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Kenya’s Past as Prologue

 | 
Christian Thibon
, 
Marie-Aude Fouéré
, 
Mildred Ndeda
, 
et al.

The Quest for New Political Leadership in the South Rift, Kenya

Joseph Misati Akuma

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 For the first time, the country held a general election under a popularly enacted constitutional di (...)

1In any country, the authority of the government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in genuine, free and fair elections, held at regular intervals on the basis of the universal, equal and secret suffrage (Gill, 2006). In Kenya, the electoral campaigns that preceded the March 2013 general elections were expected to enable the citizens to objectively vote for personalities who would access political power.1 The new Kenyan constitution empowers the citizens to control and stop the manipulation of electoral process by political aspirants to fraudulently gain political power. Indeed, this election was for the first time different in various aspects. Firstly, the leading presidential contenders participated in two presidential debates in which they were asked to articulate their policy proposals with regard to important themes, like governance, national unity, corruption and wealth creation, thus putting political, institutional and development issues at the center of the electoral stage rather than ethnicity or political competition. Secondly, the vote was held under a supposedly transparent and accountable Elections body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and a newly instituted independent judiciary, the Supreme Court had been instituted. It was expected that these institutions could impact positively on the conduct of the campaign process at the grassroots and prompt a focus on programs and ideas. However, the outcome of the vote compared to the opinion poll results released two months before Election Day demonstrate that, contrary to expectations, Kenya’s 2010 constitution has neither proved able to enhance the legitimacy and stability of the political system, nor its capacity to foster democratic elections, as demonstrated by sites on debates and discussions about the present and the desired future for Kenyan society. In this regard, this chapter attempts to answer two questions: Firstly, how did the political opinion at the national level impact on the voting behavior at the level of the local political arena? Secondly, did the call for rallying for a new crop of leadership popularly referred to as “digital generation” made at the national level play a key role in the choice of the local leadership? The discussion is based upon the case study of Narok County in southwestern Kenya.

Narok voting patterns in competitive politics, 1992-2012

  • 2 These comprise the Kipsigis, Gikuyu, Kisii, Luhya, Luo, Somali and the Kamba ethnic groups.
  • 3 Daily Nation, January 2, 1998.
  • 4 IED/CJPC/NCCK (1998), Report on the 1998 General elections in Kenya, December 29-30, 1997. Nairobi, (...)

2Narok County is situated in South-West Kenya. It borders Nakuru, Bomet, Nyamira and Kisii to the North West, Kajiado to the East and Migori to the West and also shares a border to the South with Tanzania. Prior to 1992 first multi-party elections, Narok County (then comprising of Narok North, Narok South and Trans-Mara Constituencies) voted solidly for KANU (Kenya African National Union) as was the case in most areas in the South Rift. Upon the introduction of multi-party politics in the country in the 1992 general elections, and despite protracted attempts mounted by local opposition politicians, former president Daniel arap Moi garnered an absolute majority of the votes in Maasailand, scoring as high as 97% of the presidential vote in Narok South Constituency. In the 1997 general elections, the ethnicity factor gained importance as a result of the opening up of the region and the influx of non-Maasai2 voters who were seen as a threat to the existing political leadership.3 William Ole Ntimama stood on a KANU ticket and was elected unopposed. In the presidential vote, Moi’s KANU scored 81.2% against Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party of Kenya’s 15.4%. From then on, William Ole Ntimama used the simmering land issue to his advantage, persistently making the minority communities of Narok county –whom he often referred to as “alien trouble makers” – responsible for deprivation of Maasai rights. By cleverly overlaying and ethicizing the problem of land in the area, he built himself as the undisputed leader surrounded and supported by a cohesive local constituency. In Kilgoris, a KANU zone, William Sunkuli (KANU) won the parliamentary seat with 63.89% of the votes against Gideon Konchela’s (Democratic Party of Kenya) 35.77%.4

  • 5 The proposed constitutional draft named after the then Kenya’s attorney general, Amos Wako, was put (...)

3In the general election of 2002, which represented a true consolidation of democracy in Kenya, the Maasai voted in favour of Mwai Kibaki and NARC, with the opposition coalition winning four out of the six seats held by Maasai politicians with the exception of Narok South and Kajiado Central. In the Kenyan constitution referendum held on November 21, 2005, the people of Narok voted overwhelmingly against the Wako draft.5 In the subsequent 2007 general elections, the Maasai of Narok stood solidly behind the ODM party.

