What if Mount Kenya politicians spread their demands too thin? Well, we all agree that the region is vote rich, but without a presidential candidate it may even be a herculean task to get the numbers out to vote in the first place. Week in week out we are treated to Mount Kenya leaders’ meetings and their demands with this assumption that they will not have a presidential candidate. If they are that strong a voting bloc, why can’t they just field a presidential candidate and save Kenyans the charades!
Political leaders from Mount Kenya, who have not even been speaking the same language now want to treat presidential candidates and Kenyans as though this election is about serving the interest of one region. It is not. Kenya is a multi-party democracy and at the end of the day we need leadership that will address the problems of all Kenyans and allow Kenyans to share the economic prosperity of our nation.
When leaders who have been speaking from different perspectives, coalesce around ethnic and regional interests, then know that it is not about leadership and neither is it about the common mwanaichi’s interest. It is definitely about their positions and their push for political relevance.
The government that we have today has been accused by some of the very Mount Kenya leaders of neglecting the mountain and taking development to other regions despite having been overwhelmingly elected by Mount Kenya folks. In fact, in post handshake Preisident Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been accused of taking development to Nyanza which is not even true. The truth of the matter is that, despite many challenges like COVID-19 pandemic and politics of succession, we have seen serious development that tap on the economic potentials of different parts of this country. The blue economy and the Port of Lamu in the coast, Konza techno-city in Ukambani, the health infrastructure in Western Kenya, the Port of Kisumu and manufacturing in the lakeside region, roads in Mount Kenya and the incentives to coffee and tea farmers in central Kenya. NMS has also done a tremendous job in addressing access to quality healthcare in the city.
Granted, Mt Kenya has a fairly significant voting bloc and whoever gets close to 70% of the Mountain vote (and I doubt anyone will) is likely to win in round one of the elections. But only if their traditional voting block remains intact. Take Raila Odinga for instance, if he gets that 70% and loses Western, Turkana and the Coast and Ukambani, the permutations become difficult. He has got to consolidate his base and move beyond Mount Kenya leaders and opinion shapers and cascade his message to the common citizenry. Former Vice Presidents, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi have got to not only keep their traditional bases, but also hope that Raila Odinga throws his weight behind them. A tall odyssey that even Greek great Odysseus himself would warn them against. Why? Because whatever percentage they get from Mount Kenya and Raila’s home base, Deputy President William Ruto will get a winning combination. Why? Because if it is not Raila Odinga, the hustler nation will get more votes in Western, get a good percentage in Mt Kenya, clip something from Raila’s Luo Nyanza and most likely split 50/50 in Gusii Land, Coast, North Eastern and bang Turkana and part of Maasai nation.
Even against the demands of 40% share of the cabinet, what is clear is the fact that in the last five years a lot of what has been achieved and the attendant benefits seems to serve Kenyans who are pretentiously unbothered by who owns what stake in government. For instance, how will 40% of the cabinet and in key cabinet portfolios touted by those wedging demands help one particular region? Cabinet does not sit to make regional policies or approve sessional papers to serve ethnic interest. It sits to address national agenda and if someone is telling Kenyans that they will vote for a particular presidential candidate because that presidential candidate will guarantee them certain cabinet positions, just know that there you have political leaders looking for opportunities for self-aggrandisement. Kenyans expect that conversations would be around resource allocation and distribution and not just in one region but the entire country. Because, resource allocation and distribution speaks to the interest of the common mwanaichi while positions in cabinet and stake in government without Wanjiku at the centre of it, speak to selfish interest driven by the desire to be in highly resourced government positions to influence corruption driven capital expenditure.
The people of Mount Kenya need to speak rather than allow a few leaders hope from one retreat to another hawking themselves in the name of Mount Kenya people. In fact, these leaders are likely to push the strong candidates into a corner that might just unite strong presidential candidates into a coalition without some of these self-seeking Mount Kenya leaders.
Hesbon Hansen Owilla
The author is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies and Political communication.