Saturday, 5 January 2013


Under three Months time only and Sabaots (one of the marginalized communities in Kenya), will cast their most crucial vote alongside other Kenyans. Just like previous elections, it will be with mixed feelings: with only a single representative in the Kenyan Parliament since independence, poorest infrastructure, perennial land conflicts and a horde of other challenges; ‘negotiated democracy’ is widely seen as the only way out! The community cuts across the larger Bungoma & Trans-Nzoia counties where it is seeking a political ‘walk-away’ amidst a robust, prominent and almost ‘omnipresent’ Bukusu Community: their main ‘political’ adversaries since independence! Indeed, the two shares an icy past which has spring forth ugly and deadly confrontations that either of them are not anticipating and are more than willing to prevent from ever happening again. Land-based conflicts have been a common phenomenon in Kenya since the pre-colonial days. Community conflicts and violence have erupted over land and associated resources in different parts of the country, particularly between agriculturalists and pastoralists, resulting into the loss of many lives, massive destruction of property and livelihoods, population displacements and human rights violations. Indeed, analysts generally agree that the unresolved land question was at the root of the unprecedented violence that rocked the country in the aftermath of the disputed December 2007 elections, not least because the violence was most widespread and intense in the Rift Valley region, where the land question has been most intractable. Yet, the rhythmic nature of land-related violence, often coinciding with general elections and other critical moments in Kenya’s national politics, indicate that there may be more to it than just land disputes or pure inter-community hatred. Indeed, it points to a possible political motive for the chaos. This is borne out by the fact that in some instances, state agencies have been implicated in the conflicts, while in others the state has remained ambivalent It will be worthwhile to note that after Kenya’s Independence, the government did not have a national policy on the rights of the marginalized and the minority. In the Kenyatta Administration, the government displaced Sabaots and resettled the Bukusus because Sabaots were thought to back the defunct Kenya African Democratic Union and Bukusus supported Kanu. The subsequent move by the government to displace the Sabaots who were then in KADDU while the Bukusus supported Kanu led to the first clashes and to a broader extend; all the troubles and successive wrangles (the worst being 1992 clashes) that tore down the once firm fabric of trust the two communities had enjoyed for years on end! Today Endebess, Saboti & Mount Elgon Constituencies are perceived to be Sabaots strongholds (that is as far as history is concerned). Truth is, apart from Mount Elgon where outright win is guaranteed, Saboti & Endebess has registered an overwhelming number of voters from the Bukusu Community! For Bukose (Endebes) & Jonas Kugo (Saboti); both of which hails from the larger Sabaot community, it is going to be tough walking-good the ‘tight-rope’ held firmly by the ever-domineering Bukusus. Despite the fact that countless meetings (both in the night and day) have been held, schemes lay down and strategies established: the looming distrust that has withstood the test of time is undeniably holding every Sabaot hostage. The whole community is apparently faltering in its shaky political steps; in the horns of dilemma and uncertain of what will become of their candidates come March 4th 2013. For the time being, every Sabaot can only watch: their ‘third eyes and ears’ ever alert; eager, uncertain, impatient and hopeful perhaps! More so, they have another hope: the back up enshrined in the constitution which safe-guards the interests of the Kenyan Communities Categorized as ‘marginalized’ and/ or ‘minority’. Will the government ensure justice is done to such ‘marginalized’ communities? Time will tell. For now, it is the government’s duty to protect every single Kenyan: marginalized or not, whether in ‘would-be-political-marriages’ or not; simply put, come 4th March 2013, every Sabaot and Bukusu will peaceful cast their votes in favor of their favorite candidates (since it is their democratic right anyway) and be able to co-exist peacefully thereafter! -Kaptama, Mount Elgon © 2013 Cheruo Levi Cheptora

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