Kenyan politics is highly ethnicized, which is but a reflection of society where the Kenyan people huddle together, socialize, and often marry within their ethnic enclaves.
Sadly, political choices are made similarly and to win a Presidential election in Kenya, ethnic coalitions have to be formed in order to deliver such victory.
To outsiders, it may all appear as a higher form of sorcery but to Kenyans, it’s just another day at the corner grocery.
This socialization also reflects in sports which in effect means that different ethnic communities in Kenya also specialize in various separate sports.
Kenya has the “Big 5” ethnic communities, namely, Kikuyu, Kamba, Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin.
For example, football and Rugby are largely the domain of the physically robust Luhya and Luo communities who both account for 95+% of participants. The Kikuyu are more inclined to drinking games while the Kamba are rumored to be more partial to “bedminton”.
The Kalenjin are undisputedly the Kings and Queens of the middle and long distance athletics, with upwards of 98% of current and former World record holders across the board over the last 60 years coming from this community.
Make no mistake, regardless the ethnic orientation and political disputes, when any sportsperson dons the official Kenyan jersey, he or she gets 100% maniacal support from all Kenyans regardless their political affiliation and ethnic persuasion.
Like I said, to outsiders it all appears like sorcery.
To lay out the landscape for you, President William Ruto is from the Kalenjin community, and who entered into a political coalition with the Kikuyu and Luhya in order to win the Kenyan Presidency.
It is a bit more complex than this, but that is the long and short of it.
When President Ruto was carving up his victory among the coalition partners, the Sports docket was given to Hon. Ababu Namwamba, a member of the Luhya community.
To be fair to Hon. Namwamba, he had previously (pre-election) been promised the high profile Foreign Affairs Ministry, which then went elsewhere in the process of balancing rewards to coalition partners.
He however took over at the Sports Ministry with his usual zest and gusto.
Within the first few months of his stewardship of the Kenyan Sports ministry, he had presented to and obtained from Cabinet, approval to enter into a joint bid for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2027 with neighbors Tanzania and Uganda.
Historically, Kenya Uganda and Tanzania were members of the defunct East African Community from the early 60s to 1977 and thus share long economic, liberation and social history.
It makes sense that the 3 would put in a joint bid to Confederation of African Football (CAF) for various reasons.
For one, the hosting of such an event would catalyze the expansion of physical sports infrastructure in each of the countries and with such catalyzation, would spur interest in football by millions of East African Youth and with that too, local corporates and broadcasters.
Secondly, travel between the countries is quite efficient with flights between the capitals (Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam) being between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes, and therefore a literal no-brainer due to the diverse and appealing cultures, landscapes and entertainment offerings for the thousands of visitors expected.
Thirdly, the AFCON is the more prestigious of the competitions in the CAF stable, which would cast a global eye on the region for geopolitical reasons.
Fourth, and for Kenya in particular, 2027 is an election year and the successful hosting of such a flagship tournament would allow President William Ruto to score top political marks and mop up outlying votes, to propel him to a 2nd 5-year term.
For all intents and purposes, this tournament is massive for the 3 EA Nations, should their bid carry the day, from whichever angle you look at it.
You can therefore imagine the utter shock and consternation among Kenyans this week when 3 of President William Ruto’s most hawkish allies took aim at Sports Cabinet Secretary Hon Ababu Namwamba.
To Kenyans, this political posturing is normal and the question that they really want answered is, what do these motor-mouths really want?
Remember, Kenyans have a tragic habit of getting in their own way, where they appear able to rationalize killing the goose, if they are not allowed to partake of the golden eggs.
Currently, a budget of Ksh. 40 Billion ($276m) has been approved.
Now, control of this budget has drawn the vultures, who are now circling in anticipation.
Hon. Kimani Ichungwah, who was previously Chairman of the Parliamentary Appropriations committee in the previous Parliament and at a time that Kenya lost Billions of Shillings under his watch, is leading the choir.
As said in Africa, when a Hyena wants to eat its own children, it begins to exclaim loudly that they smell like goats.
Ichungwah has began by claiming that Kenyan athletes to the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary have been mistreated and that deserving athletes have been left behind in favor of girlfriends and concubines of Sports Ministry officials.
No evidence to buttress this assertion has been adduced.
All independent Kenyan media is in Budapest and we have not heard a pip from them regarding complaints from athletes.
This is also highly unlikely considering the arrest and jailing of several officials of the Olympics movement for their role in the Rio 2016 fiasco.
Nobody in their right mind would want to get involved in such terrifying ordeal.
However, and to up the ante against Hon. Namwamba, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Boss Shollei, who was hounded out of the Kenyan judiciary for misappropriation of funds some years ago, also took a swipe at Namwamba publically, yet she holds powers to summon and grill him in Parliament, where the interest of the Kenyan people is held.
Anything done or words spoken outside Parliament by lawmakers is usually for personal gain and has nothing to do with the people,
Shollei, further claims that athletes representing Kenya to another prior tournament were forced to wear ‘fake’ labels e.g. Adibas instead of Adidas.
Again, no proof and many Kenyans doubt the veracity of her claims because she comes across as extremely untrustworthy on one hand, but also because she doesn’t appear to be someone able to differentiate between real or fake sportswear.
These guys, from the inner sanctum of President Ruto’s kitchen cabinet really want control of that $267m kitty, even if they have to throw their own coalition partner under the bus in the process.
More information in the next edition