Mr President, you’re safer with your deputy in your retirement

President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nyeri

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses wananchi at Othaya town in Nyeri county moments after he commissioned Mwai Kibaki Hospital on August 6, 2022. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Your Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, congratulations on your impending retirement. This is a great achievement. Retiring from the greatest office in the land, once occupied by your dad, is such a great honour and achievement.

Mt Kenya will forever view you as its own son. Nyumba na rika itiumagwo (One never leaves his age set or house).

Na cire Gikuyu itire ukabi (and the things in Kikuyuland are definitely not in a foreign land).

Either Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga or Kenya Kwanza candidate William Ruto will win on Tuesday, and none is from the Mountain.

As our Mt Kenya son, rest assured we shall have your back if either makes an attempt to undermine your peaceful retirement.

I might be wrong, but Raila, more than Ruto, has the greatest incentive to drift towards upsetting your peaceful retirement, for three reasons.

First, if Raila wins, his victory will be attributed to your help more than anything else. This is obvious because Raila has tried four times to be president.

He will have won only after your endorsement. Therein lies the danger – no leader wants any political debt, otherwise, he cannot rule freely.

The exception to this rule is when the new leader requires the political creditor in some electoral future.

Of course Raila does not require you in 2027. In 2022, Raila required you because you held the state machinery.

In 2027, he will be wielding that which you held in 2022, the state machinery. Even worse, two possible leverage cards you could possibly hold against Raila will not hold .

You could have used the deputy presidency slot to hedge against a Raila betrayal by proposing a person very loyal to you.

Martha Karua

Your excellency, the choice of Martha Karua as Raila’s running mate was not inspiring. As to the Jubilee Party card, let us await its performance on Tuesday. Even if it performs well, it is difficult to foresee how you will wield power over it whilst in retirement. If Jubilee performs poorly, Raila will get more reason to betray you. He will use that as an excuse, arguing that you brought no numbers from your backyard. If it performs well, Raila will work day and night to cause its members to switch loyalty to him directly. Jubilee will find every incentive to agree to that proposition and hence you will stand isolated.

The best course of action would have been to create conditions that would make Raila require you in the future. Unfortunately, there are none.

Second, in Kenya, Presidents find comfort and security in their people. That was true with Kenyatta 1, Kibaki and your departing government.

Government positions

Raila will therefore place key government positions like security and economic dockets in the hands of his co-ethnics.

Remember Raila comes from a region that has a grievance of exclusion from the state.

The best hedge against such a drift, in my humble view, would have been causing Raila to pair up with a strong Mt Kenya person. But everyone knows Martha has no numbers and hence she cannot negotiate with Raila to stop the expected purge against Mt Kenya government bureaucrats. To be a Raila equal, one has to be a regional kingpin. For one to be a regional kingpin, one ought to have vied for presidency and illustrated ability to attract sufficient ethnic numbers. The last time Martha vied, she got minuscule votes. What gives Ngilu, Kalonzo and Mudavadi respectability politically is their past good presidential runs.

Ironically, your best retirement prospects lie with a Ruto win. Polls have indicated a landslide win for Ruto in the mountain.

If this happens, the Ruto government will be a Mt Kenya government, since the region will have bought shares into that government through its votes.

Ruto would have a moral and political incentive to mollify the region, at least hoping that ethnic coalition holds for the 2027 elections.

By extension, Ruto would have no incentive to disrupt your retirement. He risks his political fortunes in the region if he does that.

Exact revenge

Of course, one can argue that Ruto can exact revenge on the basis that your regime mistreated him. Ruto is a wise politician who knows vengeance predicated on the past should have no bearing in politics. Politics is a vehicle that has no side mirror. It is all about the future.

Simply put, your peaceful retirement is intertwined with the direction in which your Mt Kenya people go. You are alone and exposed in Baba’s direction. You are protected and covered with Ruto since your people are there.

Many wrongs

Finally, your excellency, it is very doubtful Raila has forgotten the many wrongs he alleges were visited upon him as you ascended to power.

He often repeats his firm belief his past wins were stolen.

Between Ruto and Raila, who bears greatest grievance against you?  It is Raila.

 I think deep in his heart, Ruto is happy with your purported persecution of him. That persecution gave him sympathy in Mt Kenya and he is now its kingpin. For Raila, grievance is real.

Happy retirement.

Dr Kang’ata is a lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He is the senator for Murang’a County.


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