What you need to know:
- Senator Linturi's remarks were particularly damaging for Dr Ruto, who still bears the burden of the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
- Dr Ruto’s opponents will have a field day playing and replaying clips of Mr Linturi’s outrageous verbal garbage.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi was wise enough, rare for the Kenyan political animal, to apologise for the inflammatory ‘madoadoa’ (blemishes) remarks uttered at Deputy President William Ruto’s weekend rally in Eldoret Town. I suspect it was Dr Ruto himself who realised how damaging the remarks were to him personally and urged a quick apology.
The DP is a leading light in a region that has for three decades been a hotbed of politically instigated violence. No amount of lame spin will disguise the fact that, in the Kenyan context, exhortations to uproot madoadoa refer specifically to violent attacks, arson, murder and mass ejection of population groups that do not hew to a dominant ethno-political line in certain regions.
Mr Linturi and apologists for his thoughtless incitement have tried the false interpretations that he was calling for politicians against Dr Ruto to be voted out. But the fact is that his actual comments did not come with any such qualification: He was calling for the removal of madoadoa who do not toe the Ruto line. Period.
The remarks were particularly damaging for Dr Ruto, who still bears the burden of the 2007-2008 post-election violence that landed him at the International Criminal Court alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta. Dr Ruto was specifically accused of urging for eviction of madoadoa from his Uasin Gishu County strongholds and the wider Rift Valley region.
He survived trial in The Hague to be elected President Kenyatta’s deputy. He has since achieved the herculean feat of winning the hearts and minds of the central Kenya communities who were the main victims of the Rift Valley bloodshed.
Turn up in solidarity
At the moment, all indications are that, come the 2022 presidential elections, Dr Ruto is poised to secure a handsome majority of the vote from Kenya’s most populous ethnic conglomeration. That is why the last thing he needs is retards in his campaign entourage uttering incendiary remarks which serve only to revive the ghosts of the Rift Valley massacres.
It was to his credit that the DP moved fast in urging Mr Linturi to ‘withdraw and apologise’ instead of the initial arrogance and stonewalling put on display by the noisier fellows around him. Unfortunately, damage control mode is often employed after the damage has already been done. Dr Ruto’s opponents will have a field day playing and replaying clips of Mr Linturi’s outrageous verbal garbage.
One can also expect that, should Mr Linturi be hauled to court on charges of hate speech and incitement, the usual over-excitable fellows will turn up in solidarity and help to keep the story alive with their robotic stock complaints against police harassment every time one of them is caught on the wrong side of the law.
It is important, therefore, that Dr Ruto go a step further and personally condemn Mr Linturi’s remarks. He must disown the comments and make it clear that there is no room in his campaign for hate speech and incitement to ethnic strife.
This is not too much to ask and would win him brownie points amongst a populace not accustomed to senior politicians owning up to errors.
Chaotic unscripted affair
Ultimately, the Eldoret rally provides a key learning point for Dr Ruto, as well as Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and other rivals in the presidential contest.
Most of the time, our campaign rallies are a chaotic unscripted affair with little thought given to cohesive and unified messaging. The principal contestant may give a few snippets from his policy platform but that is after the rabble has been given the podium to go wild with insults, threats, intimidation and general nonsense that has nothing to do with the campaign manifesto.
Going forward, the big lesson is that anybody who rates a chance on the microphone at a presidential campaign rally must follow an agreed line, one that advances the campaign agenda, whether at local or national level.
It must be understood that presidential candidates have no option but to accept responsibility for anything done or said in the name of their campaign. Great care must, therefore, be taken to ensure that rabble-rousers do not go off-script with wild utterances that serve only to undermine the candidate.
In fact, given the time, energy and resources he has expended in successfully wooing a previously hostile and suspicious Mt Kenya vote, Dr Ruto must be seriously considering whether Mr Linturi’s remarks were part of carefully crafted sabotage rather than just a moment of platform madness. After all, the man does boast some education and exposure that should have prepared him for the full import of wild utterances.
[email protected] www.gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho