Uhuru, Raila in fierce battle for Maasai support

Maa communities are going into the August election grappling with the growing pressure of migrant communities and a leadership vacuum created by the deaths of influential leaders William ole Ntimama and John Keen last year.

In the struggle to find a suitable community spokesperson, the Maasai are weighing options as leading politicians angle to assume the mantle.

Although the Opposition has had an upper hand in counties inhabited by the community, Jubilee Party has made major inroads.

“The talk that the governing party has no support in the Maasai inhabited areas is not supported by facts. It will get half and in some places more than that,” says Jackson Saika the chairman, Maasai Professionals Association.

Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda says he is confident Jubilee will get many votes from Maasai land and urges leaders to stop zoning the region.

He wants the community to make informed decisions on the political path they want to take.

“If we go to Opposition, we will regret. Let’s not blindly follow people. We have seen what the government has done for us in the last four years,” he says.

But Kajiado Central MP Memusi Kanchori insists the future of the Maasai is with parties currently in the Opposition.

In the 2007 and 2013 presidential elections, voting patterns, largely in favour of the Opposition, were dictated by whipping up of land and historical injustices issues.

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Saika says Ntimama became popular and became the community spokesperson by making the land issue his pet subject.

But land remains emotive subject in the community and is expected to feature in local and national politics for the foreseeable future.

The issue may even gain more prominence as regions considered ancestral home of Maasai communities continue to attract huge number of immigrants from other regions.

Except in Samburu’s Maralal and Samba towns, other communities are believed to comprise about 25 per cent in Maa counties. In Laikipia, migrant communities outnumber the Maa, except in Laikipia North.

The migrant communities have used their numerical strength to dominate elective positions including governor, senator and Member of National Assembly.

In Narok, migrant communities inhabit towns and trading centres.

Some, like the Kisii and Kipsigis, a sub-tribe of the Kalenjin, have bought land in a massive scale.

Kajiado, Rongai, Kitengela, Kiserian, Ilbisil, Namanga and Ngong are also heavily populated by members of other communities who bought land there.

Part of the immigration is said to have been actively encouraged by local politicians for political reasons. Ntimama reportedly assisted members of other communities to buy property in Narok town when he wanted to oust Justus ole Tipis in the 1988 General Election.

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“Both Ntimama and Tipis assisted the Kikuyu, Somali, Kisii and other communities that migrated to the area in the 1970s and 80s,”

says Isaya Ndun’gu, former chairman of the local National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In Transmara, the Kipsigis, Nandi, Luhya, Kisii and Luo inhabited the area that was originally wildlife habitats and grazing land at the prompting of politicians, according to Saitoti Sikawa, a Maasai historian.

Because of the immigration, the Kipsigis who inhabit Narok South, Narok West, Kilgoris and Emurwa Dikir have a big say on who becomes MP, senator, governor and women representative. Johana Ng’eno was elected MP for Emurwa Dikir in the last election.

Besides immigration, the community is struggling to get a replacement of its two prominent politicians, Ntimama and Keen, both of who belonged to Ilnyangusi age group.

Among the contenders are Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery of Ilseuri age group, Narok Senator Stephen ole Ntutu of the same group and lately Jackson Ole Sapit, the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya.

“Elders from Ilnyangusi age set should be consulted,” says Kanchori. Any meeting, he adds, should involve elders from Samburu, Narok, Kajiado, Laikipia and the Njemps from Baringo County.

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