By Ben Leshau
Senior Maa community political leaders have kicked off campaigns that will see them work together in the 2022 presidential elections campaigns to motivate the community vote as a bloc and boost their political bargaining power.
They have ignited efforts to unite supporters from counties inhabited by the community to not only enhance their political stake but to also decide who will carry the leadership mantle, a position last occupied by the late William Ole Ntimama.
During the burial of the former Transport Licensing Board (TLB) Chairman Hassan ole Kamwaro who was Natimama’s confidant, the debate on Maa unity dominated speeches as leaders called for a mega meeting to chart the community’s political future.
Former Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Alex ole Magelo set the ball rolling when he called for a unity meeting bringing together leaders from all Maa speaking counties to plan and discuss the option of forming a political party to boost their political bargain.
“We cannot continue being a divided people every election year. I want all leaders to unite and have a mega meeting in Suswa or somewhere else where we shall deliberate on our political future,” stated ole Magelo.
After Ntimama’s death, the Maa Nation has remained deeply divided with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee, Raila Odinga’s ODM and Gideon Moi’s Kanu parties jostling for dominance in the region.
Jubilee turned the tables on ODM in the 2017 elections, sweeping five elective seats against ODM’s one in Kajido County, taking four in Narok where ODM again managed a single seat but fell short in Samburu, where Kanu dominated with three seats against Jubilee’s one.
In the last 2017 elections, the Jubilee Party also swept all the three gubernatorial seats in Narok, Kajiado and Samburu counties but the picture changed in the parliamentary and civic seats contest.
Before his death in 2016, Ntimama appealed to the community to support Jubilee and it appears his wishes were granted apart from the Kajiado Central and Narok North parliamentary seats where Elijah Memusi and Moitalel ole Kenta were elected on an ODM ticket.
Figures however show that elections result were so close despite Jubilee’s dominance and the bitter rivalry between pro-government and opposition supporters across the region, makes it a free for all playground unless a drastic shift emerges before 2022.
In the 2013 elections, Raila Odinga’s ODM bagged most seats as William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) and Uhuru’s TNA split the remaining seats in Kajiado, Narok, Samburu and Laikipia counties.
Political players will, therefore, be watching keenly how Ruto, Raila and other players like Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka approach the region this time round.
At Ole Kamwaro’s burial, other leaders who spoke included former Laikipia West MP Mathew Lempurkel who dismissed Jubilee elected leaders as ‘skirt wearers’ for allegedly betraying the community.
“Some of these leaders cower when issues affecting the Maa community like the destruction of the Mau catchment are raised. They do not say anything and these are the leaders we do not want,” noted Lempurkel.
Some outspoken leaders like Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta have been at the forefront in the fight against historical land injustices, the Mau forest issue and marginalisation.
“We have suffered from marginalization in all the successive regimes and it is time we rise up and fight for our rights. We support the handshake and we hope it will help address our issues,” said ole Kenta.
According to local political analysts, it will be a daunting task to unite the Maa Nation since the three pre-dominant counties have different political landscapes and dynamics.
“Kajiado is close to Nairobi thus clan and tribal politics may not be very significant the way it plays out in Narok and Samburu for example,” said Peter Lemaiyan, a Nairobi-based communication specialist.
Mr Lemaiyan , however, agreed that it was important for leaders from the region to speak with one voice because the more divided they are the more they lose in terms of development and opportunities like employment.
In 2013 and 2017 general elections Raila Odinga received more votes than President Uhuru Kenyatta in Narok, but he is now going to face Deputy President William Ruto should he be on the ballot and it remains to be seen who the community will vote for.
That is because in the 2013 elections, Maa voters in Narok voted Jubilee overwhelmingly through the then Ruto fronted URP that was popularly known as Chama cha wafugaji (The pastoralists party) whose symbol was a horn making the DP their darling.
It was until after 2013 that a section of the Maa fell out with him mainly because of the the Maasai Mau forest politics whose settlers were from his Kipsigis tribe.
In the run-up to 2017 general election, the Jubilee party leaders led by Narok Governor Samuel Tunai and his Samburu counterpart Moses Kasaine Lonulkulal appealed for the community’s unity for the sake of development.
Maa leaders besieged the community to unite in the Jubilee Party and vote as a bloc for them to realise development as the two governors asked the community to unite for them and have a bargaining power in the next government.
“As the Maa, we have been divided, because some are in government while others in opposition but going forward, we should unite and move in one direction as Jubilee and from there we shall have enough reason to ask for development,” said Governor Lonulkulal.
He added: “During the last elections, Jubilee lost to opposition leader Raila Odinga in the Presidential race by about 10,000 votes both in Narok and Samburu but this time round we want to change things.”
Governor Tunai has maintained that Narok was a ‘Jubilee Zone’ and the fruits of development from the Jubilee administration are being felt on the ground.
He cited mega projects set to be rolled out in the county such as the construction of the Narok-Sekenani Gate road and the Kisiriri-Mau Narok road which are set to be launched soon by Uhuru.
Tunai also revealed that cohesion has been realized during his reign, among all the communities living within the County and asked his opponents to preach peace and not hate and tribalism.
“When I was elected the Governor in 2013, we were still nursing the wounds of the 2007/08 post elections violence that led to loss of many lives and property. My manifesto was to unite all communities and clans within Narok and that is the difference between me and others,” said Tunai.
All Maa leaders have now asked that the newly-refurbished Narok Stadium be renamed to William ole Ntimama Stadium in respect of the late doyen of Maa politics who was revered in the country across the border in Tanzania.