The planned anointing of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as a Kikuyu elder ran into fresh controversy this weekend, even as Raila was in Central Province pleading for national forgiveness.
Kenyan Prime Raila Odinga in traditional dress.
A number of prominent Kikuyu leaders said they were unaware of plans to anoint Raila Odinga as a Kikuyu elder. The ceremony is scheduled to take place at Ruringu Stadium in Nyeri. The anointment was announced last week at a Nairobi restaurant by Raila himself accompanied by former attorney-general Charles Njonjo. Also present during the announcement were Mr Peter Kuguru and gospel musician, Joseph Kamaru.
On Saturday, Member of Parliament for Nyeri town, Ms Esther Mathenge, said she is unaware of the planned annointing. “I have been told that there are a number of criteria that an individual must fulfill in order to become a Kikuyu elder,” Ms Mathenge told a national TV station, implying that the Prime Minister had not fulfilled the criteria. Ruringu stadium is in Ms Mathenge’s constituency.
On the same day, the Prime Minister Raila called on Kenya’s communities to forgive each other over the violence that killed 1,500 people early this year. Raila was in Nyeri to witness Bishop Peter Kairu officially taking over the Mt Kenya Catholic diocese. At the same function were Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Cardinal John Njue.
Vice President Musyoka congratulated President Mwai Kibaki for the peace talks that led to the giant coalition. Cardinal Njue on his part called for greater commitment by coalition partners to ensure lasting peace.
Raila Odinga comes from the Luo tribe to the west of Kenya. Mr Odinga ran for Kenya’s presidency in the December 2007 General Elections against President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu. When Kibaki was declared winner, Odinga’s supporters from the Luo, Kalenjin and coastal tribes attacked Kikuyu-owned homes and businesses. The Kikuyu later launched their own retaliatory attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru. By the end of the violence in March, at least 1,500 people lay dead and close to 500,000 made homeless.
An internationally brokered peace deal resulted in a coalition government with Kibaki as president and Raila becoming the Prime Minister. However, ethnic tensions remain.
The Kikuyu blame Raila for anti-Kikuyu rhetoric during last year’s campaigns, hence the controversy surrounding the proposed anointing of Raila as a Kikuyu elder.