How Raila can still be President of a united Kenya, through time and pain | The Star, Kenya Skip to main content
August 21, 2018

How Raila can still be President of a united Kenya, through time and pain

Raila Odinga addressing NASA supporters at Donholm on November 28,2017.Photo/Enos Teche.
Raila Odinga addressing NASA supporters at Donholm on November 28,2017.Photo/Enos Teche.

The Inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta this week marked a profound shift in our national politics. Although the Inauguration did not involve the transfer of power from one president to another, it was nonetheless epochal, since it now brings to an end the politics of civility on the part of the President.

On his second and final term, President Uhuru will not be obliged to curry favour with anyone, least of all NASA. He is likely to rule with his velvet gloves removed. While he powerfully emphasized that the electioneering period is over, this is however not the end of the quest for power by NASA principal Raila Odinga.

OF TIME AND PAIN

The inauguration was a painful reality for many in NASA. Many of them sat, like the Jewish people on the banks of the river Euphrates during the exile in Babylon, weeping, unable to sing the Lord’s Song in a strange land. If you talked to me two weeks ago, I believed Raila had a snowball’s chance in hell to get into State House.

After much thinking and reflection, I now believe that he could still be President of a united Kenya. But it will take two things – time and pain. In short, the way to get into power for NASA is through two principal methods. One is violence (which brings pain) and the other is time (through calculated patience). Time is the cure of all diseases, and there is a way you can tactfully ride the wave of time and go far with it. Time and violence can be used differently and with different results.

One is for now and the other is for the future.

REVIVED CAUSE?

There are those who have billed the NASA quest for power as dead in the water. They see that Raila’s quest to lead this country is really no longer viable and that it would take nothing short of a miracle to have him get to State House. Those in this group of thought gave up soon after the Supreme Court declared Uhuru validly elected in the October 26 election and sank into despair after the Inauguration on Tuesday. Then of course Raila kept the fire burning by stating that he wants to have himself sworn in as Kenya’s president come December 12 and go to State House. This is, of course, nothing short of an invitation to a violent brawl with the government which could, in the end, help achieve NASA’s end of getting into power. But if NASA is patient enough, time will tear apart Jubilee, which is an extremely fragile coalition and a house of cards, no less.

[AUDIO] NASA unveils 7-man team to push for fresh polls, People's Assembly

HOW JUBILEE FALLS APART

Once firmly in power (or thinking itself to be so), Jubilee Party will begin unraveling, just like every coalition that won power since Independence did. Kanu began unravelling in 1964, Narc in 2002, ODM in 2007 and were it not for the ICC, Jubilee would have split in 2013. In the period between now and 2022, internal wrangling will lead them to disintegrate, paving way for the rise of the Opposition. Soon after taking power in 2013, the TNA wing of Jubilee began to invest in diminishing William Ruto at the expense of Raila Odinga. They rested on their laurels firmly, sure they had finished Raila and so they turned to Ruto. It soon turned out that while they slept, Raila was busy building bridges and creating new alliances ahead of 2017. If Jubilee had invested in diminishing Raila instead, then they should have had a better run in this year’s election. Now Raila has firm hold on a half of this country and will not let it go. The task of unifying the nation becomes even more difficult as the narrative of victimhood is firm in the minds of NASA supporters. Selfish interests in Jubilee are about to rise. And Raila should watch this very carefully.

OF FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

I was a member of the group of thought that Baba’s best days were behind him until I saw Gideon Moi receiving State dignitaries and I knew at once that Jubilee’s goose is heading to the fire. There was a flurry of activity online where moles and trolls were digging in to explain the sudden return of Gideon to political relevance. This coming so soon after Uhuru met his father, former President Daniel Moi, is very suspect and is definitely causing a stir in Jubilee circles. Is Gideon coming to replace Ruto ahead of 2022? Understanding the lack of love between the two, there is a way in which Uhuru is standing in a very precarious position regarding them. And perhaps he does not appreciate the gravity of this situation just yet. He has two close friends who don’t see eye to eye.

Usually, the friend of your enemy should be your enemy just as the enemy of your enemy should be your friend. But for Uhuru, the enemy of his friend is his friend. They both control the vote-rich Rift Valley – one by might and the other by right (in which I mean entitlement). Ruto controls the Rift through the sheer force of might, while Gideon Moi stakes his claim to it by birthright. Like a good vulture, Raila should just sit pretty and wait for the fallout between these two mortal enemies and their common friend to start. Then he can move in and cannibalize them.

SUCCESSION POLITICS AHEAD OF 2022

Going forward, Jubilee succession politics is about to get very hot (and ugly). Rift Valley is the one king-making region and Raila went into the last election without a solid plan. If you add the Rift Valley vote to what NASA got then the situation changes instantly in NASA’s favour. Depending on how the situation unravels, it would still be important to quickly create a situation of victimhood among the Kalenjin people and invest in a strong narrative that will tear apart the two tribal pillars of Jubilee. It is clear to the average Kikuyu voter that Raila had mounted what was probably the single strongest challenge to their hold on power. Were it not for Ruto’s indefatigable campaign against NASA, the story would have been completely different. So a political debt was created which the Kikuyu must pay by rallying behind Ruto. However, like in most political situations, such debts are seldom paid in full, particularly if there is a ‘one of our own’ candidate. Raila knows this feeling very well. The silent bogeyman in all this would still be Peter Kenneth, who, although he has not yet revealed his presidential ambitions, would see his candidacy become a major boost to Raila, if the Kikuyu decide to rally behind him.

