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HISTORICAL PARALLELS

Handshake candidate vs underdog rebel

Likelihood of a referendum grows with early signs that Raila and Ruto are in opposite camps.

In Summary

• After the 2008 handshake, Kenya got a new Constitution that ushered in a new dawn.

• Kenya seems to be walking a similar path as a result of the 2018 handshake, but not without consequence.

A controversy arose among the beasts of the field as to which of the animals deserved the most credit for producing the greatest number of pups at birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded her settlement of the dispute.

“And you,” they said, “how many sons have you at a birth?' The Lioness laughed at them, and said: “Why! I have only one; but that one is altogether a thoroughbred Lion.”

Many a time, especially in politics, we focus so much on the numbers and little on the worth of our associations. We are seeing this more and more in our political circles as the days inch closer to the 2022 election.

 

We are focused on growing the numbers in our various political camps without regard to the value they are bringing. All this is in readiness for a possible referendum next year and the 2022 election.

The political war drums are becoming louder as a result of the 2018 handshake, which has confused many. But history has great lessons on this kind of confusion that has engulfed our politicians.

In early 2008 when the then President, Mwai Kibaki, shook hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga on the steps of Harambee house, Kenyans collectively let out a sigh of relief. Kenya had come from the brink of war and that handshake kickstarted a healing process.

Fast forward to 10 years later in 2018 at the very same venue of Harambee House the current President Uhuru Kenyatta was now shaking hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga. Though the chaos resulting from the elections was not similar to 2008, the emotions were at a similar boiling point.

As a result of the 2008 handshake, Kenya got a new Constitution in 2010 that ushered in a new dawn of progressive reforms. Kenya seems to be walking a similar path as a result of the 2018 handshake, but not without consequence.

This situation almost mirrors the escalation of tensions that Nigerians witnessed in 2006 between President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar over succession. Obasanjo endorsed the opposition leader instead of Atiku. One may ask if this is what is causing the panic in Jubilee.

As the Building Bridges Initiative gains momentum, the likelihood of a referendum grows and we are seeing early signs that Raila and Deputy President William Ruto are in opposite camps. It is not clear where Uhuru is despite being the other party in the handshake, but he has publicly supported the BBI.

And if we end up at a referendum next year, it is clear that we will go into the election with a new constitution as happened when Kibaki was leaving office. This time, it will be Uhuru leaving office.

 

Therein lies the problem and the 2018 handshake has increased political temperatures. And just like with the grand coalition, the heat is not coming from across the political divide but from within the ruling party—Jubilee.

The calm that descended on the country just after the March 2018 handshake was shortlived. Now there's almost daily talk of 2022 succession politics.

What is more alarming is that for the first time in Kenya’s history we have a sitting Deputy President publicly challenging his boss on his intentions, particularly when it comes to the handshake.

This situation almost mirrors the escalation of tensions that Nigerians witnessed in 2006 between President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar over succession.

Obasanjo endorsed the opposition leader instead of Atiku. One may ask if this is what is causing the panic in Jubilee. Uhuru clearly seems reluctant to enter into this debate, after all one may argue it is not him who started this succession momentum in the first place.

We must be alive to the fact that all this noise is crowding out the good work that the government is undertaking. This noise threatens to be unstoppable as the bigger question on the minds of many is if we have in the making an election duel between a handshake candidate and a rebel underdog?