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Journal of Eastern African Studies

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How the West was Won: Regional Politics and Prophetic Promises in the 2007 Kenya Elections
Julie MacArthura a Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge,

To cite this Article MacArthur, Julie(2008) 'How the West was Won: Regional Politics and Prophetic Promises in the 2007

Kenya Elections', Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2: 2, 227 — 241 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17531050802058344 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17531050802058344

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and opposition leader Raila Odinga. 2. As the second largest ethnic bloc in Kenya. the Luyia have historically represented an important swing vote in the Correspondence Address: Julie MacArthur. However. No. the violent clashes and allegations of electoral fraud that engulfed the country served to overshadow. this case study reveals the ways in which ODM used promises of succession. 2. the underlying causes of the opposition and disillusionment that had produced such a closely contested presidential election. cannot be explained simply by reference to political tribalism or inter-ethnic conflict alone. University of Cambridge Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 ABSTRACT In the 2007 Kenya elections. July 2008 How the West was Won: Regional Politics and Prophetic Promises in the 2007 Kenya Elections JULIE MACARTHUR Trinity Hall. Directly after announcing their prospective candidacies in September 2007. The post-election violence and questions of democratic legitimacy in the 2007 Kenya elections have prompted many to ask what happened and why this African bastion of stability and burgeoning democracy had so unexpectedly gone up in flames. multi-ethnic coalition. rested in its ability to mobilise support across regional and ethnic lines throughout the country.uk ISSN 1753-1055 Print/1753-1063 Online/08/020227Á15 # 2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. despite the outcome. and perhaps more importantly.1080/17531050802058344 . As the second largest ethnic group in Kenya. represented a crucial battleground in the hunt for votes. Trinity Hall. Rather. University of Cambridge. regional arguments and historical justifications to court a particular regional vote. The success of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in challenging the incumbent government. and thus mask. Although the presidential race was a tight battle. and indeed the post-election chaos. how ODM managed to create a broad-based coalition capable of inspiring such a clear call for change in parliament.Journal of Eastern African Studies Vol. Odinga and Kibaki both launched their presidential campaigns in the Western Province to court the Luyia vote. CB2 1TJ. in every election since independence. of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). and ODM won a parliamentary majority. Thus. 227Á241. Post-election allegations of rigging focused on the disputed outcome of the presidential elections between incumbent Mwai Kibaki.ac. Trinity Lane. power-sharing and regional devolution of authority and resources to create a broad-based. but also. Email: jem68@cam. the parliamentary results made a stronger statement: almost 70 per cent of incumbent ministers lost their seats. the opposition’s strength. regional campaign stories are of vital importance to understanding not only the violence and disillusionment at the outcome of the elections. with over 14 per cent of the population. the Luyia have. of the Party of National Unity (PNU). Cambridge. as a large yet unwieldy and unpredictable voting bloc. This paper demonstrates how ODM mobilised coalition strategies. the Luyia of the Western Province. UK.

In the Western Province. Although ethnicity should neither be downplayed nor denied as an important mobilising force in electoral campaigns. However. the anti-colonial rebel and religious visionary from the northernmost Luyia group of the Bukusu. as revealed through party politics.228 J. is said to have prophesised ‘Bubwami bukhamile khunyanja (The leadership will come from the lake).’2 Although many versions exist. Despite media and indeed politicians’ statements to the contrary. First. Kibaki’s proposed constitution did little to address the public demands to reform ‘Kenya’s ‘‘top heavy’’ political system’. First. promises of federalism and the Masinde prophecy. Finally. ODM’s strategy relied more on the regional issues of resource distribution and equitable development. ODM’s invocation of ‘majimboism’. elitist state. it revealed one of the consistent conflicts in Kenyan politics: the crisis of succession. three major trends were crucial to ODM’s strategy and to securing the Luyia vote. The campaign story in Western Province. The Orange movement originally embraced many different factions that had Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . and the national concerns of constitutional crisis and power-sharing in its appeal to multi-ethnic support. The movement thus attempted to capitalise on a culture of low politics and local action that developed during the referendum campaign in response to an overbearing.1 Thus courting this substantial. inflaming age-old tribal hatreds and pitting ethnic neighbours against each other. it revealed the ways in ODM mobilised historical arguments to justify present political choices. was really the story of how ODM mobilised its regional campaign strategies to win the majority of this unwieldy voting bloc. For the 2007 election campaign. the will for a federal state. how the opposition used its coalition strategy and historical arguments to court the Western Province voting bloc provides a platform for understanding the deeper historical. Second. yet are also said to be the ‘most fragmented politically and socially of Kenya’s major communities’. political and social issues at stake in this election. all parties had to contend with the tension and interplay between ethnic politics and party politics that have marked politics in the Western Province since decolonisation. Constitution-drafting became a common pastime throughout the country and the referendum activated local and regionally based opposition to Kibaki’s government more generally. or to limit executive power. the central message of the prophecy remains that a Luo president was the necessary precondition for the ascendancy of Luyia leadership in the country. this election was not solely another exercise in political tribalism. The importance of the prophecy was twofold. tapped into deep historical demands for devolution of power in the Western Province and indeed revealed ODM’s calls for a renegotiation of regional power distribution within the nation. yet unpredictable voting bloc was a vital concern of all major parties and yet could not rely on purely ethnic overtones to determine political allegiances. Elijah Masinde. ODM positioned itself from the outset as a plural and populist political party.3 The Orange movement’s rallying call was for a ‘people power’ revolution to combat the dominance of Kibaki’s Mount Kenya mafia in the government. Regional Party Politics and the Birth of the Opposition The so-called ‘Orange’ movement grew out of popular discontent over President Kibaki’s proposed constitutional reforms in 2005. Second. MacArthur country. Thus. ODM mobilised historical justifications and future promises of power-sharing to garner support from different regions. the opposition revealed its dual strategic aims through its invocation of the late Elijah Masinde’s prophecy.

