Uhuru hints at backing presidential candidate outside Kikuyu, Kalenjin

Mama Hanna Mudavadi

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses mourners at the funeral service of the late Mama Hanna Mudavadi at Mululu Village in Vihiga County on January 09, 2020.

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • The President’s sentiments were immediately interpreted as directed at his deputy — Dr William Ruto.
  • Dr Ruto has claimed the handshake and BBI aimed at sidelining and blocking him from the presidency in 2022 polls. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday hinted at the possibility of backing his successor from outside the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities in the next General Election, exciting the handshake base that has ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi.

Speaking at the burial ceremony of Mr Mudavadi’s mother — Mama Hanna Atsianzale Mudavadi in Mululu village, Vihiga County — a tough-talking President told off his critics, saying he was fully in charge of the country and his silence on political happenings should not be mistaken for weakness.

Mr Kenyatta said he had heard enough of the talk that is pinpointing certain families, which have produced top leaders in Kenya.

“They are talking and saying people are tired with the leadership from this or that family. Well, let them be. Remember it is the voter that decides at the ballot” he said.

“If that is your argument I can also stand and say there are two communities that have ruled this nation, maybe it is time to give a chance to the other tribes to lead because they also have people. 

“When you see a lion that has been rained on, do not mistake it for a cat. Everything has its timing. I am in charge of this government and I am in control of what goes on in there. I don’t want someone to lecture me. I know where I am and I am very clear about where I am going.” 

The President was responding to Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli who had urged him to get serious and crack down on those giving him a headache in the government.

While expressing his anger at the dynasty versus hustler narrative, Mr Kenyatta said he might be pushed into working on a counter-narrative that two communities have led the country since independence and should pave the way for others.

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have been fronting the dynasty and hustler talk since the start of handshake and Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in March 2018.

The founding President Jomo Kenyatta, Mr Kenyatta’s father, and retired President Mwai Kibaki all are/were from central Kenya. 

The second head of state, the late President Daniel arap Moi, who ruled for 24 years, was Kalenjin in what may disadvantage Dr Ruto who hails from the same region were the President’s utterances to be anything to go by. The same would, however, also lock out Kanu chairman Gideon Moi who is angling to succeed Mr Kenyatta.

The President’s sentiments were immediately interpreted as directed at his deputy — Dr Ruto — now leading Tangatanga, a faction of mostly Jubilee politicians who have since fallen out of favour with the Head of State. 

Dr Ruto has claimed the handshake and BBI aimed at sidelining and blocking him from the presidency in 2022 polls. 

And the leading politicians in the DP’s camp did not hesitate to respond in what may shape the political landscape going forward.

“A president should be the symbol of national unity. Today’s words by President Uhuru are the most unfortunate to leave the mouth of a president since Kenya became a republic. Tribes don’t lead, it is individuals. Such pedestrian bar talk shouldn’t come from a holder of high office,” Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, a Ruto ally, said.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the die had been cast when he stated, “The 2022 race is now properly shaped. Hustlers versus tribal candidates. Hustlers will nominate their candidate, let the tribal conglomerate nominate theirs. May the best candidate win.”

Mama Hanna Mudavadi

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Musalia Mudavadi and his family during the funeral service of the late Mama Hanna Mudavadi at Mululu village in Vihiga County.

Photo credit: PSCU

Fierce critics

On the other hand, allies of Mr Odinga and those of Mr Mudavadi got an impression that, finally, the much-awaited endorsement for their respective leaders for the top seat by Mr Kenyatta when he leaves power was in the offing.

Mr Atwoli had urged the President ‘to get out’ and protect his lieutenants from his fierce critics.

“I want you to be very serious the way your dad used to be, that is how you will leave us in peace,” Mr Atwoli charged at the Head of State.

“Please crack the whip. This black skin if you are not careful you will find them in your bedroom and you will be the loser and all your good work will be lost,” he said, stating that his deputy was undermining his legacy.

Mama Hannah’s burial ceremony was attended by a host of political leaders, some who mounted pressure on the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga to declare whom they will be backing for the top race in the 2022 General Election.

The two were under pressure to declare their support for Mr Mudavadi — the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader described as sober and “a safe pair of hands”, who had supported them in their presidential bids in past general elections.

The President said he intends to leave behind a united Kenya and his every step takes this into account. “I have no hatred for anyone, but again, no one is going to stop me on my resolve to unite Kenyans. 

“We want one strong united nation of 48 million people, that is the road that we shall walk,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Malala had told the Head of State to “take charge” and call those troubling him to order, as other leaders urged the President and Mr Odinga to declare their position on 2022 succession.

“We have done our part, but your people are undermining you because your legacy is to leave a united Kenya,” said the Kakamega Senator.

“You have done a lot of good work to put Kenya together but you have one great challenge as good friends — to whom are you leaving this nation. Please do not leave it in the hands of conmen.” 

Mama Hanna Mudavadi

President Uhuru Kenyatta lays a wreath of flowers on the grave of the late Mama Hanna Mudavadi at Mululu village in Vihiga County on January 09, 2021.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Dynasty and hustler tales

Mr Odinga said while it was meant to unite Kenya and end tribalism, the handshake had caused eruptions on the political platform. He tore into the pro-Deputy President dynasty and hustler narratives, saying even the so-called dynasties began from humble backgrounds.

“It is possible to come from nothing to something so what they are saying is rubbish. The wheelbarrow can’t liberate this nation. Let’s unite Kenyans and not put them in compartments of this or that nation,” he stated.

Siaya Senator James Orengo and Kitui governor Charity Ngilu had pleaded with President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to bring political leaders together to chart the way forward for 2022.

“We are living on borrowed time because people are already in 2022,” said Mr Orengo. 

“You have two years that will define what happens in 2022.” 

Ms Ngilu said: “All political leaders are rearing to go, they want your seat. Bring us together. We will need to sit down and decide who takes over.” 

But Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said the problems facing Kenya were complex and could not be solved through simplistic solutions that were being offered by politicians.

“As we work on BBI, let us keep this in mind, our problems can’t be solved by telling us who is going to be President in 2022. What we need in this country is political stability for a long period of time to enable the country to develop,” he said.

“This calls for a much more serious dialogue not to be held in a funeral like its happening here.” 

Narc Kenya chairperson Martha Karua scoffed at political leaders for intolerance, urging patience and tolerance for dissenting opinion.

“We can fight against each other but at the end of the day, we have to sit down and agree to sort out our problems. We are running out of time, it’s time we sat down together and tolerate our difference in opinion,” she stated.

Ford Kenya chairman Moses Wetang’ula said leaders should not get into the trap of reactive politics. 

“Let’s define and market our agenda,” he said, stating that he was working closely with Mr Mudavadi.

“We shall stand united, but we know that we can’t stand alone and we need others. It’s a give and take. If we go out there and find better, then we will give way.” 

Kanu chairman Gideon Moi said: “Unity of the Luhya nation is your victory. Without it, you will get nothing. Therefore, do all you can to unite and be one and take your rightful place and the political banquet table.” 

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka asked the President to sit back and allow the political leaders to take the stage.

“If the elections are next year we have some work to do, we don’t have the luxury of time,” he said, adding that the country had taken a bad political direction. “Allow us to talk and talk seriously. We need to debunk the hustler and dynasties narratives.” 

Mama Hannah, who died at 92, was eulogised as a woman of virtue and strong character. She played a key role in the political lives of her late husband — Moses Mudamba and son Mudavadi. She died on December 28.