Kenya’s immediate political future a little hard to predict

William Ruto and Raila Odinga

Deputy President William Ruto (left) shakes hands with ODM leader Raila Odinga during the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Wang’uru Stadium in Kirinyaga County on October 20, 2021.

Photo credit: DPPS

What you need to know:

  • In the Mt Kenya region, many parties are emerging to replace the previous dominant political party.
  • Elsewhere, parties are forming to contest previously ascendant regional parties.

Every time I pen on matters politics, I do so with trepidation due to their fluidity. As we approach August 2022, one wonders whether and/or when the political environment will settle. And yet predictability is priceless, especially during a transition.

Today’s political doyens – Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka have been in power, in one form or another, since the 1980s. The ultimate legacy that they can bequeath to our country, together with parliamentary and county leaders, is to deliver a post 2022 peaceful Kenya. We must commit to never allow the suffering induced by the ethnic and electoral violence of 2007/2008.

The current succession era has birthed a heterogeneity of political parties and formations. Examples are Jubilee Party (JP); Orange Democratic Party (ODM); United Democratic Alliance (UDA); One Kenya Alliance (OKA) championed by Mudavadi, Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi; Muungano wa Wazalendo (Muwa) led by Martha Karua, Mukhisa Kituyi and Kivutha Kibwana; and The Eagles National Alliance (Tena) founded on Godly values and principles.

In the Mt Kenya region, many parties are emerging to replace the previous dominant political party. Elsewhere, parties are forming to contest previously ascendant regional parties.

Whereas this party proliferation is accredited to growth of democratic space, it is also a response by individuals for political accommodation. Usually in mature democracies, two or three key political parties exist alongside fringe parties that become important actors when the leading ones fail to meet the winning threshold. In such circumstances, the outside parties are sought in coalition-building.

In the past TNA, URP and a host of other parties aggregated to form the Jubilee Party. ODM had organically developed to be a major party. Ruto is in the process of establishing a national party. Governor Amason Kingi is busy trying to cobble an alliance of Coast parties. The crystallisation of major political parties seems elusive.

Nasa was recently disassembled. This gave its members the freedom to seek new political marriages. OKA divorced itself from Nasa as Chama Cha Mashinani joined UDA. ODM had the opportunity to craft a coalition with the Jubilee Party. Kanu joined OKA. The jury is out on whether OKA will eventually be part of the unfolding Jubilee-ODM alliance.

Two-horse race

Purposive alliance building is continually impeded by the ethnic supremos’ preference to dodge ideology politics. They prefer to mobilise on the ethnic card and wait to join self-serving coalitions.

Although OKA has been pressuring Raila to endorse one of their principals as recompense for past support, Odinga’s presidential bid announcement is certain. Moi seems to be a strategic and silent Raila backer. Both ODM and UDA consistently characterise the 2022 election as a two-horse race.

Furthermore, there is quiescent sibling rivalry between Mudavadi and Musyoka. Mudavadi’s promoters argue their leader in 2017 gave way to Musyoka to deputise Raila, and thus given a joint ticket, it is payback time for Musyoka to deputise Mudavadi.

In a broad Jubilee, ODM-OKA alliance, neither Mudavadi nor Musyoka may be chosen as deputy president since that slot seems to be reserved for Mt Kenya, to woo the region.

Can the two mount solo presidential candidatures? They could if the intention is not to win, but possibly to force a re-run so as to gain bargaining capital in the second round presidential election. However, solitary presidential candidature may not elicit constituents’ confidence. Kenyans have a habit of voting for the seemingly popular group.

However, a spirited participation of both Muwa and OKA in the presidential race could instigate a re-run. No candidate, in such circumstances, would garner 50 percent plus one and at least 25 percent of the vote in a minimum of 24 counties. If a re-run occurred, it is not obvious that the non-participating candidates would convince their supporters to automatically back any of the two leading candidates. These voters could become free agents and cast their second vote independently.

From the current political trends, the 2022 elections are not likely to produce a clear winner in Parliament and at the county level. If candidates were to appreciate this sobering reality, that would lead them to sensibly play politics in anticipation of a government of national unity or coalition government. Suffice it to say the problems bedevilling the country such as negative ethnicity, public debt, sluggish economy, runaway corruption, and potential electoral violence require collaborative effort to fix.

Let us now explore the examples of Jubilee-ODM and UDA formations. Both Raila and Ruto are trying to safeguard their strongholds and “eat” into one another’s territories. For Raila, making inroads into Mt Kenya is a momentous game changer. This may have been the logic behind “the handshake”. If Ruto penetrates lower Eastern, Coast and Western, that would be a weighty game changer.

Political landscape

I am not, of course, trivialising the electoral muscle of OKA, Muwa and other similar entities. One should not belittle any political formation that is ideologically oriented and committed to ‘politics unusual’. An alliance of the small parties — pre or post elections — can inject a new dynamism into Kenyan politics.

Governors and senators are potentially key campaigners for presidential candidates. If the majority of them disabused themselves of ethnic affiliation and they supported a transformative team, Kenya’s political landscape could drastically change.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) holds the trump card in facilitating a free, fair, peaceful and credible General Election. The IEBC must be well resourced by the treasury and development partners to effectively execute its mandate.

IEBC should, in collaboration with Kenya School of Government and other accredited institutions, introduce a short leadership course for all potential candidates. Moreover, such candidates must have their wealth declaration forms made public and suspect sources of wealth interrogated. Candidates who breach the integrity Chapter 6 of the Constitution should be disqualified.

Civic society, the faith sector and IEBC itself should prioritise citizens’ civic education so they understand the value of the vote and proper leadership. 

Thorough election observation must be started expeditiously so that citizens are kept abreast of the A-Z of the electoral process. Last minute election observer intervention is futile.

To guarantee tranquillity in 2022, the country needs county-based peace ambassadors sourced from our councils of elders, the faith sector, professional associations, business sector, women and youth associations, among others. These peace emissaries should engage political leaders and communities, particularly where civil strife seems imminent.

Finally, as we approach 2022, the elephant in the room is the youth population. It must self mobilise to seek leadership and support candidates interested in co-creation so as to change the lives of youth and others. The youth should reject recruitment as merchants of violence or vote mobilisers in exchange of paltry handouts. It is time Kenya’s youth decisively acted to trigger its own and the country’s socio-economic liberation through the power of the vote.


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