Dangerous Kikuyu – Luo ethnic duopoly

Thanks to the intense rivalry between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, small tribes in Kenya feel left out as government and private companies fill their ranks with Kikuyus and Luos in a bid to have a “diversified workforce.”

President Mwai Kibaki: asleep at the wheel

President Mwai Kibaki

With politics and resource allocation in Kenya defined along tribal lines, it is generally assumed that the tribe of whoever is at the top will enjoy priviledges in terms of jobs and development projects.

It is these perceptions that largely contributed to the violence that erupted after the December 2007 Presidential elections that pitted President Kibaki, a Kikuyu, against Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is Luo.

After 1,500 people died in the violence, there has been an effort by government and the private sector to have a tribally diverse work force. However, this has not quite worked out.

The reason is simple. Majority of government ministries, churches and private companies think that diversity is merely putting a Kikuyu and a Luo to work together. Which would be fine if Kenya only had the two tribes. But then, it is lost on those implementing “diversity” that Kenya has at least 42 tribes. Therefore, if only Kikuyus and Luos are getting jobs in the spirit of “diversity,” what happens to the other 40 tribes?

A case in point is the recent elections for the Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU). The elected Chairman is a Luo, while his deputy is a Kikuyu. But then, is it a coincidence that a similar pattern is repeated across all elective positions in SONU? Is it also a coincidence that the outgoing team had a reverse composition, that is, the Chairman was Kikuyu deputized by a Luo?

Within the military, diplomatic corps and state corporations, the Luo – Kikuyu dichotomy is taking shape. In trying to appear fair, top positions are allocated to people from the two tribes. The same pattern is reflected in corporate circles. Companies are appointing Kikuyus and Luos to boards and management so as to appear neutral. A Kikuyu CEO will be assisted by a Luo, or vice versa.

Similar trends are emerging in social circles, as Kikuyus and Luos embrace each other in a show of “tolerance.” Much is made of weddings between Luo and Kikuyu families, as though Kikuyus and Luos cannot marry people from other tribes.

The ethnic dichotomy reached ridiculous proportions in a national radio game show held by one FM station. Out of six winners, three were Kikuyu and three were Luo. Does it mean that only people from the two tribes participated in this NATIONAL game show?

Consequently, the Kalenjin, Kamba, Mijikenda, Turkana, Taita, Somali, Maasai, Samburu, Kisii, Luhya, Pokot, Ogiek, and other communities are feeling left out in this new power dispensation. The sad reality is that if you are not a Kikuyu or a Luo in today’s Kenya, you stand little chance of making it in government and the private sector.

This is the exact situation that led to the formation of the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) back in 1960. KADU was led by the late Ronald Ngala. Other members included the late Masinde Muliro, former President Daniel arap Moi, and the late Sharif Nassir.

KADU was formed because the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was dominated by the Kikuyu and Luo. KANU’s leadership included the late Jomo Kenyatta and the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila’s father.KADU’s aim was to defend the interests of smaller tribes whose voices were ignored in KANU. In KADU was Ronald Ngala’s Mijikenda tribe, Moi’s Kalenjin and Masinde Muliro’s Luhya. Other tribes that shifted to KADU included the Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Pokomo, Taita, Somali, among others. KADU wanted federalism, or Majimbo, to ensure that the Kikuyu and Luo did not eclipse the smaller tribes.

KANU won the independence elections and Jomo Kenyatta became Prime Minister. Kenyatta became convinced that KADU had a valid argument and negotiations began that brought the party into government. In 1964, KADU was satisfied with the talks, dissolved itself and joined KANU. It was a fortuitous move for Daniel arap Moi. He became Minister for Home Affairs and was later appointed Vice President by Kenyatta. In 1978, Kenyatta died and Moi took over in accordance with the constitution.

Back to the issue at hand.

The attempt to create diversity by favouring only Kikuyus and Luos is generating a lot of resentment among other tribes. Unless measures are taken to bring on board all communities, inter-ethnic relations in Kenya are likely to remain fraught with tension.


6 Responses

  1. The piece is scant on data supporting it’s central thesis, and insincere in it’s conclusions, particularly on assertions regarding the Luo.

    Organizations such as SONU conduct elections and not nominations. There is therefore no way that one can argue that the election of a Luo as it’s current chair is an attempt at diversity given that the occupant to the office was not appointed, rather elected by his peers after a competitive process.

    SONU has a long history of having Luos at it’s helm. Back in the days when none dared challenge the one party rule and such tasks were left to the church and university student organizations, it is the Orengos, Lumumbas, and kajwang TJ Francis who stuck their necks out and went for the body’s chairmanship. Kabando wa Kabando, a Kikuyu, was also it’s chair at one time.

    I would understand if allegations on a Luo-Kikuyu ethnic duopoly were supported with facts. In the finance ministry for example, it recently emerged that one ethnic group still dorminates in the composition of it’s top management office holders.

    I am yet to see any data supporting the same, even in the prime minister’s own office or in appointments to foreign missions, where PNU still calls the shots.

    Absolute nonsense from this Nairobi Chronicle! No facts, misleading argument, and false charges. What is dangerous is the poor quality of journalism displayed by this tabloid. It is quite predictable on whose interest the tabloid itself is serving.

    SONU ELECTED its officials as per:

    Chairman- David Osiany
    Secretary General – Nixon Korir
    Treasurer – Elizabeth Chibule

    No one was appointed anything there, they were all ELECTED by the UON students themselves.

    There is this general attempt to drag myths associating others with what has been a clear ethnic hegemonic domination sowed by the President.

    Just look at all Kibaki top appointements at Treasury, Central Bank, Kenya Revenue Authority, Internal Security, Police, CID, AP, GSU, Army, Navy, Air Force, Consolidated Bank, Auditor General, Solicitor General, Judiciary (esp. Appeal & High Court Judges), KACC, KAA, KPLC, KenGen, and all major corporation boards and CEO’s and judge for yourself.

    There has been a clear, concerted and calculated monopoly by ONE ethnic group.

    Let Kibaki carry his own cross and stop trying to drag others into his open display of tribalism which started right in 2003.

    There will be no shared blame – the evidence speaks for itself. Kenyans ain’t no idiots.

  2. Have to agree with Wekesa here. Some evidence for the (fairly serious) claims in the piece would have been nice.

  3. The evidence is all around us, if you examine it closely. And I can tell you for a fact that SONU elections are all a stage-managed affair. The Vice Chancellor sees to it that only his approved choices are given elective posts. Do you know some of the candidates got campaign funds from the university? Your reference to past SONU leaders just goes to prove the Kikuyu – Luo duopoly as evidenced by the names you gave. Does it mean that a Maasai, Somali, Kamba or Kisii cannot become SONU chair?

    University politics aside, I can reveal to you today that the KIkuyu – Luo ethnic duopoly extends everywhere including the private sector. I have come across national high schools where the school captain and the deputy alternate between Luo and Kikuyu. Can we seriously say that only Luo and Kikuyu students attend national schools in Kenya?

    While we cannot deny that Kibaki has appointed Kikuyu to top government posts, can we say that Raila has done any better? Hasn’t he appointed Luos to prominent positions whenever he has the chance? Isn’t the latest NSSF Managing Trustee – Alex Kazongo – a Luo from South Nyanza? Please look at all the appointments made by the Prime Minister and see for yourself.

  4. How interesting and not too far from the truth. Great you give voice to what many of us have been seeing. Keep at it.

  5. Retarded article written by a teenager. What with your sighting of SONU and national high schools as examples?

  6. Raila has struggle for Democracy in this country over the years,that Kenyans should not be denied their Long awaited President.

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