Raila returns to Suswa grounds for Maa blessings
Azimio-One Kenya will campaign in Narok tomorrow as presidential candidate Raila Odinga seeks to solidify his support in the Maa counties.
Raila will bank on the fifth “Suswa Declaration” to bag a majority of the over one million Maa votes in six counties.
Speaking at Olmuntus church in Kajiado county, Governor Joseph ole Lenku said people from Narok, Kajiado, Laikipia, Nakuru, Baringo and Samburu counties, where Maa speakers live, will converge at the venue to declare their support for Raila.
Members of the Maa community have traditionally used the historic grounds to make major declarations, including presidential endorsements.
Lenku, who is the community spokesman, says the Suswa rally will be used to make a final pitch for Raila with barely a week to the end of the campaign period.
“The fifth Suswa declaration at the historic grounds will endorse the Azimio leadership nationally and all regions and will be significant in rallying votes from the Maa-speaking counties to vote six-piece from MCA to the presidency,” said Lenku.
He said that during the declaration, Raila will be dressed in a monkey skin, a sacred gown and handed a baton, a symbol of leadership in the Maasai community.
“This is the climax of the declaration where the community will endorse him as their choice for the presidency,” said the Governor. Lenku is trying to play a unifying figure around which the community coalesces after the death of former Cabinet Minister William ole Ntimama in 2016.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be reminiscent of another one five years ago when Raila held a major rally at the same venue in the run-up to the 2017 General Election. It what was dubbed the fourth “Suswa Declaration”.
Lenku will be leading other Maa leaders, including Moitale Ole Kenta (Narok governor candidate), Keriako Tobiko ( Environment Cabinet Secretary) and Ledama Ole Kina (Narok Senator), in the declaration aimed at locking the Maasai vote for Raila and his running mate Martha Karua.
Kenta told People Daily that he was optimistic the community would lock out Deputy President William Ruto, who he accused of abetting corruption and political exclusion.
2005 No vote
Kenta described the mood in Maasailand as a re-awakening that could no longer be stopped saying it will be demonstrated during the declaration.
Whenever there are critical national debates, Maasai political leaders converge at Suswa, a dusty shopping centre on the Narok-Mai Mahiu road, to make declarations.
It is here that Ntimama in 2007 led other Maasai politicians to declare their support for Raila, who however lost to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.
The first declaration was held in 2005 during the Constitution referendum campaigns, in which Ntimama led the community in declaring a No vote for the proposed Constitution, which was eventually rejected at the referendum.
Maasai Council of Elders member Kelena ole Nchoe, says that in every election cycle, communities in the region convene at venues to make declarations that can influence their voting pattern. Many of the declarations have determined the political path of the communities and their leaders.
In 2013 and 2017 elections, Suswa was host to declarations of support for both Jubilee candidate, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Raila.
Nchoe says Suswa is a revered ground and will continue being the community’s venue of declarations.
“Our Maa leader Ntimama identified the venue and elders blessed it. Whatever the declarations made there are key to the Maa members,” said Nchoe.
Struggle for land rights, historical land injustices and marginalisation have always defined the tone of Maasai politics and leadership.
Raila, who in 2017 won more votes than Uhuru in Narok, considers the county, and other Maa counties, his stronghold.
His competitor Ruto, on the other hand, views Maasailand as part of his Rift Valley bastion and is pulling out all the stops to wrench the Maa vote from Raila in the coming election.
In 2017, Raila garnered 50 per cent of the 400,000 votes compared to Uhuru’s 46% in Narok County.
In Samburu, Raila got 58 per cent against Uhuru’s 41 per cent. Uhuru won in Kajiado with 52 per cent. Maa counties are seen as a swing vote for both Raila and Ruto.