VIOLENCE AS A METHOD OF ATTAINING POWER

Violence is fast becoming a national imperative in Kenya. Many Kenyans have now become prisoners of the idea of violence.

There is a way in which our Constitution has showed us that we can be legally angry, spoil for a fight and provoke and antagonise another group of the populace in the name of the constitutional right to demonstrate. We are under a regime of legalized violence. Violence is indeed the time-tested method of gaining power and, practically anywhere in the world, violence has been a method of gaining anything from independence to regime change.

In Kenya, violence is ingrained in our national DNA and Raila is not a visitor to violence as a method of gaining state power – both legal and illegal.

From the attempted coup in 1982 to the agitation for change in the Saba Saba riots of 1990 and onwards, until Moi left power in 2002 and five years later being a major principal in the violent power struggle with President Mwai Kibaki that saw 1,300 Kenyans lose their lives. He became Prime Minister.

STATEHOOD AND VIOLENCE

If there is anything that we have learnt in the last few weeks about power from the situation in Zimbabwe, it is that real power lies with whoever has the monopoly of violence. It took violence, albeit the non-destructive kind in order to remove long-serving President Robert Mugabe.

Violence therefore remains the single most profound and most reliable route to power and also the most reliable method of preserving it. However, the disruptive nature of violence makes it undesirable and more plausible routes to power include democracy and its related forms. However, even in democratic situations, violence is still a strong imperative.

State inertia to institute reforms and the complacency of those holding state power makes violence an attractive route for either reforms or for attaining state power. This is the reason why people must die, and have consistently done so since 1922, when a group of Kenyan Africans demanded that Harry Thuku be released, to last month, when they demanded that Chiloba must go.

It is only the degree of the violence that varies, but Kenyans have encountered political violence in near-consistent cycles since 1922. And to this day violence remains an important part of our engagement with the State. Every electoral cycle ushers in destruction of property, displacement of persons, demonstrations, running battles with police, all of which result in personal injury, anguish and death.

ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE

It was nothing short of violent acts that removed the IEBC commissioners last year and similar attempts this year faltered only because the timelines to the election were too short and would have collapsed the whole house.

So, in short, Chebukati or Chiloba should not sit pretty thinking that the worst is over. They might just be on their way out sooner than they think. The full ruling and the findings of the Supreme Court expected in the next few days, should determine their fate, going forward. However, there are many alternatives to violence and one of them is dialogue. Dialogue can be successful if there are no hidden or ulterior motives on the part of one or the other player. The other method is through reforms – and the one which I think is quite close to NASA’s heart would be constitutional change.

IS THE CONSTITUTION A FOOL’S ROPE?

There is an English proverb that goes, ‘give a fool rope enough, and he’ll hang himself.’ It is very difficult to fathom the current national crisis and political impasse without first considering whether or not our Constitution is the noose with which we are hanging ourselves. It is true that the British granted us Independence (reluctantly) in 1963; they had fashioned a rope for us but somehow we did not hang ourselves with it. (Unlike, for instance, Uganda, which began eating itself thanks in part to a poor Independence Constitution).

Kenya kept unfurling its Constitution until it became virtually unwieldy and untenable. Then in 2010 we gave ourselves a brand new rope, long enough and we have already put it around our neck and tested it for firmness.

This Constitution legalizes anger and making it illegal would solve the problem, but it makes statecraft rather difficult to manage. Such ambiguous statements as Article 1( 2 ), which gives the people the right to exercise power either ‘directly’ or through their representatives. This has given us a parallel government in the form of the People’s Assembly, which is gearing up to swear-in Raila on December 12. Using this Constitution, we are then pushing the nation onto a rickety stool, with the noose firmly around our neck. And now there are those who have employed their legal and political minds to kick the stool. Unfortunately for us, we all die in the situation. There is no winner.

Also read: I'll be sworn-in as president on December 12, Raila says

NASA’S NEED FOR PATIENCE

Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in his 1973 book I Speak of Freedom, said, “The gains of violence are transient, the fruits of patience are imperishable.” In short, violence may bring change for a while but time is the cure of everything.

NASA however is long on violence and short on patience. They have firmly defined Raila’s inability to be elected as lack of inclusivity on the part of government and so they must push ‘reforms’ by violent means, until the lack of inclusivity is cured. Unfortunately, this method will only breed further violence from the State, which has a legal and moral obligation to preserve itself. If I were a NASA adviser, I would have asked them to work to achieve State power by redefining their strategy. Cut the violence, accept to dialogue for reforms and, on the quiet, Jubilee will begin to cannibalise itself in the succession battle. Then move in and feast on its rotting carcass.

Patience, my NASA friends, Patience!

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