Raila Odinga for Kikuyu Elder?

Prime Minister Raila Odinga will soon be anointed a Kikuyu elder as part of national inter-ethnic reconciliation, it was announced this week.

However, Raila who is from the Luo tribe, must contend with strong misgivings from the Kikuyu, most of whom voted against him in last year’s disputed general elections. Raila will face criticism that he condoned the eviction of Kikuyu settlers from the Rift Valley by his supporters from the Kalenjin tribe.

The proposed annointing of Raila was announced in Nairobi by Peter Kuguru, a Kikuyu businessman associated with the revival of the 1970s GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association). Also present at the lunch-time meeting was Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Kenyatta-era Attorney General, Charles Njonjo. The meeting was held at K’Osewe’s Restaurant in Nairobi, which specializes in traditional dishes from the Luo tribe.

At the impromptu press conference, Prime Minister Raila said that he was determined to bring together all of Kenya’s tribes as part of the national healing process.

Being anointed as a Kikuyu elder will draw mixed reactions from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s biggest ethnic group. The Kikuyu mistrust Raila especially after last year’s political campaigns where Raila’s ODM party accused the Kikuyu of dominating Kenya’s economy and politics. During a campaign meeting in the run-up to December’s polls, Raila is quoted as saying that the Kikuyu would, “shed tears” for voting against him.

Following disputed polls results between Raila and President Mwai Kibaki, hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu settlers and business people were evicted from across Western Kenya by Raila’s supporters. The Prime Minister called for an end to the fighting when his own Luo tribe became victims of retaliatory attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha.

During this week’s luncheon, Mr Kuguru said that it was in Kenya’s tradition that potential leaders get anointed under Kikuyu traditions. Kenya’s first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who was Kikuyu, was a Kikuyu elder by virtue of his status and age. His successor Daniel arap Moi, from the Kalenjin tribe, also got annointed as a Kikuyu elder. Current president Mwai Kibaki who is also a Kikuyu got to be an elder years ago.

Its worth noting, though, that all three of Kenya’s independent presidents were generally supportive of the Kikuyu. At the moment, with recent history still fresh in the minds of many, a similar anointment for Raila is going to be a tough sell.

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