 1997 — and the worst of them in 2007-8 — are still fresh in the minds of Kenyans.

This is why Lenku must be stopped in his tracks. The danger of an ethnic conflagration can never be ignored in any part of Kenya. Despite being a highly cosmopolitan county, Kajiado has enjoyed peace and harmony between various communities devoid of the animosity and frequent clashes that have bedevilled some areas of this country almost every election cycle. The seeds of discord now being sowed by the likes of Lenku are a threat to the existing peaceful coexistence of various communities in Kajiado.

Only recently, Lenku scoffed at Dr Nkedianye’s choice of a Kikuyu running mate, inflaming passions among the Maasai against their Kikuyu neighbours. This is notwithstanding the fact that the Kikuyu community largely domiciled in Kajiado North constituency voted as a bloc for Lenku in 2017. It it time that the outgoing governor embraced the fact that ethnic diversity is here to stay and that the rights of all Kenyans are guaranteed wherever they may choose to settle in the country.

The spectre of losing an election does not have to turn anyone into a warlord. When Dr Nkedianye lost in 2017, he took it with grace and has lived to fight another day. In this year’s election, he is in fact a serious frontrunner giving Lenku sleepless nights and may well recapture the seat. Similarly, Lenku must be told in no uncertain terms that his diminishing chances at the ballot box must not lead him to stoke ethnic tensions in Kajiado County. The National Cohesion Integration Commission needs to take action. Moreover, if Lenku persists, the law must take its course.

The author is Kajiado Central MP and a postgraduate law student at the University of Nairobi.

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