rallying support for him and for the party throughout their regional bases. ODM then faced the challenge of cohering the very disparate group. like KANU. the movement initially included several MPs in Kibaki’s government. . In 1992. the need for regional strategies was written into constitutional provisions for presidential elections. as its name would remain despite its now hexagonal membership.4 Founded out of this momentum. to splinter. and former President Moi. ODM’s party platform necessarily called for dramatic political and institutional change. In an attempt to reinforce Moi’s position going into the 1992 elections. Charity Ngilu from PNU to ODM with a promotion to the Pentagon. In 2007. former secretary-general of KANU. representing 58 per cent of the country. Personality clashes and battles over leadership caused some. However. William Ruto representing the Rift Valley. The Pentagon. each representing a different region and diverse ethnic origins from around the country. the de facto Luo leader since his father’s death. ODM rewarded the surprise defection of popular Health Minister and Chairperson of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). who had voted Orange and opposed the new constitution.How the West was Won 229 become frustrated and impatient with Kibaki’s resistance to curbing executive power and more equitably distributing political positions. Although Ngilu would buttress Nyagah’s campaign in the Eastern Province. The Pentagon consisted of Raila Odinga. remained loyal to the new party. With the victory of the ‘No’ vote in the 2005 referendum. her addition to the elite group aimed more to answer critics of the gender imbalance in government. At the ceremony announcing his presidential candidacy. In the words of Mudavadi. Najib Balala for the Coast and Joseph Nyagah from the Eastern Province. after months of party in-fighting over leadership. ODM attempted to answer the challenge of uniting its disparate supporters. . Both Odinga and Nyagah were. From the inauguration of multi-party politics in Kenya in 1992. these political leaders transformed the Orange movement into the ODM political party. This sort of symbolism dominated ODM’s rhetoric. Musalia Mudavadi of the Western Province. ODM announced that Raila Odinga would stand as ODM’s presidential candidate. In late October. was an equivalent of the Pentagon and Raila sat as first among equals as well as the commander in-charge’. where support for ODM was limited. thus further broadened its coalition while still remaining an essentially regional strategy. building on this culture of low politics and local mobilisation for change. a populist party to be based on power-sharing between different ethnic groups and regions within the country. Odinga led the party in a symbolic act of unity. the Pentagon members were to be Odinga’s ‘generals’ in the field.6 Extending this populist rhetoric even further. internal party politics dominated the first two years of its existence. Parliament passed a bill that would require any presidential candidate to receive a minimum of 25 per cent of the vote in at least five of the eight provinces in order to take office. official opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta. ODM would not be led solely by Odinga but rather by a ‘Pentagon’ of five leaders.5 At the heart of ODM’s Pentagon strategy was this metaphoric ‘sharing of the cake’. such as Raila Odinga. the constituents would then be the ‘foot soldiers’ in this movement. this provision aimed to slow the opposition movements by ensuring they would need more than just a Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . Simultaneously with Odinga’s promotion to lead the party. cutting and then distributing pieces of a three-tiered orange cake to his fellow Pentagon members. MPs for Nairobi constituencies. ‘the ODM power sharing . Kenyatta took KANU out of partnership with ODM while William Ruto. Voting distribution in this referendum revealed the regional and crossethnic support for the Orange vote that ODM would attempt to harness. however.

