How Kenya’s Tribal Politics has Been Shifting Ethnic Hatred

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The rising bile from the Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga reveals how a minute in Kenyan Politics can either kill or heal a nation.

If you take a brief troll on Kenya’s political caravans since the country attained independence back in 1963, it will definitly lead you through interesting and bitter paths of a country in total social-economic desperation.

The ethnic group that produces the country’s most powerful man becomes an enemy of the rest. 


Four months after the assassination of Tom Mboya (a Luo) outside a Nairobi pharmacy on July 5,1969, President Jomo Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) made a two-day historic official tour of Western and Nyanza provinces to familiarise himself with the development projects.

Kisumu was Kenyatta’s last stop in Nyanza where he was scheduled to open the New Nyanza General Hospital. The 1.2 million pound hospital had been built with USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republic) aid.

The country and specifically Luo Nyanza was still tense. Due to the role Mboya had played in the succession politics, spontaneous political instability had erupted pitting Kikuyu and Luo ethnic groups after the Mboya assassin was identified as Mr Nahashon Njenga from Kiambu.

Kenyatta’s visit was marred with the shooting of Luo protestors in Kisumu, a scenario that totally escalated the hatred between the two historical communities in Kenya.


But the Kikuyus could not stay in power for long as Jommo Kenyatta was found dead on 22nd of August 1978 in Mombasa, prompting Vice President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi from the Kalenjin community to take over the leadership of the country. 

However, it was not long until Moi’s era was characterised by corruption and high voltage nepotism that polarised other communities against the Kalenjins.

Moi flooded thousands of thousands of his fellow Kalenjins into his government, including the police and the military. That is why up to now, when Kenyan stand-up comedians have to imitate a Kenyan police, they use the Kalenjin accent. 

Read also Open Letter to the Kenyan Police 

The bad Moi then went ahead to ban miltiparty democracy, forcing all the communities to only look up to KANU as their political party albeit reluctantly. The Kalenjins became a thorn in the flesh of the Kenyan majority. 


Having been too tired of a tired Moi, many communities including the Luo, the Luhya and the Kamba joined hands to send the old man home. Though Moi did not vie in 2002, no one wanted to hear anything to do with his preferred replacement in the name of a then clueless ‘college boy’ Uhuru Kenyatta.

The NARC Kenya wave swept everything and voted in an accident survivor Mzee Starnley Emilio Mwai Kubaki into power. 

Though I was then only thirteen years old, images of Kibaki taking an oath of office on a wheelchair still trend freshly in my mind. Kibaki had just become the ‘People’s darling’.

But did that darling nonsense last for long? The office of the presidency was once again accussed of squeezing Kikuyus into public offices. 

The climax was attained in 2005 during the Wako Draft Referendum where the Raila-led NO-camp managed to defeat Kibaki’s YES side. 

The then Roads Minister Raila Odinga and his allies were fired by Kibaki and formed the Orange Democratic Movement -Kenya (ODM-Kenya) which he used to challenge Kibaki in the fateful 2007 general elections. 

THE 2007/2008 CLASHES 

The general election of this year proved how terrible ethnic politics can sink a nation. The electoral body just plunged the country into violence after contraversially announcing the incumbent PNU’s Mwai Kibaki as the President-elect!

With the Kalenjin’s William Ruto in the Raila camp, the relationship between the Kalenjins and Kibaki’s Kikuyus bursted into flames. 1,133 people lost their lives and 670,000 others displaced during the clashed that later landed Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto and four others at the  International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. 

Until Raila shook hands with Mwai Kibaki in a power-sharing deal to form a grand-coalition government, Kenya was going into ashes.


In a move that shocked many, William Ruto, after falling out with the Luo’s Raila Odinga, joined hands with the Kikiyu’s Uhuru Kenyatta to form a government. The 2013 elections were highly polarised that they ended up in the Supreme Court but in favour of the duo, locking out the Luos from accessing power.

By then, Wetang’ula had ditched the Kikuyu’s to join the Raila he had fought in 2007!

The Kikuyu’s and the Kalenjins now became the silent enemies of the Luo, the Luhya, the Akamba and the coastal people where Raila scooped votes like a hired Tsunami.
The same happened in 2017 where Uhuru and Ruto, as well as Raila’s side maintained camp.


The 1969 hatred between the Luo and the Kikuyu was again revisited after the contraversial election that was shamefully nullified by the Supreme Court.

During the protests by the opposition supporters especially those from Nyanza region, the police allegedly shot dozens of Kisumu residents who were demonstrating against the terrible electoral body that is believed to be literally operated by Uhuru’s government. 

A Form Two student from Vihiga Boys whobwas returning home for school fees was also shot dead and his throat chopped to remove a bullet. 

The Opposition communities including the Akamba, the coastal Kenya led by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and the Luhyas led by former Vice President Musalia Mudavadi and Wetang’ula, stood with their Luo counterparts. They were like one family in the National Super Alliance (NASA) wing.


Having insisted that he won the 2017 general elections, NASA flag bearer Raila Odinga plotted a move to be sworn in as the President and can’t acknowledge Uhuru as the President of Kenya.

Read also

He mobilised his co-principals in supporting him for the fateful swearing-in ceremony done at Uhuru Park.

However, the other three principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula did not turn up with Kalonzo claiming that the police blocked the three from accessing the venue.

Read also

The January 30th, 2018 event definitely brought the house of NASA to the floor 

Some of the repercussions included the recent removal of Senator Moses Wetang’ula from the position of the Senate Minority Leader and replacing him with the Siaya Senator James Orengo, a Luo.

Read also Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula to Lose His Position as Senate Minority Leader 

The love and brotherhod the Luhyas had for the Luos has apparently come to an end. The two ethnic sides are currently not on good terms with each each other as far as politics is concerned. 

This comes barely two weeks after Raila Odinga finally burried the hatchet and joined Uhuru Kenyatta on a healing agenda, the man he claims has killed his Kisumu people. 

Did someone just say politics has no everlasting enemies or friends? Please share your views in the comments section below this article.


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Simiyu Wakajuaness

Blogger Simiyu Wakajuaness is a scriptwriter, actor and stage director with ardent passion in the media and public relations in this digital world. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook on the icons below...

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