The lack of a political vehicle that can be used in negotiations on behalf of the Maasai has led to their being short-changed in the allocation of the national cake
It is no secret that all the major ethnic communities have several political parties among each of them, some more dominant than others. It was therefore perplexing to hear State House Comptroller Katoo ole Metito dismiss concerns by Maasai who have expressed a desire to register and popularise their own political vehicle.
Speaking at a public function in Kimuka in Kajiado County, Katoo poured cold water on such efforts, reminding his audience about the fate of former presidential contender James ole Kiyiapi, whose party did not manage to get a single seat throughout Maasailand. The professor’s Restore and Build Kenya Party (RBK) only won one MCA seat in Taita Taveta County.
That experience, according to Katoo, shows that any attempt to market a political party with roots among the Maasai would become a dismal failure. He went ahead to challenge anyone interested in such a proposition to proceed to form a political party.
It is easy to understand Katoo’s position. His boss, President William Ruto, has embarked on efforts to collapse the constituent parties that formed the Kenya Kwanza coalition into one political party. As a key figure in the president’s team, Katoo must toe the line and cannot be expected to pursue an independent path.
That said, Katoo’s sentiments amount to political suicide. Wisdom would have demanded that he treads more cautiously before pronouncing himself on such a sensitive topic that is close to the hearts of the Maasai. As it is, the goofs he has been making in recent months are far from over.
Political parties serve to champion the interests of supporters in attempting to obtain or negotiate power. While the Kikuyu and Kalenjin dominated the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party that went on to win the presidential contest at the last general election, other communities with their smaller parties provided the swing votes that made the difference.
Having negotiated through their political parties, for instance, the Luhya were rewarded with the Chief Cabinet Secretary position held by Musalia Mudavadi and the position of Speaker of the National Assembly held by Moses Wetangula, among other incentives.
On the side of the opposition Azimio-One Kenya Alliance, ethnic-based political formations also played a major role. Had the party emerged victorious, communities such as the Kikuyu, Luo and Kamba would have benefited immensely through their political parties that are members of the coalition.
The lack of a political vehicle that can be used in negotiations on behalf of the Maasai, the community feels, has led to their being short-changed in the allocation of the national cake. To them, it did not make sense for Katoo to look out for his personal interests at the expense of the community’s welfare by opposing the growing undercurrents for a Maasai political party.
In fact, many Maasai feel that they have gone overboard in accommodating the interests of other communities on their own soil, including granting them elective political leadership positions. This was one of the reasons Katoo failed to garner enough votes to unseat Lenku, having fielded a running mate from outside the community.
Whereas Katoo had sought to attract the votes of the significant non-Maasai communities that have settled in Kajiado County, this did not go down well with his own people. Even worse, despite his influential position Katoo did not think about his running mate after losing the gubernatorial contest; Governor Joseph ole Lenku later appointed her to the county executive, earning himself accolades for the show of magnanimity.
Among those who were present at the forum in Kimuka was former Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda, who bears significant weight despite having lost the Senatorial seat at the last election. Following his defeat, the former legislator decamped from the Jubilee Party to join UDA. It is not lost on observers, however, that more community opinion-shapers have decamped from Katoo than those who have joined him, putting in grave danger his 2027 gubernatorial aspirations.
It will be interesting to watch Katoo’s next tactical mistakes, which his opponents are sure to exploit to the maximum.