Even with Kibaki gaining in the polls directly before the election.10 The gold rush of the 1930s in North Kavirondo provided the local crisis in land tenure and political protest necessary for particular local actors to begin advocating for an enlarged ethnic and territorial identity.14 However. Ironically.13 Despite the concerted attempt to cultivate a unified Luyia ethnic identity in the late colonial period. collectively known to the coast people as the Kavirondo’. courting this significant regional vote required an understanding of the complicated relationship between ethnic politics and party politics in the Western Province. Pre-colonially. so named in their 1935 pamphlet entitled ‘Avaluyha Á A Kinship’ and in numerous subsequent petitions. potential rigging was not solely a matter of the total number of votes registered. and well into the colonial era.12 However. and even to an extent the Kalenjin in more recent years.11 The North Kavirondo Central Association (NKCA) formed in 1932 with the explicit aim of fostering a Luyia ethnic identity. Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . claiming that ‘even with that small margin. efforts to consolidate one Luyia language largely failed in the colonial period. seventeen separate and distinct Bantu tribal groupings. A particular ethnic history informs this democratic belief. the provision remains. the Luyia do not vote as a bloc and do not automatically rally behind Luyia candidates.230 J.8 As Mudavadi suggested. it would be careless. and language policies. and hence would not be able to merely rely on the large ethnic percentages of Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu or Oginga Odinga’s Luo. the territorial extent of ethnic identities.7 However. Thus. this provision favoured the opposition by the 2007 elections. polls indicated that Odinga had succeeded in reaching well above the 25 per cent requirement in at least six of the eight provinces. and thus makes it essential for candidates to approach campaigning regionally and address the needs of provincial interests. Throughout the campaign. a widely invoked refrain refers to the Luyia as being the most ‘democratic’ and ‘liberal’ group in Kenya. The Luyia did not exist as an ethnic group before the mid1930s. ODM will lock out Kibaki from acquiring the mandatory 25 per cent in five provinces as required by the constitution’. but also crucially about the distribution of these votes on a regional basis. cultural authority.9 Early colonial officials attempted to assert administrative control over the ‘turbulent collection of tribes. However. This provision would indeed prove to be a fatal factor in the ultimate loss of the opposition movements in 1992. allowed for a sort of ethnic pluralism to develop. ODM mobilised its regional strategies not only to gain as much of the popular vote as possible. Unlike the Luo and the Kikuyu. Although linguistic commonalities remain central to the claimed coherence of a larger Luyia identity. local and national moments of crisis intervened and challenged ethnic homogenisation. Travelling around the Western Province. and indeed in many cases mistaken. ODM’s Pentagon uniquely positioned itself as overtly representing at least five of the eight provincial voting blocs. they were. falling below that mark only in the Central and Eastern provinces. a Luyia ethnic identity did take root in this period and. despite internal and external pressures. internal divisions and contradictions plagued the NKCA’s project and gave rise to vigorous local debates over land tenure. instead. Thus. by creating the district of North Kavirondo to contain all of the Bantu tribes of Western Kenya. However. polls taken directly before the elections showed Kibaki barely predicted above 25 per cent of the vote in several provinces. to assume that all of the eight provinces were either ethnically homogeneous or necessarily voted as a unit. but also to lessen Kibaki’s chances of fulfilling this provision. Mudavadi remained optimistic. MacArthur majority of the popular vote.

However. waged largely in ethnic terms. KANU was the super-alliance of the Kikuyu and the Luo. the Luhya split three ways. South Nyanza and Central Nyanza were easily ascribed to a particular party and thus deemed ‘unlikely to be dangerous’. as in 1992. as in 2002. Majimboism: Federalism or Devolution? Calls for constitutional change in post-colonial Kenya often invoked the legacy of ‘majimboism’.’17 Thus. political tribalism. the Luyia position in this battle has often been greatly over-simplified. North Nyanza was said to be ‘potentially dangerous’ due to its large number of voters and the presence of multiple political parties. KADU’s proposal for a federal state at independence as a viable solution to the problems of multi-ethnic governance and resource distribution. being named Vice President of the party in 1960. although only in very close calls in North Nyanza. KADU won easily in Elgon Nyanza. Ideology and political platforms are not what divide Kenyan . the picture on the ground was much more complicated. party affiliations have dominated political allegiances in Western Province.16 In the 1961 election. some with the Kikuyu. Although majimbo’s origins have been attacked. The Luyia have been depicted as solely a KADU stronghold. and increasingly since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992. both parties gaining strong support and dividing local opinion in North Kavirondo. never consolidated in this period. others remaining independent. in North Nyanza ‘the Baluyia people retained their independence of outlook’ and represented ‘very much a mixture’ of political parties. ‘as a bargaining counter. expecting simply to achieve strengthened powers for local government over land and education’. despite many coming together in 2002 to oust President Moi. Many would date this back to the battle between the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) at independence. In the 2007 election. as being the brain-child of the settlers to create their own ‘white islands’. However. However. These diverse party loyalties continue to exert enormous influence in the region. majimbo appealed to KADU constituents in the 1960s that feared domination by the Kikuyu and Luo groups.18 This almost defiant history of political pluralism in the Western Province defied simple ethnic appellations to unity. what united a majority of Luyia voters was not necessarily calls to ethnic solidarity.How the West was Won 231 Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 Since independence. while Elgon Nyanza. Throup and Hornsby noted a similar trend in 1992: ‘In 1963. in its ability to subsume the debates of moral ethnicity to create homogenised ethnic bargaining positions and thus maximise access to material accumulation and control of state power. with Masinde Muliro taking the lead.15 While most District associations in the Nyanza Province merged as local branches into either KADU or KANU.19 It was also used by some. at times above ethnic affiliations.20 The historical merits and complicated ways in which majimbo was first imagined and proposed remain hotly contested issues. some voting with the Kalenjin. in the words of Nottingham and Sanger soon after the election. while KADU was the coalition of the smaller pastoral ethnic groups. in the 1960s and today. but rather a deep desire to challenge the current political system. In the dominant narrative. The ethnic pluralism depicted above was mirrored in and informed a political pluralism that renders this province a particularly difficult vote to secure. fearing domination by the larger groups. by this time renamed and divided into North Nyanza and Elgon Nyanza. In 1960 at a meeting of the Provincial Security Committee. crucial for the 2007 elections was how the idea of majimboism came to dominate debate and difference between ODM and PNU.

