On August 9, the cultural politics of East Africa could be reshaped in ways it hasn’t been in 37 years. Either Deputy President William Ruto or veteran opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will become the fifth president of Kenya.
Both men are Nilotes. It is the first time in Kenya that the leading claimants to the throne have both been Nilotes.
At the wider East Africa level, in 1985 in Uganda, Milton Obote, who had returned to power as president in a disputed election in December 1980, was ousted in a military coup for a second time — the first having been in 1971 by Field Marshal Idi Amin. In Kenya, Daniel arap Moi was deeply entrenched in the one-party rule.
For the four-and-half years Obote was in office, for the first time there were two Nilotic leaders in power in East Africa.
Cultural kinship has had a considerable impact on geopolitics and foreign policy in ways that are often not fully appreciated. For example, President Moi appointed General Lazaro Sumbeiywo Kenya’s Special Envoy to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development-led Sudan peace process between 1997 and 1998.
He then appointed him mediator in the Nairobi-anchored peace process in 2001. Kept by President Mwai Kibaki, Gen Sumbeiywo helped bring the bacon home in the form of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement aka the Naivasha Agreement on January 9, 2005 by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the government of Sudan. The CPA ended the 25-year-long Second Sudanese civil war.