THE air of inevitability around the outcome of next year’s Presidential election seems to have shifted many politicians’ focus to 2022, on both sides of the political divide.
It is widely being taken for granted that President Uhuru Kenyatta will secure a second term. The focus is therefore shifting to the 2022 race, in which he cannot be a contender after two full terms. The race for the Kenyatta Succession is starting half-a-dozen years early.
Sceptics in the opposition Cord, convinced that incumbent presidents in Africa pull out all the stops to remain in office and so will the President, have started to entertain a sense of resignation that Kenyatta, regardless of his performance, is highly likely to retain his job.
The 2022 race, pundits say, could be less of a hurdle because there will be no incumbent around whom the Jubilee establishment could coalesce.
The rush by politicians for a vantage point in 2022 in both Jubilee and Cord has sparked off a series of dogfights, as leaders at the grassroots wrestle for political supremacy, leaving the political scene in a state of flux.
But pundits view the rush as only benefiting the politicians as the rallies have barely touched on matters that affect wananchi, especially bread and butter issues.
“It is not about the empowerment of the people, but individual, selfish politicians empowering themselves,” says
Conflict and Policy Center Director Ndung’u Wainaina.
Leaders in both Jubilee and Cord strongholds interested in 2022 are busy mobilising.
In Uhuru’s Jubilee camp, where there is a confident feeling that the President will be reelected, the focus is increasingly on 2022 and the early lobbying has brought on board religious leaders, musicians, professionals and artists. Musicians in Central Kenya are famous for their political mobilising abilities and hit songs have addressed everything from assassinations to retaining power over the years.
Young ambitious politicians are planning knowing that an Uhuru endorsement towards 2022 will heavily rely on how well the Jubilee government will have performed after two consecutive terms in power. And although corruption and bad governance have made a serious dent in Jubilee’s image in the first term, they are unlikely to be decisive issues in a presidential poll either next year or in 2022.
Raila’s strongholds have not been left out of early strategizing. Insiders are already jostling to take up the Raila mantle, assuming he retires or is seriously weakened if he does not win next year.
A number of Cord politicians calculate that Raila, if not elected in 2017, might not have the clout to endorse a candidate in 2022 and have therefore a better chance fighting for regional supremacy. They
include Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mombasa Senator Omar Hassan, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong, Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwalwe. Some unwaveringly support the former Prime Minister, while others will only be too happy to see him lose.
Both the Uhuru and Raila camps believe they are in charge of the 2017 elections. But surprise developments could see leaders at the constituency and the county levels take autonomous positions as well as state their political interests without fear of intimidation from their respective regional kingpins. The Cord and Jubilee rebels could opt to defect or form new parties to safeguard their ambitions.
Traditionally, politicians have used tribal intrigue for personal gain, be it in landing top jobs, getting government contracts and handouts. Some also ride on non-existent support to influence millions in a bid to get favours from both the opposition and the government of the day.
The Star’s Siasa Desk
has learnt that Uhuru, Ruto and Raila are focused on grassroots challenges, which if left unresolved could undermine their support bases.
Silent succession battles are being waged in four regions, including Coast, Western, Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley. These regions represent about 70 per cent of the 14.4 million voters in Kenya.
“We are prepared and we will field people across all the positions from the MCA to the Presidency level,” said Kanu secretary general Nick Salat.
Salat said Kanu does not have any agreement with any party or coalition, not even Jubilee and Amani.
“We don’t want suffocation here [Rift Valley] and that is why we are telling our competitors that no one should wake up one morning and assume he can dictate to us. No one should tell us that he has the final say on the Rift Valley electorate. Let the electorate decide the strongest party in Rift Valley and the country after the elections,” said Salat, in reference to Deputy President William Ruto’s claim of control over the Rift Valley vote bloc.
Other rebels in Rift Valley are Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, MPs Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi South) and Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), who have vowed they will not join the Jubilee Party.
Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto has launched his new party, the Mashinani Development Party of Kenya (MDPK). Baringo Senator Gideon Moi leads Kanu and is strengthening his party ahead of the 2017 elections. The last-born and favourite son of former President Daniel Moi has capitalized on his father’s networks to grow his career. This has forced DP Ruto to increase his campaign visits to Baringo and Bomet in a bid to quell the rebellion. He has also held several rallies coupled with the launch of development projects in the region to undercut Kanu’s activities in the area.
“I will not allow William Ruto to dictate to me or force my people into one sack like potatoes,” Gideon said via Facebook on
He went on: “I respect Ruto as the DP, but for him to interfere with my work and insult me and my party Kanu is really unfortunate and uncalled for. Our competitors should know that Kanu has awakened and should brace themselves for a bruising battle during the next general election because every corner of the country was willing to join us. I have not spoken yet and when I speak, it will be unstoppable.”
Gideon noted they share the goal of transforming lives but said he will not do so under duress.
Inside Jubilee, succession murmuring has extended to Embu, Meru and Mbeere, where politicians claim it is their turn to be supported by the Gema community for the country’s top job after Uhuru. This development has seen President Kenyatta and DP Ruto tour the regions to launch projects and struggle to appease restive grassroots.
The DP has been active in Mount Kenya conducting fundraisers, hoping his generosity might endear him to the region in 2022.
Uhuru has also tasked the DP to take charge of the Jubilee Party, his political vehicle for 2022. Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi was brought on board to tame Meru Governor Peter Munya. Munya has joined the PNU to reclaim his governor’s position and demanded Mount Kenya support Meru for the presidency in 2022.