MacArthur political parties.25 Resource distribution and the ability to control provincial funds and development.26 Thus calls were coming from many sectors for some form of devolution of power and a decentralising of resources. on the basis of ‘equitable development’. were at the centre of Western Province’s support of majimboism.232 J. Ogot has written that unlike the calls for majimboism in 1963. The post-election violence that ravaged the country after the disputed outcome of the 2007 elections. centred on issues of majimboism. The so-called Kalenjin ‘warriors’ began attacking Kikuyu. A. such as in the Western. the 1992 re-emergence of the regionalism option came ‘from all groups. However. personalities and coalitions of patrimony continue to dominate party politics. spelling out how the party. in its general manifesto.24 ODM stressed the improvement of roads as central to its political and economic mandates. as well as accountability. The election in 2007. with Kibaki closing in according to the polls in late December. Closer to the elections. based on fear of domination by larger ethnic blocs. if elected. Even those opposed to ODM and majimboism in Western Province still called for the Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) to be strengthened and given more funds and more control.21 This came to mark the major policy difference between ODM and PNU and dominated media debate between the two parties throughout the campaign. In Western Province. most heavily felt in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya. such as the Western Province and the Coast. majimboism focused not on buttressing political tribalism through ethnically defined regional units. and crucially of resources. large and small . would transform provincial entities into ‘self-sustaining units’. and those who had only more recently decided that it may counter what was felt to be a history of state control and resource hoarding by the Central Province. . in ODM’s rhetoric.23 This violence in 1992 fulfilled exactly the charges levelled against majimboism then as now: that it would entrench ethnically defined regions and thus lead to ethnic violence to drive out outsiders. such as those in Nyanza. . ODM used the historical legacy of majimboism to lure supporters from groups who historically supported devolution. a weaker form of devolution.27 These regional manifestos were meant to distance ODM from majimbo. resource control and liberation from forces seen as dominating the country. ODM distanced itself from the hardline of majimboism in favour of vaguer statements of devolution. people most often affirmed that majimboism in reality meant roads. In this. as in 1963 and in 1992. at the end of September. but rather on the devolution of political authority. B. the calls for majimboism in 1992 sparked violence around the borders of the Kalenjin in the Rift Valley. ODM called upon the constituents of each province as the only legitimate sources to demand and define devolution. to a more local level. ODM released its regional manifestos. Coast and Kisii regions. However. ODM’s regional strategy was still the dominant force in its campaign.28 ODM was attempting to distance itself from the topÁdown process of stateled majimbo in favour of calling upon low political interests to define what devolution Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . Luyia. Luo and Gusii residents surrounding them in an attempt to create a ‘pastoralist-only zone loyal to KANU and President Moi’. Odinga announced that ‘we in ODM will provide the legislation that will allow majimbo system in order to equitably distribute resources in the country’. again raised such accusations of ethnic violence motivated by a drive for regional homogeneity. Each manifesto was ‘tailor-made for the regions’. however. land distribution.’ 22 However. a politically charged issue in Kenya. particularly in areas where the vote may have split. in fact.

Pentagon leaders. particularly agricultural officers forcing the uprooting of particular plants. On a weekly basis starting in September 2007. Musalia Mudavadi. if united. such as the North Rift. the strategic value of Elijah Masinde prophecy’s was not confined to the Western Province. as the District Commissioner in 1943 likewise predicted. these regional manifestos represented a unique answer to regional inequalities and uneven development. environmental diversity and the growing class struggle that affected all Kenyans. The importance of Masinde’s prophecy in the opposition’s strategy was evident in ODM’s constant invocation of the prophecy and the heated media publicity and debate over the prophecy. As the prophecy foretells. entrenching regional interests above national integration. Oginga Odinga. Odinga specifically challenged Kibaki’s claimed economic advancements by exposing his policy of ‘trickle-down economics without the trickle’. its adherent and its political consequences. with regional manifestos in hand. the northernmost Luyia sub-group at the foothills of Mount Elgon. having deep local knowledge of the distinct historical. the press reported on the Masinde prophecy. For some. This strategy emphasised the disparities in wealth and development not on a purely ethnic level. focusing on the rural to urban divide. its meanings. In 1992 the prophecy was also invoked by Oginga Odinga’s Forum for the Restoration of DemocracyÁKenya (FORD-Kenya) opposition movement and succeeded in garnering the Bukusu vote. Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 Historical Prophecies and the Crisis of Succession ODM’s regional promises relied heavily on historical justifications for the equitable distribution of resources and power. though crucially not the Luyia vote as a whole. and by committing arson against white settler farms and mission . this would mean the righting of historic injustices dating back to the colonial period. Dini ya Msambwa began among Masinde’s Bukusu. Calls for devolution and these regional platforms allowed ODM to tailor its campaign promises to differentiated needs across the country.30 However.How the West was Won 233 should entail. as his running mate. Directly following Odinga’s nomination to head the party. Luo leadership was necessary to cleanse the seat of power before a Luyia president could take the seat. for proponents of ODM. it would mean the righting of more recent neglect by previous governments. like the Maasai. And for the Western Province. However. but rather also reinforced ODM’s political mandate of power-sharing. often claimed to have been originally told to Raila’s father. This decision immediately sparked discussion about the Masinde prophecy.29 Much of ODM’s support would come from disaffected youth. in an evermore regionally distinctive manner. Masinde called for a return to traditional religious practices and in 1943 began an anti-colonial campaign targeting symbols of colonial coercion. he named a Luyia. sought to portray ODM as a populist movement. labour officers conscribing forced communal labour. but rather on a regional level. disillusioned by unfulfilled promises of employment by the Kibaki government. Elijah Masinde was the leader of an anti-colonial religious movement called Dini ya Msambwa in Western Kenya that began in the 1940s and continued to agitate for religious renewal and political reform well into the post-colonial era. For others. ODM used prophetic calls to future Luyia leadership to argue that. environment and development issues of different areas around the country. it would mean the fulfilment of historic destinies. the Luyia would take their ‘rightful place as the leading tribe of Kenya’. ODM’s detractors regarded these regional manifestos as revealing the party’s essentially divisive strategy.

