Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) chats with President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) during the Special Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government on South Sudan on March 25, 2017 in Nairobi. President Museveni is addressed as “our elder brother”, by Mr Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. PHOTO | SAMUEL MIRING’U | PSCU
Why Uganda is watching keenly as Kenya goes to polls
Three weeks from today, Kenyans and the neighbouring countries will be awaiting the results of a General Election that will choose the chief executive officer of East Africa’s largest economy.
Like in 2013, this year’s election features familiar contenders whose footprints in the country’s politics are boldly marked on the country’s concrete path since independence in 1963.
The biggest political families of founding President Jomo Kenyatta and ally-turned rival Jaramogi Oginga Odinga are at it again.
Kenya’s election has become the center of attraction for both the domestic and international community and its fortunes or misfortunes, especially after the 2007 post-election violence, matter.
The chaos then erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential elections on December 27, 2007, results that supporters of Mr Odinga protested.
Claims of election malpractice and passionate undertones of ethnicity and tribalism ignited an onslaught that claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced about 600,000 people.
The name Uganda in Kenya is divisive.
Through the eyes of the ruling party and supporters of President Kenyatta, Uganda is a neighbour, and its Head of State Yoweri Museveni is addressed as “our elder brother”, by the Jubilee principals Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto.
The posture of the Jubilee camp towards Kampala over the past four years and Museveni’s gesture towards Nairobi in the same period speaks volumes.
In the run-up to the 2016 General Election in Uganda, Mr Ruto openly campaigned for incumbent President Museveni as the Head of State faced a fairly hostile reception in Sebei over unfulfilled promises.
Mr Ruto, in the company of Endebess MP Henry Pukose and Trans-Nzoia Senator Henry ole Ndiema, joined Museveni in rallies and helped rally the Sabiny in their own language to vote for Museveni.
For most of the next two months until February, Kenyan politicians frequented Uganda.
The others were Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Narok Governor Samuel ole Tunai and Ruto’s personal assistant Farouk Kibet.
They contributed money for the construction of schools and churches in Sebei.
Opposition politicians both in Kenya and Uganda thought Mr Ruto was meddling in Ugandan politics.
On November 26 last year, soon after attending a fundraiser for the construction of Sebei Diocese cathedral, a team of Kenyan politicians led by Mr Tunai and Mr Kibet paid a courtesy visit on President Museveni at his home in Rwakitura.
President Museveni reportedly thanked them for their support during the campaigns for the February election and in return, the team asked the Ugandan leader to visit Maasai Mara and other places in Kenya.
The deal Uganda struck with Tanzania over the oil pipeline, has however cooled the warm relationship the two countries have enjoyed over the years, as Kenya thought it was elbowed out by Uganda at the 11th hour.
Last week, when the Nation asked the Jubilee camp about their view of Uganda during campaigns, Mr Ruto’s communications officer David Mugonyi referred us to State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu, whom we could not reach.
Strangely, Mr Odinga enjoys a love-hate affair with President Museveni, although the opposition freely accuses President Kenyatta of failing to man up to Kampala over the controversial Migingo Island row.
The Nasa co-principals have no love to lose with Kampala.
Speaking at a rally in Budalang’i, a constituency closer to Uganda, in Busia last month, Mr Odinga blamed the Jubilee administration for not toughening up over the alleged arrest of Kenyan fishermen by Kampala.
“We will tell Museveni to stop disturbing our fishermen; we want to tell him that this (island) belongs to all of us, stop this issue of arresting our fishermen and taking them to Uganda,” Mr Odinga said.
At the height of updating the voters register by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the opposition leader accused Kampala of secretly aiding the Nairobi regime to register Ugandans to vote in the election.
And at a rally in Kilifi, Mr Odinga, who maintains that the previous elections were anything but free and fair, claimed Kampala and Nairobi were enlisting Ugandan voters.
His claims were vehemently denied by the Jubilee administration, and in a telephone conversation with The Monitor, Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem said the country has no business interfering with Kenya’s elections.
“We deal with the official government in power elected by the Kenyans and if it is the opposition, we have no reason not to engage with them,” he said.
On Migingo Island, Mr Oryem said it is because the opposition is out of government that they are speaking about the disputed island.
In the event that they are elected, he said: “We will brief them on the status of Migingo and they will appreciate the current situation.”
Kenya being Uganda’s main road to the sea, goods making it from Mombasa are prone to — in the undesirable event of restive post-election situations — suffer.
Mr Oryem deflected questions on the nation’s preparedness to the Disaster Ministry, maintaining there is no cause for alarm.
The 2007 post-election chaos in Kenya affected neighbouring countries, with the business sector being the most affected.
A number of Ugandan traders lost merchandise worth billions of shillings, and the uprooting of the railway to landlocked Uganda by rioters and blocking of major routes meant imports from the Coast could not be moved.
During the violence, Ugandan and Rwandan traders saw their trucks and goods worth billions of shillings destroyed along the Northern Corridor (Nairobi-Eldoret-Kampala Highway) and have been seeking compensation.
And at a business forum in Nairobi a year ago, Mr Ruto called for a meeting to sort out, once and for all, the property losses that Ugandan and Rwandan traders experienced.
Reacting to this development then, Kampala City Traders Association chairman Everest Kayondo, said it was good news but they would not be joyous until results are seen.
“This matter has been long overdue, promises were made but nothing was done.
“With the new development, it’s good news, but we cannot be joyous until payment is effected,” Mr Kayondo said.
Source: Daily Nation