‘Big Two’ must now call off the dogs

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga (left) and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto
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Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Whether the calls made at separate prayer services on Sunday were coordinated or not, they brought out true leaders and statesmen.
  • Of note is that neither Ruto nor former Mr Odinga in the same Nairobi suburb, made a claim to have won.
  • And for the Ruto and Raila camp followers, the address where the calls for peace were made is significant.

Amidst all the anxiety and tension over the excruciatingly slow verification of the presidential election vote count, the two main rivals, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, did the good and decent thing by appealing for peace and calm.

Whether the calls made at separate prayer services on Sunday were coordinated or not, they brought out true leaders and statesmen who understand that Kenya is more important than any individual quests for power.

They displayed a keen appreciation of the potential for chaos bubbles just below the surface and that the heightened expectations of their respective bands of supporters needed to be contained and managed.

Of note is that neither Deputy President Ruto, at a private chapel at his Karen residence, nor former Prime Minister Odinga, at the St Francis Church in the same Nairobi suburb, made a claim to have won; both simply expressed hope that they would.

This is a very important detail because both front runners command fanatical support bases, who were taking as gospel truth the claims of victory by their respective mouthpieces.

To the zealots, anything to the contrary amounts to evidence of electoral fraud and ought to be countered aggressively.

And for the Ruto and Raila camp followers, the address where the calls for peace were made is significant.

The former has his official residence as Deputy President in Karen, and he also has his private residence in the same locality. Mr Odinga was at a church not very far from his home.

The two live not very far from each other, enjoying the comforts of the exclusive suburbs that were once the exclusive redoubt of landed English gentry.

They are the African elite that moved into the formerly white areas and resolved that the peace and serenity of life insulated from the sweaty, teeming masses be maintained.

They share the same Member of County Assembly for Karen Ward and the same Member of the National Assembly for Langata, a constituency Mr Odinga once represented before Kibra was hived off it. 

It’s likely that when the two have pressing issues on the usual humdrum things like water, sanitation, ugly buildings, garbage collection, mushrooming kiosks, road repairs or noisy nightclubs, the first port of call will not be the area representatives or the ward manager but the Karengata (Karen and Langata) Association.

Civic-minded citizens

If indeed, they are civic-minded citizens, the seeming arch-rivals will both be paid-up members of the hitherto all-white body—the oldest residents association in Kenya that was formed in the 1940s to help to preserve the ‘character’ of the low-density neighbourhood.

Karengata is famous for—in the 1980, under the leadership of Mike Mills—winning a battle against residents paying property taxes to the now-extinct Nairobi City Council on the basis that they were not getting the requisite services.

The residents were allowed by the courts to pay their rates to a bank account controlled by the association. I’m not sure where the matter was resolved, but it was a unique case that established the rights of citizens to demand services in return for their taxes and refuse to pay if the money is not used for their benefit.

The American War of Independence was fought on the rallying cry of ‘No Taxation Without Representation’.

Our new President will be a beneficiary and presumed proponent of ‘No Taxation Without Services’.

I may have digressed, but that is still a very important point. The two top contenders may have fought one of the most bitter presidential campaigns.

Angry words were exchanged and one imagines they could have come to blows if perchance they got within arm’s length of each other.

The truth, however, is that there is more that unites than divides them. Forget the Hustler versus Dynasty narrative that Dr Ruto so skillfully exploited, and you will find that he and Mr Odinga are from the same socioeconomic elite.

They are ‘watu wa Karen’ and count amongst their fellow aristocrats in the leafy suburb’s respective allies, the likes of Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula.

In 2007, the political elite incited poor villagers and jobless urban youth to wage war on their behalf.

The outcome was the closest Kenya has ever come to dismemberment.

Dr Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta were hauled before the International Criminal Court, in the Netherlands, to answer to charges of crimes against humanity but got away for lack of evidence.

Nobody wants to go that way again. But, to reinforce the messaging, the President-elect and Mr Odinga must restrain their respective gangs of social media mercenaries and loose-tongued politicians.

[email protected]; www.gaitho.co.ke. @MachariaGaitho


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