• Observers hold that thw dust will only settle after rgw BBI process.
• BBI expected to be determinant in the camps that will fight it out in 2022
Vicious supremacy battles have rocked regions as leaders tussle to control voting blocs and become kingpins ahead of the 2022 presidential election.
Conclaves are becoming commonplace as the drumbeats of President Uhuru Kenyatta succession politics get louder.
Vigorous efforts to establish control have been witnessed in Central (Mt Kenya), the Coast, Lower Eastern (Ukambani), Rift Valley, North Eastern and Western.
Nyanza is the only region yet to be spared the frenetic activities.
Observers say this is because of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s lead role in the Building Bridges Initiative process.
BBI is expected to yield an expanded Executive, introducing the post of a prime minister and two deputies, in addition to the existing president and deputy president.
President Kenyatta has many times hinted his support for such a system to leave a legacy of unity.
The new posts, like the big players, are to be spread among the country’s communities, including the minorities.
The communities with the most numbers are the Kikuyu, the Luhya, the Kalenjin, the Luo, and the Kamba.
These groupings – making up about 70 per cent of the population - will still have impact on voting patterns.
The struggle for kingship is about who controls the blocs, thus, allowing that kingpin (or queen) to sit at the negotiating table.
Politicians have thus showed their claws, stoking small fires in the regions, which threaten the very support for their goal – BBI.
The fights have been dominated by governors whose terms are ending in 2022, most them angling to remain relevant.
At the Coast, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi are wrestling to control the region’s vote.
Whereas Joho is appealing to the urban populace of Mombasa and parts of Kwale, largely dominated by Muslims , Kingi appears to be lining up good support for himself in other regions.
Their split, which stemmed from ODM’s plan to punish Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and other party rebels, is yet to be mended.
Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, in a warning to those undermining Joho, says the governor is best placed to represent Coast as “he is known in the entire Republic of Kenya.”
In Western, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is seeking to be the region’s voice in a race pitting him against ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.
The county boss has Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa on his side, while Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula has chosen to work with Mudavadi. Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende is among notable figures in the Oparanya camp.
Eugene said his tours – in Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega and Vihiga counties - are to champion development in the regions and not necessarily for 2022 politics.
And to show the magnitude and significance of the events not backing the government, it is almost guaranteed that meetings by Mumias East Ben Washiali and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale will end in teargas.
The two have on many occasions been blocked from holding meetings to popularise Deputy President William Ruto’s bid for the presidency.
Political analyst Martin Andati says Mudavadi’s popularity is far greater than Oparanya's.
“Much as Council of Governors chairman Oparanya may want to assert his influence, Musalia is way ahead of him. A recent poll showed Mudavadi enjoys nearly 70 per cent support," he said.
Andati adds that Joho will have to do much more to build his national profile.
“Now he has nothing to sell, having already gone to bed with President Kenyatta…he has nothing to sell at the national level,” the analyst said.
Much as DP Ruto appears confident he will bag Rift Valley, the general view is that Baringo Senator Gideon Moi (Kanu chairman) and former Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto (CCM boss) cannot be ignored.
The two, who are leaning towards the BBI, appear determined to deny Ruto smooth sailing to to sweep the region’s vote.
In Ukambani,a leaked audio recently laid bare how Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is under siege as two separate camps battle for the control of his backyard.
One camp is led by three governors from the region - Kitui's Charity Ngilu, Makueni's Kivutha Kibwana and Alfred Mutua of Machakos.
The other camp led by former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama is supporting Ruto's presidential bid.
To those groupings, Kalonzo is not a trustworthy negotiator on behalf of the community’s interests, claims the Wiper leader has vigorously denied.
The former Vice President has signed a pact with the Jubilee Party, a move Muthama says Kalonzo has made in hopes of getting the President's endorsement.
Political feuding has also rocked Mt Kenya where eight bigwigs have positioned themselves to succeed President Kenyatta as Central kingpin.
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe feature prominently in the quest.
Former Justice Minister and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia and former presidential candidate Joseph Nyagah are also in the fray.
There are equally concerted efforts by the Northeastern governors to dislodge former Majority leader Aden Duale from his seat at the negotiating table.
Prof Olang Sana of Maseno University’s Political Science and International Relations School says such politics is not only bad but also stupid.
“It is stupid politics. It is what this country has suffered for the last 20 years. The assumption is that once the kingpin makes a decision, the population will simply follow without contestation amounts to undermining the population,” he said.
The varsity don warned politicians they could be disappointed as only a few presidential candidates are attractive at this time.
To Prof Olang, those heating up regional enclave type of politics are doing so for relevance “to attract Ruto, Raila, Gideon, and Mudavadi’s eye".
“It is largely about strategy to become relevant in the new political dispensation,” the don said.
He adds it is regrettable “very little has changed in Kenya despite the democratic transition.
“The main challenge comes from ethnic coalitions because the intention of propping up kingpins is to make them the ethnic leaders bargaining for a share of the national cake,” Prof Olang said.
The other question that emerges is whether a person presented as a kingpin has a political party through which he or she can bargain.
Contestants from Central have political parties to back them in bargaining, compared with other regions.
For instance, Wa Iria is currently popularising his Civic Renewal Party (CRP) around issues like climate change, youth empowerment and development.
Kiunjuri is also busy building a name for The Service Party (TSP). Politicians like Karua and Kenneth lead known political parties - Narc and the Kenya National Congress, respectively.
Oparanya, Joho, and Kingi are members of ODM, which ties them to the direction Raila takes.
“Looking at the ODM structure, if Raila is to exit, then Joho will be preferred because Oparanya is the second deputy party leader,” Andati said.
“He can’t build a party and sell…he has not leveraged his clout as Council of Governors' chairman.”
How it shakes out will depend on the outcome of the BBI process.
Following Uhuru and Raila’s just-concluded housecleaning in Parliament committees, there are signs that a chunk of the BBI report will be ratified in the House.
However, any recommendation that would require a change of the Executive structure would have to be through a referendum.