Raila Odinga’s strategic choice of Mudavadi as his running mate was not just a realisation of a LuoÁLuyia political alliance but also an implicit promise for a future Luyia president. Despite Moi and Kenyatta having been instrumental in the Orange movement during the 2005 referendum. rumoured for the past few years and serving to counter-balance the strength. Masinde continued to agitate against government policies and Kenyatta again banned the movement in 1968 and imprisoned Masinde the following year. At independence. MacArthur stations.39 As use of the prophecy suggests.32 In this context. some are undoubtedly asking themselves whether in practice the British were all that bad. an implicit pledge of succession.36 He predicted the white men would leave Kenya. seeing that political leadership may follow ethnic percentages: first Kikuyu (with Masinde’s prophecy of Kenyatta’s leadership). both lost much of their influence within ODM’s new structure and turned to Kibaki to regain Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 .31 Although jailed several times. prophets often played key political roles in pre-colonial and colonial times. The strategic use of the Masinde prophecy by the opposition was not solely for the historical and emotional weight it carried. Masinde remained a powerful symbol among his followers. He prophesised when deported to Lamu that he would not remain there long. . then Luo (who during his time were the second largest group) and then the Luyia. more interestingly Masinde’s prophecies can be understood as simply politically astute. KANU and its Chairman. sent to Mathari Mental Hospital for two years. it is not all that surprising that Masinde’s memory and prophetic legacy would be invoked to overthrow what ODM pictured as Kikuyu dominance in the government.35 Several events secured Elijah Masinde’s reputation as a prophet. Masinde had become ‘an embarrassing reminder of the past . it was also a future promise. Uhuru Kenyatta. despites these debates. all that good’. and government by Africans.38 However. supporting KANU despite the strong Bukusu support for KADU. or to be more specific. The interplay between religious movements and anti-colonial or political protest has a long and heavily debated history in Western Kenya. and the usefulness of prophetic messages to oppositional movements continues in the current political discourse in Kenya. numbers and influence of Central Kenya. into the folds of PNU raised warning alarms among detractors. .34 However.234 J. Another dimension to this seeming ethnic alliance between the second and third largest groups in Kenya was the realisation of a regional alliance in Western Kenya. and they did. government by a Kikuyu elite.40 As succession has always been a potentially explosive issue. confirmed when the colonial administration moved him to Marsebet soon after his arrival. Presidential succession and power-sharing became an even more crucial campaign concern with certain early developments in the PNU campaign. in this case. ‘the God who gave Masinde the prophecy of a Luyia winning the presidency after a Luo understood the electoral dynamics of post independence Kenya’. and eventually deported in 1948.33 Audrey Wipper and Jan de Wolf fought out the connections between millenarianism and militant political action regarding Dini ya Msambwa in the pages of the Canadian Journal of African Studies. Kibaki’s cooptation of the still official opposition in the government. rather.37 And he predicted that Kenyatta would lead the country at independence. this promise of succession also promised future stability and an overt mandate for political power to be distributed among different groups within the country. a crisis of succession has haunted the post-colonial Kenyan political system. willingly or otherwise. As a political commentator Wafula Buke wrote.

With politics ostensibly being so ethnically determined. it seems odd that. hoping to maintain their regional influence and build off the party loyalties discussed earlier. Kibaki’s political mandate focused on his past achievements and the continuation of his current policies and programs. and to distribute power among different regional and ethnic groups. Reports connected the presidential succession question with political leadership in the Central Province Á ‘the Kibaki succession plot is in two tiers. Odinga claimed ‘now. Kenyatta into the government party. yet came in a long series of switching alliances and party defections for both parties. many believed that to secure this move Kibaki had promised succession to Uhuru Kenyatta. they too had to devise strategies to lure diverse regional voters. This unusual absorption of the official opposition into the ruling government’s party shocked the nation. foundation being taking over his command of Central Kenya. However. With Wamalwa’s sudden death on 23 August 2003. he hinted. it was hoped. ‘Mwangale had urged the Abaluhya to unite behind KANU in order to maximise their political influence as Kenya’s second largest ethnic group .41 The undercurrent of generational conflict present throughout the campaign came to a head in this controversy. Moi has made both Kenyatta and Kibaki his succession project’. when the number two position in the government should be held by the Abaluhya. Vice presidential succession has also been a politically volatile issue. would aid the party in reaching out to these regional constituents. up until 2002. and his particular Kalenjin backers. ODM was also promising not to fall victim to ethnic chauvinism. Kibaki named Luyia Michael Wamalwa as his vice president. By touting the Masinde prophecy. using it as the springboard for national supremacy in 2012’.42 Fear that the Mount Kenya mafia was thus combining with Moi. after only eight months in office. . As PNU and Kibaki were under the same pressure to gain a plurality of regional votes due to the 25 per cent provision. thus ensuring Kikuyu dominance in State House for a further decade at least.How the West was Won 235 relevance in the new political scene. the second largest ethnic group had never captured either the presidency or the vice-presidency. in an attempt to secure Luyia support for KANU going into the 2002 election. and thus lacked popular support. In this ironic twist.’43 It took another decade. The integration of KANU under the pro-Kibaki umbrella. but Musalia Mudavadi was named the final. Although the KenyattaÁMudavadi KANU ticket failed in 2002. reinforced ODM’s tactical use of regional strategies. vice president in the final months of Moi’s reign. Upon winning the presidency in 2002. In 1992. to maintain the dominance of the Kenyatta and Moi families in a dynastic power scheme. PNU initially comprised a coalition of parties with distinctly regional identities. a party formed solely as the vehicle for Kibaki’s re-election bid. headed by Moi. . as epitomised in their representations of the KibakiÁKenyatta alliance. ODM accused PNU not only of a succession pact. Luyia political leader Elijah Mwangale began gunning for a top seat in the new government. Moi’s official endorsement of Kibaki’s reelection campaign further aided PNU in luring Moi’s former chosen successor. these parties did not penetrate two centrally important regions. The time had come. newspapers speculated that the job would most likely go to a Luyia to maintain continuity and not alienate an important Kibaki ally: Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . so began a new tradition of using the position to swing the Luyia vote. However. and secondly. and shortest-lived. with the sons of the first two presidents poised for succession in 2012. However. the Rift Valley Province and the North Eastern Province. PNU was a recent creation. but also of a larger conspiracy.

