BY MOSES KURIA
The debate over Andrew Ligale\’s proposed list of 80 extra constituencies, to the uninitiated, may pass like yet another circus in a country where we treat political theatrics as food for our battered souls. However, the public pronouncements over the last week expose a dangerously worrying trend to treat the debate as a contest between Central Kenya and the rest of the country. If this was the strategy that informed Andrew Ligale and his coterie of advisers, they need to pop the champagne for the plan seems to be working perfectly as per the script.
Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale appealed to President Kibaki to think, act and lead \’nationally\’. He also directly asked him to appeal to leaders from Central Province to realise that \’Kenya does not belong to one Community\’. Gideon Moi commended Ligale\’s team for acting to the benefit of the \’majority\’, and then added that they were not expected to please \’everybody\’.
On a TV talkshow, I watched Adan Keynan state that what Ligale did was provide an opportunity for all the ethnic nationalities of Kenya to be recognised as equal, by sorting out the gerrymandering done in areas where leaders from certain communities had benefited themselves.
The implication by Khalwale is that Kibaki should support Ligale to show he is thinking nationally. Gideon\’s comment that everybody cannot be happy with Ligale, and Keynan\’s comments that every Kenyan must accept that no community is superior to the other, are all legitimate, correct comments.
The scary thing with these kinds of statements is their import and implications, more so when they are taken in the Kenyan context especially coming from our recent history. Every time a political leader from the Kikuyu Community comments on this issue, he or she is branded as Central Kenya. They include Ferdinand Waititu, Simon Mbugua or Beth Mugo, who represent cosmopolitan Nairobi MPs or John Mututho who represents Naivasha in the Rift Valley.
This last week I talked to a number of PNU Members of Parliament from outside Central Kenya and Eastern Province. Curiously, they also appear to be content to distance themselves from what to them is an issue for Central Kenya to sort out. "For us, we have been looked after. We really understand what Central Kenya is going through and hope you will get a solution, one way or the other," one MP consoled me.
One wonders why there seems to be a concerted effort to make this a \’Central Kenya versus the rest of the country\’ debate. Surely, there must be a way of dealing with this issue by both Ligale\’s enthusiasts and critics without exposing it to the risk of being used mischievously as a tool for political mobilisation.
The 2005 referendum has been cited as the ground where the seeds of ethnic hate were sowed, resulting into the 41-againist-1 bigoted ideology that resulted into a catastrophe of bohemian proportions in 2007.
If left unchecked, the boundaries debate may be the bouncing successor to the 2005 referendum. A friend of mine once told me that the Church can survive without angels but without a devil, it would be an uphill task to win adherents. Is there any remote possibility that the Ligale report was created to breathe life into a devil that has been dealt a vicious blow by the national reconciliation efforts of the last 30 months?
The unfortunate thing is that the bashing of Central Kenya cannot come at a worse time, when the Central Kenya people are growing weary and fatigued battling with a myriad of other social and economic problems.
Alcoholism is affecting the region quite disproportionately compared with the rest of the country. Coffee and tea sectors, the traditional bastions of the regional economies are in tatters. The youth in Central Kenya are on the verge of giving up hopes of ever securing jobs or other means of survival.
Insecurity is at an all time low, fuelling the growth of illegal gangs. Organisations such as Ahadi Trust can tell you how difficult it is to fight a very minute enemy, the jigger, in Central Kenya. With growth in population, the equally weary and fatigues barren patches that have been christened pieces of land have been sub-divided to infinity.
The political leadership appears to be clueless on how to deal with this human catastrophe. The few leaders who attempt solutions are seen as radical hothead "activists" not worthy to be leaders.
Since the passing of the new constitution, different groups of county-based professionals have been attempting to develop master plans for dealing with the problem, but when they-rarely- travel upcountry, they need to tint their car windows first and their parents will not allow them to hang around the village beyond 4pm for obvious security reasons, raising doubts on how they will resolve this crisis.
Sandwiched between the attempts by others to create a devil out of Central Kenya, the false perception that they are rich and comfortable, and the stark reality on the ground in the region, the choices are surely between the devil and the deep, blue sea.
In the ensuing circumstances, it is not too much for the people of Central Kenya to plead: "Give us a break!"
(Kuria is the spokesman of the Party for National Unity. These views are his own and don\’t represent the position of PNU [email protected]).