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September 23, 2018

Uhuru's next great headache

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta

It has long been evident that the only possible outcome of the October 26 presidential election was that the race would be won by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a “normal” election cycle, that would have been the end of that; and the President could stop campaigning and focus on other matters.

But not this time around.

By running, effectively, unopposed Uhuru ended up demonstrating what should have been obvious all along – that the President had been misled by some of his regional campaign teams, and he never did have any overwhelming electoral “numbers” in his favour. This absence of any serious rival candidate left the presidential tally open to an unusually detailed level of scrutiny. And with that, the cat was out of the bag.

To explain this further, let me first point out that in any Kenyan presidential election, we have just three major categories of regional vote blocs. First there is the presidential candidate’s Diehard Supporters, who are unlikely to desert him no matter what. In Uhuru’s case, this was the Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions.

Then we have what we may term the hardcore “Rejectionist Front” – regions that cannot be persuaded with warm words, nor yet bribed with what Kenyans like to call “election goodies”, to support the president. They are “rejectionists” because like other Kenyans they loudly demand the fruits of “development” like better roads, health services, better schools, etc. Yet even when a sitting president gives them these things – as Uhuru has most certainly tried to do - they will still not vote for him.

During much of retired President Daniel Moi’s long years in office, it is the Kikuyu and the Luo communities who famously formed the hardcore Rejectionist Front, opposing him at every turn, no matter what he did to try and appease them.

Judging by the pattern of his campaigns, both for the August 8 election and the October 26 election, Uhuru evidently considered only “Luo Nyanza” to be a hardcore Rejectionist Front zone. And he considered the rest of Western Kenya (the two Kisii counties and the four Luhya counties) to fall into the third category of regional vote blocs – the swing vote zones.

Also apparently viewed as a swing vote zone was Ukambani, even though Uhuru’s principal rival for power, former PM Raila Odinga, had a running mate in former VP Kalonzo Musyoka, who is the acknowledged political overlord of this region.

And finally, there was the Coast, and the Maasai counties of Narok and Kajiado, where Uhuru campaigned relentlessly.

Well, what have we seen thus far?

Evidently, there was only a really small swing vote in this election, mostly clustered around the two Kisii counties and Bungoma. Everywhere else the voters have since been revealed to have all along been firmly in the Rejectionist Front.

Uhuru conducted a textbook presidential campaign, addressing several rallies a day at one time; making region-specific promises; and bringing several high-profile “defectors” to his Jubilee Party.

But none of this seems to have done the President’s final tally very much good.

The English political philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, famously remarked that:

All rising to great place is by a winding stair…The rising unto place is laborious; and by pains men come to greater pains...

Uhuru’s climb to the presidency has certainly been “by a winding stair”, with many ups and downs, just as was the case for all our previous presidents. But in general, after securing reelection, Kenyan presidents have then been able to take it easy, relatively speaking.

However, that will not be the case this time:

 The October 26 election has clarified the true preferences of the various regional voting blocs; and we also have over 300 election petitions reportedly before the courts, many of which are expected to sail through on the precedent of the Supreme Court decision of September 1.

So as these petitions begin to yield the predicted by-elections, if Uhuru is to retain his current parliamentary supermajority, he will have to continue campaigning in these rejectionist zones for many months to come.

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