Aden Duale's sacking likely to throw Somalis off balance in Kenya's murky politics
NAIROBI, Kenya - The sacking of firebrand Garissa Town MP Aden Duale as National Assembly Majority Leader in Kenya could tragically displace Somalis from the national limelight, following his huge influence and dominance of northeastern politics, pundits have said.
Ever since plunging into elective politics in 2007, the former Dujis MP has built his profile, rising ranks to be a de facto spokesperson of over 2.7 million Somalis, who occupy the former Northern Frontier Districts region, which had been marginalized for decades.
During his first term in parliament, Duale's aggressiveness saw him picked as an assistant minister for livestock, a position he lost in 2011 after falling out with opposition leader Raila Odinga, who played a critical role in his victory in 2007.
But in 2013, he teamed up with Deputy President William Ruto, forming the United Republican Party, which went on to win most seats from NFD, further cementing Duale's influence among the Somalis. To reward him, President Uhuru Kenyatta picked him as the Majority Leader, a position he lost last week.
As the senior-most Somali leader in the legislative arm of government, Duale's connections have been pivotal in lobbying for development in the semi-arid region, and his removal technically means the Somalis may struggle to get back on national limelight.
His sacking, colleague politicians argue, has nothing to do with his performance in parliament, which observers say that was "above average". In fact, it was linked to ongoing realignments in the country, which have seen Ruto and Uhuru speak from a different script.
In the coming months, Kenyan politics will be dominated by proposed constitutional changes, which would see the country voting to have the system of government created. It's this national discourse that Duale's position in parliament would have seen Somalis have a huge say over the next dispensation.
Billow Kerrow, the former Mandera senator, took on his Twitter to protest the removal of Duale, arguing that his exit from parliamentary leadership would create a vacuum in NEP. The Garissa MP is the chairman of legislators from the region.
“Duale's removal wasn't unexpected but it was cowardly,” Kerrow said, calling his sacking inhumane and unappreciative of the Somali community’s support," said the firebrand politician.
“He deserved better, not brute ingratitude. The bigger picture is a painful loss for Muslims and the Somalis as he was the highest-ranking in government,” he added.
Harman Manyora, a communication professor and political analyst, said Duale's personality remains unmatched among the Somalis but conceded that his neutrality in Kenya's recent political formations cost him the seat.
"His performance was exemplary and filling the gap won't be easy. He took time to take a firm position and this was his main undoing," he said, adding that: "When you're now out of that influential position, it diminishes your chances. It's a blow to Somali people."
As a replacement from NEP, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is keen on the ongoing succession politics, picked Aldas MP Adan Keynan as Jubilee Party Parliamentary Group Secretary-General, a position which after all hasn't impressed Somalis.
In a tweet, Abdikadir Aden, a former Mandera East lawmaker, who also served as President Uhuru's legal advisor, said Duale's exit was not just a blow to the Somali community but also a set back to the pastoralist nation’s push for a space in national politics.
“Duale had earned himself a place in national politics because of his hard work and fearless support for Jubilee. His ouster at a time when there is a push to amend the Constitution gives us some fears,” he noted.
But according to him, leaders from the region would speak in one voice on what they want in the constitution to address marginalization and historic injustices.
“We are clear as the leadership from this region, we will agree and take a common position on BBI so it is beneficial to our people,” he added, in reference to impending constitutional changes, which might be affected by the end of this year.
However, despite his exit from the influential position, the Somali community is ably represented at the national level. For instance, the committee for constitutional changes famously known as Building Bridges Initiative is headed by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji.
Also, the Minority Whip in the National Assembly, Junet Mohamed, was originally from Mandera before his family moved to Nyanza, several miles from Northeastern Kenya. He is one of the most influential Somali in parliament.
But despite Duale's exit, some of his critics like Farah Maalim, a former National Assembly Deputy Speaker, insist that the Garissa Town MP was a "waste" during his time as Majority Leader.
“The National Assembly will redeem its lost glory. In eight short years, Parliament lost its glory. Redeem its glory now,” Maalim said as he mocked Duale’s tenure.