most likely waiting out the political climate. but also on the very principles of majimboism. using the vice-presidency to make a pledge of succession for a future Luyia president. and as Professor Egara Kabaji noted. Awori was seen by some Bukusu as a political interloper. In The Nation. even the Awori option revealed fissures in the Luyia community. This campaign story was really about how the west was won.236 J. and continuing to use Awori’s influence in the region in the meantime. Musalia Mudavadi and Julia Ojiambo respectively. The contemporary relevance of these historical arguments clearly point to the regional emphasis ODM attempted to foster. Eventually. this type of argument was mobilised as an attack not only on the Luyia. ODM and ODM-Kenya both chose Luyia running mates for their presidential candidates. prominent Luo lawyer and politician Argwings-Kodhek argued that the very term ‘Luyia’ was a fabrication. This trend is of crucial contemporary relevance.47 ODM was not the only party battling to secure the Elijah Masinde vote in this election.’46 In this instance. However.’ says Mumias MP Wycliffe Osundwa. As such. with the proclamation of Kibaki’s victory. ‘the winner would be the group that sold its story to voters in the most creative way’. Kibaki did not name a running mate before the election. Some observers took the debate even further. We do not know who these Abaluyia are. ‘The region gave the votes he needed to get the presidency that had eluded him in 1992 and 1997. Being of the Samia sub-group. political consultant Mutahi Ngunyi argued that the prominent position need not go to another Luyia.’44 The obvious choice to some was Moody Awori. and thus Kibaki used the position to co-opt ODM-Kenya into his new government. the Luhya have never acted collectively in politics. but as part of larger regional concerns for the national reorganisation of power. They did not exist before then and have no history as a ‘‘tribe’’. Many anti-ODM Bukusu insisted that the prophecy had already been Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . The importance of Western Province politicians in top seats was also reinforced by the election of ODM-backed Kenneth Marende as Speaker. The VP’s position is about future politics and Kibaki cannot afford to disappoint the Luhyas. an obstacle replicated in the 2007 elections with Mudavadi’s bid for vice president. Despite these arguments. and that ‘it never existed before. the third most powerful position in the government.’45 This succession question in 2003 was not the first time such arguments were used to undermine the historicity and legitimacy of the Luyia as a relevant political bloc. MacArthur ‘It is only natural for the President to give the seat back to a person from the region. to demonstrate the party’s recognition of the strategic importance of the Western Province in the electoral dynamics of Kenyan politics. Kalonzo Musyoka was named vice president. the Minister for Home Affairs. encouraging the ethnically plural Luyia community to bind together not solely on the basis of ethnicity. In 1962 in a Legislative Council Debate over whether to create at independence a Western Province for the Luyia. They have never voted for a sitting government. Kibaki nominated Moody Awori as vice president in 2003 and continued the recent trend of courting the Luyia vote through this position. as these historical political alliances informed the strategic choices of all parties in the 2007 elections. ODM strategically employed the Masinde prophecy. not of Wamalwa’s Bukusu. unsure of which ethnic group would swing support in his direction. a respected member of the Luyia community and too elderly to be considered a presidential successor to Kibaki. as the ‘historical records reflect that the Luhya ‘‘tribe’’ was created by the colonial administration some time in the 1940s.

