Uhuru-Raila campaign for Kenya’s unity must include other leaders

From left: Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at a past event in Nairobi .

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Of course the President and Mr Odinga know there was a deal between the President and his deputy on who should be the next president of Kenya.
  • And they have treated Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula shabbily.

As President Uhuru Kenyatta declared that his peace deal with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga would be his legacy – a legacy of a united Kenya – the latter played host to an estimated 700-strong delegation of Kikuyu elders at his Bondo home.

That means Mr Odinga’s courtship of the Kikuyu, as he ramps up his yet-to-be-declared charge in the 2022 presidential race, is proceeding apace and in earnest. The community has always given him a wide berth at the polls, to which he returned a backhanded compliment in 2007.

Back then, he ran on the 41-versus-one platform, pitting Kenya’s other communities against the Kikuyu. It ended badly for Kenya, leaving a sore and scar called post-election violence and a trial for the President and Deputy President William Ruto at The Hague for crimes against humanity.

Violence followed the declaration of President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the presidential election and Kenya teetered on the brink of civil war. It was saved by external intervention as its leaders stood petrified by the fighting in which the Kikuyu and Kalenjin were pitted against each another.

New alliance

But a bond was soon created between these two communities as the co-accused teamed up in 2011 to fight the crimes-against-humanity charges at The Hague and the 2013 General Election at home. But this has since ruptured and a new alliance is emerging.

Cementing the 2018 peace deal between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga appears to have as its fulcrum Kikuyu support for Mr Odinga’s bid for the presidency in 2022. And that presents an opportunity as well as a pitfall. First, the pitfall.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga remember when the centralist Kenya African National Union (Kanu) was founded in 1960.

Kanu’s dominance by the numerically powerful Kikuyu and Luo communities was the reason the rival federalist Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu) was formed as a grouping for the numerically weaker communities.

This is not 1960. The contentious issue may not be numerical strength. But President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga must do everything possible to ensure their call for a united Kenya indeed means the creation of a truly big tent and not a drive by two communities for the leadership of Kenya.

The President and Mr Odinga are aware that the Kikuyu and Kalenjin have provided Kenya’s first four presidents, with the former leading with three and the latter expecting Number Two in 2022. But this seat must be competed for and not exchanged between political allies.

Of course the President and Mr Odinga know there was a deal between the President and his deputy on who should be the next president of Kenya. But they also know that betrayal is part and parcel of Kenya's king-making and unmaking and it fuels bitterness in individuals and communities, just as elections defeat or theft does.

And that brings us to the treatment of leaders of communities by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga vis-a-vis the drive for the unity of Kenya. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have neither time nor space for Dr Ruto.

And they have treated Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula shabbily. Indeed, where are the various faces that portray a national drive to the unity of all of Kenya’s communities? The two should lead the effort with other leaders.

Ethnic mobilisation

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will remember vividly the so-called prayers for national unity that preceded the President's and Dr Ruto's arraignment at The Hague. They were neither prayer meetings nor were they aimed at uniting Kenyans.

These were meetings for ethnic mobilisation against the International Criminal Court.

Mr Odinga was on the opposing side of the push and, indeed, said Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto belonged in jail for their part in post-election violence. The two must now avoid a repeat of the above.

Some things bear repeating. Remember I told you that President Kenyatta's legacy was highly likely to be his successor? Right now, and as I have told you, the red-hot favourite is Mr Odinga.

That points to what I have called a managed Kenyatta II succession.

kwendo58@gmail.com