One of my most treasured possessions is a 2012 radio show recording where President Uhuru Kenyatta, then the Deputy Prime Minister under the coalition government, called in to a live radio interview I was on to challenge some positions I was espousing.
Part of the reason I treasure this recording is quite immodest — not too many people can brag that someone like Uhuru Kenyatta recognised them enough to call in to a radio programme to challenge them publicly. However what makes me keep listening to it over and over is more humbling. Over time I have had to admit that Uhuru was right on literally every statement that he made on that show.
For example he asks whether I understand why he stopped working with ODM despite having been part of the successful national ‘Orange’ campaign against changing the constitution in 2005. He then proceeds to explain that it was because wherever they went across the country, his ODM colleagues would always speak words that incited other communities against the Kikuyu.
Uhuru says he and a group of elders confronted Raila Odinga about this and told him that they would not be part of a political campaign to demonize the Kikuyu community; if he had a problem with Mwai Kibaki’s government he should make it clear it was that he had a problem with rather than allow people to be incited against an entire community. He further explains that when it became clear that this behaviour would not stop he and his team left: “We could not work with someone who says he wants to build the nation, but the statements made in his meetings are about inciting communities against others“. Good riddance to bad rubbish was what his former colleagues said about his departure.
My own experience on ODM was quite similar. There always seemed to be an unspoken anti-Kikuyu theme driving the campaign. Whenever I raised this issue and pointed out that I assumed our campaign was about uniting all Kenyans, I would be told “ODM is for every Kenyan, but…”.
After the last elections I had a major falling out with my campaign colleagues when, despite all indications showing that we had genuinely lost the poll, some of them decided to introduce and perpetuate the narrative that “the Kikuyus have stolen the elections, again”. When I challenged them with the fact that this was meant to incite other Kenyans against Kikuyus and explained that our disorganisation — including our lack of a single presidential agent across the whole country— is why we had lost, I also became ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’.
Cord has been at again last week, using the tragic death of Fidel Odinga to perpetuate subtle anti-Kikuyu sentiments. It started with a rather ominous statement from Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka who attempted to connect Raila’s son’s death to those of Mutula Kilonzo and Otieno Kajwang. Oburu Oginga then said Fidel’s death was not an act of God; that a human hand was involved. He then showed where their accusing fingers were pointing when he gave a rather off-colour explanation of how Fidel had tried to bridge the gap with the Kikuyu to the point of even marrying one of their girls, who, he then (shockingly) suggested, “refused to give him children”.
Subtly the narrative is being weaved about how “those people have killed our prominent sons”. In another 10 years the narrative will be hardened folklore in large sections of Kenya and children there will grow up believing that the Kikuyu killed Fidel, Kajwang and Mutula. What are clear lies today could easily become what is used to incite some to violently attack my children in future.
This must not be allowed to happen.
Kenya needs a law that makes it mandatory for families of prominent political figures to make official pathologist records public. In the meanwhile and due to the politicisation of the deaths of Mutula, Kajwang and Fidel, the government should make public the preliminary and final postmortem reports, as a matter of national security. We must stop these attempts to use the deaths to divide Kenyans on ethnic grounds for political purposes.
Finally to Raila: I mourn with you and your family on the death of Fidel. Your son had a heart of gold. However I must ask you this: why do you allow your public gatherings to be used to spread anti-Kikuyu hatred only to try and ‘remedy’ it after the harm has been done? Why not instruct those scheduled to speak not do it — and I know they listen to you?
Ngunjiri is a director of Change Associates, a political communications consultancy.