The 2013 election campaign in Narok County

4In the 2013 general election campaigns, clan politics, party politics– majorly pitting ODM and URP political parties revolved around the ‘sticky land issue’ stood dominant. Also issues on the state of infrastructure, mainly the road network, which has remained pathetic for a long time, and the lack of basic health care facilities, that has often caused local residents to die of curable diseases were at the core of political debates in the county. The state of poverty, which has been attributed to the poor leadership in the past and the deeply entrenched suspicion between the “host” (Maasai) and the “migrant communities”, was also a major issue in the local elections. Other major concerns raised by the electorate were the need to address corruption and gender concerns, and to “break with the past” so that a “new generation leadership” is put in place.

  • 6 Daily Nation, December 31, 2013.

5One of the most important determinants of the outcome of the 2013 vote in the country at the national level was the desire to pass over the mantle to a “youthful leadership”. This resonated well with the thinking and aspirations at the local level. The idea that the “old guard” ought to give way for the “young blood” in order to steer the county’s political leadership to greater heights was widely articulate dearly during the electoral campaigns in the county.6 The residents equated this to mean that they shunthe old crop of politicians like William Ole Ntimama, who had hitherto been considered as the Maasai community’s spokesman. Determination for change was openly demonstrated when William Ole Ntimama’s endorsement of Johnson Nchoe for the gubernatorial seat met open resistance. Although the importance and respect accorded by Narok community to the elder statesman was acknowledged by many, it was felt that the choice of Nchoe could serve Ntimama’s personal interests, thus maintaining the old political dispensation. For the senatorial seat, although Andrew Leteipa Sunkuli (Independent candidate) had been touted as providing the new crop of leadership, the incessant wrangles for the position with his elder brother, Julius Lekekany Sunkuli, made both of them loose the nomination for the popular URP party ticket to Stephen Ole Ntutu. The Women’s Representative position was equally a contest between the old and the new guard: it pitted Agnes Pareiyio (57) and Eunice Marima, wife of the first MP of Narok (60) against the youthful Soipan Tuya, Agnes Shonko and Janet Nchoko.

  • 7 Sunday Nation, December 30, 2013.

6At the national level, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Samoei Ruto’s Jubilee coalition cast the election contest as “a generational battle”. These two political leaders portrayed themselves as a fresh alternative to their CORD rivals.7 The national political spectrum seems to have been replicated at the local political arena when, in a meeting at their Poroko home, elders from three Maasai clans who convened to arbitrate on who among the two Sunkuli brothers should be allowed to stand for the position of senator, ruled in favor of the younger Sunkuli: this was a complete departure from expectation that Julius, being older and politically more experienced, could have been handed the victory. Yet the elders, on their part, explained that “according to Maasai culture, it is not prudent to send two brothers to war as they could fight each other”. Failing to heed the elders’ decision, the two brothers ran for the senatorial seat all the same, with the younger Sunkuli running as an independent candidate while the elder one ran on a TNA ticket. Both, however, lost to the elderly Stephen Ole Ntutu who had been handed the prestigious URP ticket on which he won the senatorial seat. As for the gubernatorial seat, the youthful Samwel Kuntai Tunai was handed the URP ticket to run against a host of other contenders: Johnson Nchoe (ODM), Ledama Ole Kina (Independent), Konchela (KANU), Musuni (KNC) and Nkoitoi (WDM-K). In the end Samwel Kuntai Tunai emerged the winner, becoming the first governor for Narok County.

The new generation leadership: Illuminating the national political scene on the local arena

  • 8 Opinion polls conducted in February2013 indicated that Narok County was a CORD stronghold. This exp (...)

7Contrary to the opinion polls conducted just before the March 2013 elections which showed that Narok County was a CORD zone8 the Jubilee alliance’s URP and TNA political parties eclipsed the ODM party in the county to win the Governor and Senate seats and all (except Emurua Dikirr) Parliamentary seats. Additionally, the youthful URP candidate, Rosalinda Tuya (34 years) was elected the county Women’s representative. Surprisingly, in the presidential elections (see table 1) Raila Odinga, the Cord coalition presidential candidate, led with over 50% of the county’s total votes, followed by Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta with slightly over 46%.