thus disqualifying a Maragoli. where Masinde Muliro and Michael Wamalwa had also sat. the Masinde family reacted fiercely to this proposed ceremony. meant mobilising young voters was crucial to any victory. and Kibaki only taking the lead with voters over 55 years of age. with Odinga leading in all age-sets up to 54 years of age. . he represented Kibaki.53 Kombo and the FORD-Kenya politicians argued that the prophecy was Bukusu-specific and thus not for any Luyia to fulfil. still loyal to FORD-Kenya and yet frustrated by the lack of Bukusu influence in both PNU and ODM. with 42 per cent of the population under the age of fifteen.50 Indeed.48 Kibaki and Odinga waged the electoral campaign in generational terms. Young voters also were particularly receptive of ODM’s calls for drastic change. was final and that they would not allow such a cleansing. who had always recognised the importance of Masinde. and promised that half of his ministers would be under the age of 50. Kibaki propounded his experience and track record while Odinga called for dramatic change and a new generation of political leadership. disillusioned by Kibaki’s failed promises of employment.54 This tension between Mudavadi and the FORD-Kenya representatives was not surprising as historically. struggled to combat ODM’s appeal to the younger generations. current FORD-Kenya chairman. ODM sold this story by appropriating a prophetic past to promise future change. The generational gap provided a politically useful space for the reinterpretation of such prophetic historical narratives. Despite Odinga being 62 years of age himself. polls conducted early in the campaign bear out this generational divide. Wafula Wamunyinyi to set out to reclaim the Masinde historical legacy.49 ODM appealed to this youthful voting block. in what would become a public relations nightmare. at 75. Musikari Kombo. Mudavadi had beaten ‘Kombo to the game by sitting on the special stool’. Mudavadi. Much of the older generation. the Masinde family and original followers of Dini ya Msambwa remained adamant that the prophecy was meant for all Luyia and that they supported ODM and Mudavadi’s bid to succeed Odinga and fulfil the prophecy. Kombo combined with Kaduyi MP. and the younger generations’ frustrations with the current administration. i. ‘signifying their new role as leaders of the Bukusu and the Luhya community as a whole’. by promising to represent a new and younger generation of political leadership. however many of these elders also recognised the undeniable force of the youth vote. and his backers as ‘the men of yesterday’. saying their support for Raila Odinga’s ODM. not Luyia leadership more generally.e. . In the Western Province. slowly towards progress.How the West was Won 237 fulfilled when the leadership of FORD-Kenya passed from Oginga Odinga to Michael Wamalwa. and dividing the Bukusu vote that for years had been staunchly united behind FORD-Kenya. particularly among young voters. to secure the party’s fortunes ahead of the General Elections’ and to cleanse it from the outsiders who had defiled it.51 ODM was thus successfully selling its story of generational struggle to the youth. This argument underlined the belief among many that Masinde’s prophecy referred to Bukusu leadership. from its realisation.52 However. particularly among the youth. Many Luyia elders believed that Kibaki was taking the country along ‘polepole’. However. The FORD-Kenya members decided in early October to ‘perform a cleansing ceremony at Masinde’s grave . the Maragoli and the Bukusu have been the most distinctly Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . that was sweeping Bungoma District at the time. such as Mudavadi. Such arguments were made to counter the wave of ODM support. and thus believed they should vote with the young and ‘forget the old men’. Demographic change in Kenya and the so-called ‘youth bulge’. realised the danger of ODM’s Masinde strategy.

‘Of Oranges and Bananas’.’56 Although this overstates the point. both lost their parliamentary seats to ODM candidates in their constituencies. According to the published results. every other constituency in the Western Province voted overwhelmingly for Raila Odinga for president. However. The Luyia of Western Kenya continue to defy simple ethnic or political categorisation.238 J. Masinde’s prophecy appears to have established a set of attitudes that allow members of the various Luhyia subtribes to perceive themselves as belonging to a single cultural entity with one destiny. ‘ODM ‘Pentagon’ Promises to Keep the Team Intact’. . as Masinde’s credentials as a prophet outside of the Bukusu is questionable. Conclusion John Lonsdale recently asked this crucial question as regarded the future of Kenyan politics: ‘Could ethnic electorates pool their local critiques of power. it does point to the uniting force that a Maragoli propounding this prophecy could have on a previously fragmented political bloc. throws suspicion on the victory of Kibaki in all four of its constituencies. ‘Raila’s ‘‘Generals’’ Now Take Charge’. Notes 1 2 Throup and Hornsby. to build a common citizenship against the prejudices inflamed by political tribalism?’57 ODM’s strategy relied on just such mobilisations of localised criticisms of past governments. 8 Nation Correspondent. 6 Ohito. inequitable development and historical injustices to demand political change. and disputed possible success in the presidential elections. Kombo and Wamunyinyi. the use of the prophecy by ODM signified the ‘bringing together of two populous Luhyia sub-tribes in Western Province. 5 Muiruri. and thus demand a more nuanced approach to understanding the dynamics of campaign strategies and voting patterns. MacArthur Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 different and the most at odds of the Luyia groups. 4. particularly as the two proponents of Kibaki’s PNU bid for votes in the region. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya. 14.55 However. The prophecy was in fact more important for its political connotations of succession than for its specific historical and cultural origins for those outside the Bukusu areas. 231. 7 Hornsby and Throup. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya. 439. ODM successfully harnessed the voting power of the Western Province through calls to low and localised political solutions. Kisia and Ojwang. ‘Kenya: Last Poll. whether or not ODM’s success at the parliamentary polls. The strong support witnessed in Bungoma. 4 Andreassen and Tostensen. as Professor Kabaji also pointed out. encouraged by the inter-ethnicity that often underwrites survival among the poor. ‘Elijah Masinde and the Luhya Prophecy’. Many on the Luyia Council of Elders affirm that uniting these two groups remains one of their greatest challenges. the Bukusu district of the Western Province. ‘Introduction: Political Linkage and Political Space in the Era of Decolonization’. 3 Cheeseman. Simple ethnic explanations of the post-election disillusionment and violence cheapen the deep historical and economic grievances at stake in this election. Much resentment is still felt among the Bukusu for having been taught by early Maragoli converts through the Friends Quaker missions. Last Push’. would produce the results promised by its campaign strategies remains an unanswerable question. regional devolution and promises of powersharing.

