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Kenya’s Media Concerned About Tribal Sentiments in Politics


Kenya’s media has expressed grave concern about ethnic sentiments creeping into the body politic ahead of the December presidential and parliamentary elections. Some people in the media cited as an example the dramatic support for incumbent President Mwai Kibaki’s party by the opposition KANU party, which effectively brings old enemies from the same ethnic group together. The media adds that many of the presidential aspirants are appointing various running mates largely based on which ethnic grouping would give them votes in the coming general elections.

Basette Bayuka is the news anchor for Kenya’s independent Nation’s Television. From the capital, Nairobi he tells reporter Peter Clottey that tribalism would be a huge factor in this year’s elections.

“Not so mush of upset as concern about the general political landscape and the way it seems to be polarized along regional and ethnic groups. Now, you look at Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity acronym PANU, and then you look at the pillars he’s got around him. You got Musekari Kombo FORD-Kenya, perceived to be very strong in Western province so expected to deliver that vote, and then you’ve got Uhuru Kenyatta, the leader of the official opposition, he is from the Kibaki’s neck of the woods, Central Kenya. And he’s thrown his weight behind the incumbent, and then you’ve got the retired President Daniel Arap Moi in that rift valley also, throwing his weight behind the incumbent. So it’s beginning to look like anyway the tribe factor would be key in this election. And indeed you can’t rule out the ethnic factor, not in Kenyan politics, not in African politics,” Buyuka pointed out.

He said politics in Kenya has further descended into that of personalities rather than issues or ideology.

“The interesting thing in Kenyan politics, you get these politicians and you ask them what is your parties platform, what ideology do you stand for that distinguishes ODM (Orange Democratic Movement) from ODM- Kenya (Orange Democratic Movement – Kenya) from PANU the Party for National Unity for instance. And you would find that it’s more about personalities rather than real issues and ideologies. As a result, it then comes down to the issue of where do you come from; Raila you come from Nyanza, Kalonzo you come from the Eastern Province, and then people looking what take is there in that for them,” he said.

Buyuka said the presidential aspirants are all clamoring for votes in order to come on top in the December elections.

“It’s all about trying to get as many votes as possible, and looking at those areas where you can tap into that and really its about ethnic calculations as well,” Buyuka noted.

He said since the inception of the first political party after independence, ethnicity and tribal sentiments have been key in party formation.

“Since Kenya went into multiparty democracy, that is way back in 1992, we had the first multiparty elections and the KANU was still rather strong. But then a lot of the parties that sprung up thereafter, as time went along, started getting that tribal hue around them and they really became parties you could identify with a certain part of the country, as opposed to national parties. Progressively, that is the way it’s become tribalism is a real factor and we always keep challenging the politicians, how do you get rid of it? I don’t think anyone yet have gotten the antidote for that. It’s going to be a factor, a real factor in this election,” he said.

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