Table 1: Presidential results for Narok County, 2013

Table 1: Presidential results for Narok County, 2013

Source: IEBC, 2013

  • 9 The Maasai have always claimed for redressing their land rights, feeling that migrant communities ( (...)
  • 10 See the narrow margin as demonstrated by the percentage votes garnered by the two candidates (table (...)
  • 11 This will depend on whether the present coalition of URP and TNA parties will continue to hold.
  • 12 Kenyans have been known to vote in a 6-piece system (formerly 3-piece system in which votes are cas (...)
  • 13 Akiwumi report on tribal clashes in the Rift Valley.
  • 14 Daily Nation, March 19, 2013.
  • 15 Interview with Kosiom ole Lemut, civic ward aspirant, at Olchorro on February 13, 2013.

8The aftermath of March 2013 elections in Narok County portrays the proverbial imagery of a community’s desire of not “putting their eggs in one basket” or, to put in another way, “killing two birds using one stone”. The massive support for Raila Odinga is attributable to his reform policies on land9 and stand on eviction of mainly the Kalenjin settlers of the Mau forest complex water tower, which sounded politically favourable to the native Maasai inhabitants. Nevertheless, there are clear indications pointing to the fact that this state of affairs is likely to change as demonstrated by the gains10 made by the Jubilee candidate, whose votes majorly comprise those of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin in the county.11 Similarly, the decision by a large percentage of the residents to vote for the presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, while handing massive support to the “lower seat” aspirants from URP party appear paradoxical.12 This can be explained by the long-standing suspicion and rivalry that has always been prevalent within the locality between the local Maasai and the migrant Kikuyu community. For instance, in the early 1990s, when the constitutional reform debate kicked off, William Ole Ntimama reopened the discussion on majimboism; he also accused Kenya’s founding president, the late Jomo Kenyatta, of undermining the independence constitution to favour one tribe and ensure that his people (Kikuyu) dominate the other ethnic groups of Kenya. At the height of the Moi era, violent clashes which broke out at Enoosupukia in Narok County in October1993 led to the eviction of an estimated 5,000 Kikuyu from their farms.13 When attempts were made to resettle them, the local leadership made it clear that no-one could be allowed back to Narok (Hornsby, 2012). During the one-decade rule by President Mwai Kibaki, efforts to resettle the IDPs on land bought by the government for this purpose met strong opposition from the county residents.14 People in Narok widely believed that handing the mantle to a Kikuyu president could work against the land rights of the Maasai community.15

9The election results for winners of County and Parliamentary seats show a landslide victory for the Jubilee coalition (see Table 2 and Table 3). All except one parliamentary seat (Emurua Dikirr) were taken up by the Jubilee coalition, while the winning candidates for Gubernatorial, Senatorial and Women’s representative were won by the candidates who contested on the URP ticket; but the elections for the county assembly representatives saw other parties not featuring in the Presidential, Governor and Senatorial positions win several seats (see Table 4).

Table 2: Narok County parliamentary election results, 2013

Constituency

Name

Political Party

Coalition

Kilgoris

Gideon Konchella

URP

Jubilee

Emurua Dikirr

Johana Ng’eno

KNC

Eagle

Narok North

Moitalel ole Kenta

TNA

Jubilee

Narok East

Ken Kiloku

URP

Jubilee

Narok South

Lemein Korei

URP

Jubilee

Narok West

Patrick ole Ntutu

URP

Jubilee

Source: IEBC, 2013

Table 3: Winning candidates for Narok County leaders’ seats, 2013

Position

Name

Political party

Coalition

Governor

Samwel Kuntai Tunai

URP

Jubilee

Senator

Stephen Ntutu

URP

Jubilee

Women rep

Soipan Tuya

URP

Jubilee

Source: IEBC, 2013

Table 4: Results for Members of County Assembly (MCA’s) vs party affiliation, 2013

Political Party

Seats won

ODM

4

URP

13

KNC

6

TNA

4

WDM-K

1

RBK

2

Source: IEBC, 2013

  • 16 His win can be attributed to the failure by the elder Sunkuli to give way to his younger brother de (...)
  • 17 Daily Nation, March 20, 2013.
  • 18 During the campaigns, Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential running mate under the Jubilee coalition, Willi (...)

