Why Ruto, Oburu are wrong about 'deep state’s' role in 2022 elections

'The system' could make Raila President, but at its own behest and terms, and he would never be able to identify it.

In Summary

• The two lack a full and clear picture of what constitutes the 'deep state' or 'the system'.

• It is inconceivable that Oburu Odinga would with certainty claim they now have the backing of 'the system' or 'deep state'. Inconceivable that Ruto could triumph over it, with God's help.


The 'deep state' and 'the system' have become two prominent words in the vocabulary of national political discourse in the recent past.

It was Deputy President William Ruto who first claimed the government networks were going flat out to block his 2022 presidential bid.

He vowed that his faith in God and the people would triumph over 'the system'. He seemed to speak from a point of knowledge and experience, making reference to his past political activities.

Earlier at a public event in Siaya, East African Legislative Assembly MP Oburu Oginga, who is also the brother of ODM leader Raila Odinga, boisterously announced the presidency was his to lose in 2022.


His self-confidence arose from the assumed alliance they have with the system. He claimed Raila had won the presidential elections in 2007, 2013 and 2017 but was never declared the winner because of the system.

In his opinion, given the handshake that has brought President Uhuru Kenyatta into a close working relationship with Raila, the President controls the government networks through the state machinery.

Consequently, he hypothesises that the system is with Raila and with the system on his side, he cannot lose the forthcoming elections.

Ruto and Oburu seem not to have a full and clear picture of what constitutes the 'deep state' or the system.

The 'deep state' is believed to be a clandestine network entrenched inside the government, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies and other governmental entities.

It supposedly controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratic election process and elected officials are merely figureheads.

The origins of the term 'deep state' are from the secretive Turkish network known as derin devlet.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded this group in 1923 with the purpose of undertaking clandestine acts to preserve the governmental structure at the time.

These acts included coups and private assassinations of figures who were seen as hostile to the establishment; they were particularly targeted toward the press, communists, the Kurds, and other dissenters.

The 'deep state' has since come to mean any unelected 'shadow government' operating behind the scenes of a democracy.

It arose in the 1990s as a way of describing a kind of shadowy or parallel system of government in which unofficial or publicly unacknowledged individuals play more important roles in defining and implementing state policy.


If true, this would mean that the democratic process of electing leaders is a façade.

The 'deep state' has traditionally been used by the United States press in reference to the governments of countries such as Russia and Turkey, but starting in the 2010s, it has increasingly been used to describe the US government by those who subscribe to conspiracy theories.

A 'deep state' is, therefore, a state within a state, made up of networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership in pursuit of its own agenda and goals.

In popular usage, the term carries overwhelmingly negative connotations although this does not reflect scholarly understanding.

Potential sources for 'deep state' organisation include organs of state such as the armed forces, intelligence agenciespolicesecret policeadministrative agencies and government bureaucracy.

A 'deep state' can also take the form of a cartel of entrenched career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial but discretionary manner to further their agency mission or the public good, sometimes in contravention of the current political administration.

The intent of the 'deep state' can include continuity of the state itself, job security for its members, enhanced power and authority and the pursuit of ideological or programmatic objectives.

It can operate in opposition to the agenda of elected officials by obstructing, resisting, and subverting their policies conditions and directives.

Mike Lofgren describes the power and reach of the 'deep state' in not only unflattering but also scary terms. It is seen as a conspiracy by dark forces to propel opaque segments of the public administration to subvert the will of the people from being fully reflected in public policy and law.

The reality of the 'deep state' in this vein is more banal, but at once more frightening and dangerous.

The discussion about the 'deep state' is such that it is hardly held in the open. It belongs to closed-door engagements behind the veneer of a private members’ club restrictions.

From the illustrations above, it is clear that the results of the decisions of the 'deep state' are not cause for celebration.

Operatives under the 'deep state' hardly wish that their faces be publicised. The acts they commit most times border on high crimes and would make them demons among citizens.

They prefer and always succeed to remain faceless. They are not responsible to any political or economic cleavages except to their interests. Their primary and probably only interest is to retain power and influence in perpetuity.

They will be there in the most democratic of regimes. They will continue to be there when the most dictatorial of regimes take over.

They are like the messages hang on Christian families’ walls that read “Christ is the unseen guest at all our mealtimes.”

It is, therefore, inconceivable that Oburu would with certainty claim it's their behest and terms. Raila may serve his term without ever putting his fingers on the 'deep state'. This is possible for past presidents as well.

What Oburu may see as the 'deep state' would at best be a façade. Likewise, it is preposterous for the Deputy President to taunt the system. He cannot promise to defeat it because it is not a body corporate and not quantifiable.

Ruto may have the benefit of what he considers government network experience but his experience with the 'deep state' may only be skin deep. Kenyans should, therefore, not be deluded that Ruto is capable of defeating the 'deep state' because it can never come out to fight him.

In the same breath, Oburu should not assuage the fears of Raila supporters about electoral rigging. The system will never declare open support for anybody, Raila included.