Season of harvest as political leaders hunt for ‘blessings’
With next year’s elections fast approaching, it’s another season of harvest for tribal chiefs, clerics and musicians to reap big from political aspirants yearning for all manner of blessings and other forms of endorsement.
The last three months have seen heightened political activity as politicians with ambitions for various positions in 2022 General Election traverse the countryside to solicit support from elders, religious leaders, musicians and other influential people including members of associations and groups.
From rituals to crowning politicians as spokespersons or elders, even in communities they don’t belong to to win tribal allegiance, anointing by clergymen who declare them “chosen” to campaign songs, Kenyans will soon be treated to a flurry of sometimes bizarre and pathetic campaign activities.
The three groupings that play critical roles in shaping public opinions are already grappling with accusations of turning rogue, while cultural associations have been accused of commercialising their activities for self-gain.
On the other hand, the clergy have been accused of mortgaging the faithful to wealthy politicians, who frequent worship places.
Deputy President William Ruto, opposition leader Raila Odinga, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, all who have declared interest for the presidency, are excited with being coronated as elders even by other communities.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and former MP Peter Kenneth have lately joined the league of those being coronated by various communities.
There is consensus from elders, preachers and politicians that some cultural groupings have been threatening certain politicians with banishment and denouncement if they don’t play ball and churches have been captured by politicians keen to get endorsement. Many are the times aspirants seek and pay for blessings and endorsements.
Former Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando says from their actions, the elders are fast losing credibility and grace because of partisan politics driven by selfish gains.
He says that cultural associations shouldn’t be edged on political cliffs and be cast in doubts of biased political baskets.
“Cultural groups ostensibly speaking for communities face the danger of speaking for a small section of those linked to them.
Further, do elders consult the youths who constitute 70 per cent of the voting block? Answer is No. Do they consult bottom-up? Answer is No.
Do they have cascading networks in interior villages? Answer is No. Are they without prejudice? Answer is No.
Have respective communities approved or accepted the pronouncements they make? Answer is No,” Kabando told People Daily, adding that most coronations go to the highest bidders.
Rtd Major John Seii, chairman emeritus of the Kalenjin Council of Elders (Myoot) and deputy chair of the National Council of Elders, said whereas there are genuine cultural elders, who give wise counsel to communities and individual politicians, others are driven by greed and thrive in extortion. Seii confesses that some of the elders’ councils are prone to financial manipulation by politicians.
“I am afraid that as we move towards elections, we will have more of these groupings of cultural elders driven by their stomachs.
They will be all over endorsing different leaders, as kingpins and spokesmen, it will soon be chaotic.
And after they are done, you will not hear from them, they will go underground because they will have accomplished their mission (earning) and will resurface again during the next elections,” Seii said.
Several presidential aspirants have since the 2013 elections, undergone rites to be coronated as elders even in communities they don’t belong and handed instruments of power in a move pundits say is driven by ethnic political mobilisation.
For instance, in February 2020, Raila was crowned as a Kikuyu elder at a public function in Meru county.
He has also had Kikuyu Council of Elders visit him in Bondo in his native Siaya county and Karen homes and even hosted him at their meeting point in Ruaka.
In March, Raila was coronated by Mijikenda elders, and has also had interactions with elders from different communities.
Similarly, Moi was in January coronated as a Kalenjin elder in a controversial dawn ceremony at his Kabarak home, chaired by Talai Council of Elders Christopher Koyogi, Moi has had traditional rituals done on him by other Kalenjin sub-tribes and recently during his political visits to northeastern where he met various cultural elders.
Later, Talai organising secretary Christopher Agui later rubbished Moi’s coronation, saying it was done by ‘brokers and cartels’, as his team went on to endorse his political nemesis Ruto, whom the Nandi Laibons Council of Elders has mid last year performed sacrifices and cleansed him against harm and political miseries.
In September last year, Kenneth was made Agikuyu Cultural ‘Ambassador” at Mathingira Mahiga Matatu Cultural Centre and the Agikuyu shrines inside the Mt Kenya Forest. Kenneth later denied that the half-day meetings were meant for political endorsement.
And some elders of Kiama Kia Ma (Kikuyu), Nyangi Ndiririri (Embu), Ngome (Mbeere) and Njuri Ncheke (Meru and Tharaka), on March 6 2021, installed Muturi as their kingpin, triggering outrage from a section of politicians and elders who rubbished the ceremony.
Interestingly, some Njuri Ncheke elders in February 2015, endorsed Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki as Ameru spokesman, again triggering fury from a section of the elders, who in a highly charged meeting, accused their colleagues of commercialising the council at the expense of the welfare of the community
Reverend Timothy Njoya, a retired Minister of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, while citing the March 6 controversial coronation of Muturi as Mt Kenya East spokesman, representing the Aembu and the Ameru, which he described as “worst form of corruption”, said cultural associations are being used to fraudulently legitimize outsiders for political expediency.
“Laundering Muturi to become a member or a spokesperson of the Ameru, a community he does not belong, legitimising Raila and Ruto, or any other politician for that matter, as elders of the North eastern communities, Coast or any other community they don’t belong to is the worst form of corruption. It’s worse than money laundering, and it’s a recipe for genocide,” Njoya said.
Dr Michael Mugo, the national vice chairman of Kiama Kia Ma, one of the three cultural associations in the Kikuyu community, said there is growing interaction between culture and political leadership but said associations are being abused by some politicians, with some elders unilaterally organising certain coronations.