10Again, all winners (except Stephen Ole Ntutu)16 are young legislators as well as first-time entrants into the political scene. The triumph of the Jubilee coalition in the county, previously dominated by ODM can be explained as follows. Firstly, the URP provided a natural alternative for the community to bring in a fresh leadership, not to mention that its association with Francis Ole Kaparo, a Maasai, led to its appeal to the local community. On the other hand, the TNA/URP merger provided a sole platform on which the Kikuyu and Kalenjin voters in the locality could exercise their right to choose a candidate of their own choice without fear of being reprimanded by their Maasai neighbours. For instance, Moitalel Ole Kenta (a Maasai) received overwhelming support by the mainly Kikuyu voters in the cosmopolitan Narok North Constituency. This scenario presents a positive development in the region as it supports the thesis that “in an ethnically divided society, ethnic affiliations provide a sense of security, trust, certainty, reciprocal help” (Smith, 2009) and provides the pointer to the potential to harness ethnicity for national cohesion.17 In addition, other factors such as age seem to have played a key role. For example, while Johana Ng’eno, though standing on the little known KNC party in Emurua Dikirr Constituency, received overwhelming support in the vote by the mainly Kalenjin residents to beat URP’s David Kipsang Keter.18

Conclusion

  • 19 According to Nabende (2010: 107) elections remain the best method for advancing regime change and t (...)

11In the foregoing discussion, we have followed the Maasai voting patterns in Narok County since the re-introduction of the multi-party political system in Kenya in 1992. A striking aspect of the major issues at stake during the 1990s was the desire to safeguard the communities’ resources, mainly land coupled with the rapid gain of importance of the ethnicity factor mainly as a result of the opening up of the county and the subsequent influx of non-Maasai voters, more so after the sub-division of group ranches, making land a commodity that could be sold to outsiders. In the subsequent elections, although the restoration of the indigenous communities’ rights remained the focus, the simmering poverty levels amid endowment with vast natural resources led the electorate to agitate the need for having a youthful leadership at the helm to captivate a new development agenda in line with the country’s current decentralized strategy. Whether the new crop of political leadership will be able to consolidate its position and steer the region to prosperity remains to be seen. On the overall the case of Narok demonstrates the significance of counties not only to the politics of the South-Rift but also to that of the national level. It is also clear that the scenario that unfolded in the region with regard to the just concluded general elections present a window of opportunity for the county to evolve its own unique political culture which will be important for establishing a liberal democratic regime19 in the region and beyond.

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Notes

1 For the first time, the country held a general election under a popularly enacted constitutional dispensation.

2 These comprise the Kipsigis, Gikuyu, Kisii, Luhya, Luo, Somali and the Kamba ethnic groups.

3 Daily Nation, January 2, 1998.

4 IED/CJPC/NCCK (1998), Report on the 1998 General elections in Kenya, December 29-30, 1997. Nairobi, Institute for Education in Democracy/Catholic Justice & Peace Commission/National Council of Churches of Kenya.

5 The proposed constitutional draft named after the then Kenya’s attorney general, Amos Wako, was put to national referendum on November 21, 2005. The document was unpopular among indigenous groups such as the Ogiek and Maasai, arguing it did not do enough to curb presidential powers.

6 Daily Nation, December 31, 2013.

7 Sunday Nation, December 30, 2013.

8 Opinion polls conducted in February2013 indicated that Narok County was a CORD stronghold. This explains why its approximately 253,086 voters out of the county’s population of 850,920 were expected to vote overwhelmingly for the coalition.

9 The Maasai have always claimed for redressing their land rights, feeling that migrant communities (mainly Kikuyu) had suppressed them, taken their land and degraded their environment.

10 See the narrow margin as demonstrated by the percentage votes garnered by the two candidates (table1).

11 This will depend on whether the present coalition of URP and TNA parties will continue to hold.

12 Kenyans have been known to vote in a 6-piece system (formerly 3-piece system in which votes are cast for candidates at all levels, from presidential to civic level for a similar party).

13 Akiwumi report on tribal clashes in the Rift Valley.

14 Daily Nation, March 19, 2013.

15 Interview with Kosiom ole Lemut, civic ward aspirant, at Olchorro on February 13, 2013.

16 His win can be attributed to the failure by the elder Sunkuli to give way to his younger brother despite the ruling passed by the community elders in favour of the latter.

17 Daily Nation, March 20, 2013.

18 During the campaigns, Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential running mate under the Jubilee coalition, William Samoei Ruto campaigned against Ng’eno, who overcame the strong URP wave in Rift Valley to become the first MP for the created constituency by garnering 17,627 votes against Keter 7,819 votes.

19 According to Nabende (2010: 107) elections remain the best method for advancing regime change and the manner in which citizens utilize elections to decide the personalities who access power constitutes a core element of democratic governance.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1: Presidential results for Narok County, 2013
Crédits Source: IEBC, 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/1542/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k

Auteur

Lecturer, School of Arts & Social Sciences, Maasai Mara University.

© Africae, 2014

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