Slip of the tongue or warning shot?

Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi

From left: ODM leader Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

This is perhaps the first time it has ever happened in the world; an erstwhile leading member of the Deep State revealing that there is indeed such a Leviathan that controls the affairs of men and women in a nation, wrapping its tentacles all around the multitudinous prey without revealing its whereabouts or its real motives.Kenyans have always known there is a cabal of extremely influential individuals that determines who rules them and who doesn’t regardless of who actually wins an election. But until this week, nobody of note has really admitted it publicly.For some unfathomable reason, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia decided to do so in a fashion that raises many questions about the necessity of the revelation and the timing.It was an acknowledgement that, indeed, voters do not always have the last word on who becomes president, governor, or even ward representative, and that the sovereign will of the people could turn out to be so much academic hogwash, especially when it comes to presidential successions.In one sense, the Deep State is an elusive concept, a phantasm. But in another, it is very real, though one can hardly put a finger on its essence. When politicians who disagree with the policies of their colleagues with whom they may have fallen out claim they are being victimised by the Deep State and proceed to name one or two individuals, they are usually fishing for the most convenient scapegoat because they know in their hearts that they are, in fact, being fought by people, or groups that consider them to be political and economic threats.According to one dictionary definition, the Deep State, is “a clandestine network entrenched inside the government, bureaucracy (civil service), intelligence agencies, and other governmental entities…It supposedly controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratically elected process and elected officials are merely figureheads.”This definition is a little extreme, for it dismisses off-hand the role of the elected politicians themselves who are rarely unwitting marionettes being manipulated by faceless bureaucrats. The politicians could be the chief manipulators, having rendered the most vital organs of governance weak and vulnerable.Another definition is that it is “a network of people and organisations within government that is believed to pursue its own policies and long-term plans independently of who is in power”.Whiff of hypocrisySo, when Deputy President William Ruto claims, as he did two weeks ago, that he is aware of a plot by the Deep State to derail his State House journey – a claim he has often made before – he may not be entirely wrong.Where some of his vocal lieutenants go wrong is to equate the Deep State with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho.There are many people in Kenya who would like to cut short DP Ruto’s trip, and they include fellow politicians, eminent captains of industry, bankers, professionals and even common people who do not believe in the way he goes about preaching his message of deliverance from the economic doldrums. Probably they detect a whiff of hypocrisy in the whole thing and they are not sure what to expect from him if he does succeed in his ambition. They certainly cannot all be members of that exclusive club known as Deep State.To go back to Mr Kimemia, it is not clear what the televised interview was all about during which he outed the Deep State, but he sure did seem to know plenty about it, proving that he was once a member and that he knows where all the skeletons are hidden. Before he became governor, he was a powerful Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Civil Service during President Kibaki’s administration, and when he talks of such things, he knows what he is saying – that the Deep State exists to ensure continuity and protection of the outgoing administration. But why now, at a time when another election is due in less than a year?As alluded to earlier, the term has extremely negative connotations, for it projects a picture of a group of individuals seated in a darkened room deciding the fate of the nation. Its secretiveness is most unsettling since most of these people are not elected by the people for such a purpose.Kitchen CabinetThis entity is also to be distinguished from the so-called “Kitchen Cabinet” – the group of advisers close to the president, any president, who are absolutely trusted. Such groups, often labelled as this or that “Mafia”, are inevitable, and often useful and they wield immense power because they have the President’s ear.But they also have to be ranking members of the Deep State, rubbing shoulders with business moguls, top bureaucrats, intelligence honchos, and, presumably, some military brass.The one thing they have in common is that they expect to lose out should the “wrong” person step into State House. Was Governor Kimemia sending a direct message to someone, or to some group, that whereas a change of guard is inevitable, the Deep State will have the last word on who occupies State House next year?Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]

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