Mahone. ‘ODM to Adopt Majimbo System if They Win Poll’. A Place to Feel at Home. Elgon Nyanza. 547Á64. For more on precolonial and early colonial ethnic history in Western Kenya see Ochieng’. Raila Campaigns Hit Fever Pitch’. I. 21 Bosire. ‘Yours in Struggle for Majimbo’. 22 Ogot. 1900Á1916. the Bisukha. the Maragoli. 15 January1936. 33 Wipper. Nyanza. at times spelt Luhya or Abaluyia. ‘Politics. October 2007. Ranger. 545Á62. 35 Anderson and Johnson. 85Á138. Kenya: From Chartered Company to Crown Colony. 196Á236. the Batsotso. Vol. ‘Avaluyha Á Kinship’. Ogot. Mr. 31 KNA Á DC/NN/10/1/5. Were. ‘Political Associations in Western Kenya’. and the Teriki. ‘Dini Msambwa’. 40 Sunday Nation Team. ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Press’.How the West was Won 9 239 The Luyia. ‘Kibaki. Kenya National Archives (KNA) Á North Nyanza Political Record Book. ‘History of Nyanza’. 26 Interviews by the author with Teriki and Bukusu Elders on the Luyia Council of Elders and local CDF representatives. 3/6/61. ‘Dini ya Msambwa’. Were. ‘Raila to Fulfil Luhya Dream of Ascending to Presidency’. Provincial Commissioner FA Loyd. Berman. Vol. the Kabras. 18 See Lonsdale. 518. 85Á104. PRO. ‘Ethnicity. the Bunyala. the Marama. 36 KNA Á DC/NN/10/1/5. A. the Batura. ‘Mau Mau and Nationhood: The Untold Story’. 131Á150. With all of these prophecies. KNA Á PC/NZA/2/655 NKCA ‘Abaluhya’ memorandum to the Imperial Parliament through the Right Honourable Secretary of State for the Colonies. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya. ‘ODM Rolls out Regional Manifestos’. ‘Connexions between ‘‘Primary Resistance’’ Movements and Modern Mass Nationalism in East and Central Africa’. 11 For descriptions of the gold rush and early political associations in Western Kenya see Lonsdale. 258Á59. ‘Moral Ethnicity and Political Tribalism’. 38 KNA Á DC/WP/4/4. 13. 25 ODM Manifesto. ‘The Gold Boom of the 1930s in East Africa’. Hoehler-Fatton. 589Á638.Wagner. ‘The Political Organization of the Bantu of Kavirondo’. Roberts. 39 Buke. 265Á76. 81. 32 Wipper. 1934). 305Á41. ‘Scheming for Power’. 277Á94. Special Intelligence Report. it is important to bear in mind that exact quoting is made dubious by the nature of their circulation through rumour and word of mouth. 14 Lonsdale. Kenya African Union. 15/3/48. Bode. 20 Nottingham and Sanger. Provincial Police Headquarters. ‘Language Standardization in Western Kenya’. Rural Rebels. the Buhayo. 29 Onyango. Revealing Prophets. the Samia. Handing Over Report. 12 PRO. Unity in Diversity. the Kisa. For more on the history of majimboism see Anderson. 12. 10 Hobley. 390. 1989Á93’. De Wolf.59. 27 EAS Sunday Team. 87Á114. 18 June 1936. CO 533/473/5 Á Petition from NKCA to Secretary of State. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya. Welbourn and Ogot. Historical Studies and Social Change in Western Kenya. the Tachoni. December 1949. III (Nairobi. the Marach. NKCA pamphlet. 241Á58. Julius and Kiragu. 15 KNA: PC/NZA/4/20/3 Á Nyanza Province Minutes of Meeting of NP Security Committee 20/12/60 16 KNA: PC/NZA/1/53 Á Nyanza Province Annual Report 1960. Rural Rebels. 24 ¯ Interviews by the author throughout Western Province and with the Luyia Council of Elders. 13 Kanyoro. are composed of seventeen tribal groupings: the Bukusu. 19 For debates between KANU and KADU local factions in Western Kenya regarding majimboism see KNA Á GO/1/2/1Á2 Kenya Regional Boundaries Commission 1962. the Bidakho. B. 157. the Bunyore. 1500Á1930. 539 fn. ‘The Psychology of Rebellion’. ‘Transition from Single-Party to Multiparty Political System. 119. Sollo. 1943. see also Wipper. 1935 as quoted in Lonsdale. 24 September 2007. CO533/473/5 Á Petition from NKCA to the Secretary of State. 18 June 1936. and Nationalism in Western Kenya. Patronage and the African State’. The Nation. Downloaded By: [Dartmouth College] At: 14:27 18 May 2011 . 437Á53. WRB Pugh. Religion. Itebete. 37 KNA Á DC/NN/10/1/5. 1942Á1962’. 28 ODM Manifesto. 80. ‘The Kenya General Election of 1963’. Women of Fire and Spirit. Spencer. 34 Wipper. 17 Throup and Hornsby. ‘Anti-Colonial Politics within a Tribe’. North Nyanza. 30 KNA Á DC North Kavirondo Annual Report. ‘KAU’s Cultures’. c. 23 Throup and Hornsby. SeptemberÁ November 2007. For debates around land tenure and the territorial extent of ethnic identity in North Kavirondo see Kenya Land Commission Evidence. ‘Lofty Visions and Militant Action’. the Wanga. Dini Ya Msambwa. A History of the Abaluyia of Western Kenya.

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