Gatundu is a small town in Kiambu County, Kenya. Gatundu’s history is anything but small due to its most illustrious residents, the Kenyatta family. Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, represented Gatundu Constituency in parliament from 1964 until he died in 1978. Jomo’s nephew, Ngengi Muigai, took over the seat sitting in parliament for one decade until 1988. In 2002 Jomo’s son Uhuru Kenyatta was elected Member of Parliament for Gatundu South Constituency a seat he held until he was elected President in 2013. (The larger Gatundu constituency was split into Gatundu North and Gatundu South in 1997.) In the 51 years since Kenya got independence Gatundu has had a member of the Kenyatta family as MP for 35 years. It would be fair to conclude that the Kenyatta’s hold considerable weight in Gatundu. Especially when they also occupy State House.
This influence was seen during the by-election for Gatundu South Constituency in August 2014, which was occasioned by the death of Member of Parliament Joseph Ngugi Nyumu. The Contest to replace Nyumu boiled down to two candidates, Kiarie Kamere of the New Democrats Party and Moses Kuria of The National Alliance (TNA) the party of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Most analysts predicted Kamere would trounce Kuria, especially as Kamere had controversially lost the TNA primaries to Kuria. Ballot day would separate the pretenders from the contenders. But ballot day never came.
A week before the by election, after a private meeting with Uhuru Kenyatta, Kamere announced he was withdrawing from the race “for the sake of unity of Gatundu South people“. Kamere declared, “Gatundu South Constituency is the home of our beloved President Uhuru Kenyatta. I don’t wish to be the cause, or be associated with political divisions and unnecessary tensions in the President’s backyard … It is with this in mind and out of the deep respect for our President, Uhuru Kenyatta, that I this morning announce my decision to withdraw my candidature from the race for the Gatundu South Parliamentary seat.” Moses Kuria, Uhuru Kenyatta’s handpicked candidate, sailed into parliament unopposed.
On the surface this would just be yet another story of the power of political dynasties in Kenya. But the elevation of Kuria to parliament is much more sinister, especially considering he was hand picked by Kenyatta for the role he is playing. Kuria’s conduct has been anything but honourable constantly crossing the line between commentary and incitement. Kuria abuses the freedoms granted to him in our constitutional Bill of Rights to call for the destruction of other Kenyans, unaware that they too are entitled to freedoms he enjoys.
Take these examples all since October when Kuria gave his maiden speech in parliament.
Kuria hates the opposition and accuses them of being members of Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda
Kuria hates Muslims and Kenyans of Somali ethnicity and advocates for Al Shabaab to kill them using the hashtag #KillYourOwn. Kuria’s boss in parliament, the Majority Leader of the National Assembly of Kenya, Aden Duale, is ethnic Somali. I wonder if Kuria wants Duale killed too?
Kuria hates Luos considers them a “threat to East Africa”
and is obsessed with Luo penises
Kuria reserves most of his insults for the former Prime Minister of Kenya and current opposition leader Raila Odinga whom he really hates. Kuria’s obsession with Odinga’s penis is disturbing. He regularly takes pleasure in Odinga’s torture by the Moi dictatorship
He accuses Raila of organising terror attacks on Kenya
These examples are just a drop of the stream of vitriol that Kuria shares through his social media accounts and sadly, are not unexpected when you take into account Kuria’s brushes with the law. In June 2014 (just before he took over as Member of Parliament) the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered for the prosecution of Kuria for Hate Speech following recommendations by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Law Society of Kenya. This process led to Facebook shutting down Kuria’s Facebook page in May 2014.
As part of the process of settling the court case Kuria on 12 January 2015, in a press conference overseen by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Law society of Kenya apologised for linking certain communities to terrorism and violence. True to form just one day after that “apology” Kuria was up to his usual mischief and again feeding his obsession to penises by referring on his Twitter account to Genesis 17:14 which talks about uncircumcised men.
Tired of having its processes mocked the National Cohesion and Integration Commission withdrew a conciliation agreement it made with Kuria over hate speech, citing continued posting of offensive messages.
Kuria is not the first Kenyan politician unable to keep a sense of ethics or even decorum. As a junior Member of Parliament his dishonourable behaviour should be nothing but a footnote in the history of Kenya. But Kuria is not just another Kenyan politician. He was hand picked by the President for parliament. Before going to parliament Kuria was a political strategist for the Uhuru Kenyatta’s party, The National Alliance (TNA). Incidently TNA’s chairman, Johnson Sakaja, one of the most reasonable Members of the current Kenyan parliament, has to his credit publicly called out Kuria when he comes across his incitement.
Kuria is many things but he is not naïve. He is a very stragic political player who played a significant enough role in getting Uhuru Kenyatta elected that he was rewarded with the Gatundu seat. Significantly throughout Kuria’s troubles with the law, State House has been silent, not once denouncing his statements.
As the President’s personal pick for the Gatundu seat and as a political strategist to TNA everything Kuria does is designed to ensure Uhuru Kenyatta is re-elected President. Therefore, Kuria’s actions give us insight into how the next Kenyan General Election campaign will be played. If he is to play a significant role in the election, everything Kuria does in the political arena must have one of two effects. His political actions must either
- Win over new supporters for Uhuru Kenyatta or
- Energise Uhuru Kenyatta’s current supporters
Kuria actions such as publicly insulting various ethnic communities, linking political opponents with terrorists, insulting the former Prime Minister, gloating over the plight of political detainees and his obsession with foreskins will definitely not win Uhuru Kenyatta any new votes. If anything it will drive voters who did not vote for Kenyatta in 2013 even further away.
That leaves us with only one option. Kuria believes his hate speech will energise Uhuru Kenyatta’s base. Kuria believes the best way to get Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters excited about the next general election is to drag the whole political process into the gutter. Kuria believes incitement, the same kind of incitement that pushed Kenya into violence in 2007/2008, is a voter winner. And he is willing to take the risk and play dice with the future of Kenya.
This is especially dangerous because the perception is that Kuria’s actions not only represent his position but they also represent the strategy of Kenyatta. Kenyatta should move quickly to dispel that perception and distance himself from Kuria firmly and publicly. Not for the sake of his supporters, not for the sake of his opponents, not even for the sake of his presidency, although all three would benefit. Kenyatta should do it for Kenya, Kenyatta should do it to demonstrate that he is confident that his record as President and Commander in Chief will win him more votes than the hate speech of a delusional simpleton.