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The Bukusu, the Maragoli and the luhya Unity

Posted by African Press International on July 22, 2012

  •  By Albert Musasia 
The luhya people of western Kenya play a significant role in deciding the outcome of presidential elections. That’s why; it’s by no surprise that major presidential candidates are aligning themselves with luhya leaders to establish their influence in the region. This is despite the fact that the luhya have what has now become to be known as “our own”. It must be noted that not only do the luhya have their own; in fact they have several of them.
If road side announcements are anything to go by, then Bifwoli Wakoli, Moses Wetangula, Eugine Wamalwa, Musalia Mudavadi, and Cyrus Jirongo are in the race to state house, without a doubt. It remains to be seen who will remain standing, because, some of these presidential candidates are at risk of even making it to parliament, leave alone contesting the presidency.
It’s important to understand the political dynamics of the luhya community from time immemorial. For a long time, Moi used individuals to stamp his leadership authority in many parts of Kenya. Many leaders were pitied against each other and you would never dare challenge the president because he always had a replacement ready for you. One had no option but to support whoever was Moi’s choice. That birthed forth political dominance of leaders like Elijah Mwangale and Maurice Makhanu in Bungoma and Moses Mudavadi in Maragoli.
These leaders held a lot of power within the western province during the nyayo era. Over time, things have changed. The entry of multi party politics changed the political dynamics of the luhya people. The luhya people had never voted as a block save for the 2002 when Narc went into to power. During that time, Mudavadi had been appointed Vice president by Moi and was asked to support Uhuru Kenyatta for presidency as his running mate. Mudavadi, Uhuru and Moi’s lost the general elections embarrassingly. Wamalwa Kijana rallied the western bloc to vote for Narc and won convincingly.
Prior to 2002, the luhya had voted sparingly.1992, luhyias voted for Kenneth Matibas Ford Asili, Wamalwa Kijana’s Ford Kenya and Kanu. The Bukusu people have remained steadfast in supporting Ford Kenya. They have always believed that Ford Kenya is the vehicle that will take one of their “own”, in their grand march to state house. Ford Kenya Mps have largely come from the Bukusu Sub tribe of Western Kenya save for soita  Shitanda and Bonnie Khalwale,the only Mps who won on a Ford Kenya ticket in 2007. It has been a hard sale for other parties to penetrate the Bungoma County and Kitale, two of the areas dominated by the Bukusu people. Ford Kenya has never had a non Bukusu leader since the last time Wamalwa Kijana became the chairman of the party.
The Bukusu would like to call it a national party, but the party has never grown beyond Bungoma County and beyond the Bukusu sub tribe. I would hope that maybe it’s time the leadership of Ford Kenya expanded their wings and realized that any grand march to statehouse will encompass the unity of the entire luhya community and the rest of Kenya, or else, it will remain a pipe dream. In the recent past, Ford Kenya leaders have found a unity of purpose, and their purpose was to ask Mudavadi to unite with them to support a single presidential candidate from western Kenya.
Truth be told, that will never happen. The Bukusu people refer to Maragoli people “ebilokoli”, which is a very berating term. Unity of purpose is paramount to the success of the entire community. Unity of purpose cannot materialize only when Wamalwa or Wetangula is the one to be supported when in reality they cannot support Mudavadi in his quest for the presidency of Kenya. Wamalwa and Wetangula need to understand that Mudavadi is the most popular candidate amongst the entire luhya presidential aspirants. They should leave their self interests behinds and support Mudavadi.
Cyrus Jirongo is a leader amongst the luhya, but he will always take an opposite stand against Mudavadi regardless of what Mudavadi does of says. If that is the unity of purpose that these leaders are advocating, we will never have any progress towards luhya unity. Its’ about time the luhya people united and stood together to confront challenges of our time.
The Bukusu and the Maragoli are the two largest sub tribes amongst the luhya. Uniting and presenting a formidable force will only work for the benefit of the entire community. There has never been disunity among the luhya. We have always worked together and did everything together; our leaders should shun their selfish interests and work as a team to solve the challenges we face. In the words of Kiraitu murungi “unite or perish”.
My big question is; can the Bukusu people support any other luhya who is not a Bukusu for presidency? You be the judge.

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