ADDICTION TO POWER

Sulking Gema vs excited Rift

Solidarity of other Kenyans sidelined for 56 years can cause national change.

In Summary
  • The fear of the Kikuyu under Kenyatta II, and the anxiety about life outside power, is fuelling the discord in the ruling Jubilee Party.
  • The Kalenjin masses are united around the Deputy President, believing he is key to their economic renaissance.

There is anxiety on the mountain. A section of the Agikuyu, Embu, and Meru (Gema) communities are sulking. They claim proceeds of State power have not percolated to their ridges. They claim their agrarian economy is regressing at a time their own is President.

Elsewhere, Rift Valley is excited about a William Ruto presidency. The Kalenjin masses are united around the Deputy President, believing he is key to their economic renaissance. A second occupation of State House two decades after President Moi retired fires their excitement.

The fear of the Kikuyu under Kenyatta II, and the anxiety about life outside power, is fuelling the discord in the ruling Jubilee Party. Then there is the hostile excitement among Ruto supporters that the DP could succeed Kenyatta II. But the concerns of Kenya, a conglomeration of 40-plus ethnicities, rank above the fears and hopes of the two ‘president-producing’ communities whose sons have held power for 56 years.

 

The 1963-1978 Jomo Kenyatta years in State House marked the rise of economic power of favoured individuals in Central Kenya. This is how the Agikuyu savoured, loved and got addicted to presidential power.  Their complaint in 2020 is that the Uhuru Kenyatta years (2013-2022) have not rekindled the glorious Kenyatta I days.

The Mwai Kibaki presidency (2002-2013) did not suffer the vitriol spewed at Uhuru by his supporters. This was probably because Kibaki prepared Uhuru for succession. Without a clear Uhuru successor from the Gema ensemble, the sense of destitution worries.

Jomo Kenyatta was president for 15 years. During this time the Kikuyu and, by extension, other Gema communities gained disproportionately from proximity to power. These were the pioneer years of Africanisation. When white settlers and business lords left, and Africans replaced them. You benefitted if you had patrons around Kenyatta I. Ethnic affinity had a lot to do with it. It is also why large settler farms got into the hands of people around power.

President Moi’s 24-year presidency did not change the fortunes of many citizens of the Rift. Individuals close to Moi had drastic status upgrade, but the masses stagnated. Baringo county is marginalised, even though Moi was Baringo Central MP for 24 years. Moi himself moved to Kabarak, in Nakuru county.

The Kenyatta succession was largely about retaining presidential power in the House of Mumbi. Those who had gained somewhat excessively from the proceeds of power did not want to let go. They had large chunks of land, businesses and other interests to protect.

The best way of securing these interests was State power. But clashing interests of power influencers of the 1970s made it possible for Daniel arap Moi, an outsider to the Gema polity, to succeed Kenyatta.

President Moi’s 24-year presidency did not change the fortunes of many citizens of the Rift. Individuals close to Moi had drastic status upgrade, but the masses stagnated. Baringo county is marginalised, even though Moi was Baringo Central MP for 24 years. Moi himself moved to Kabarak, in Nakuru county. Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana and Pokot remain insecure. But they are willing to give another Kalenjin a second chance.

Proximity to power has always been associated with development initiatives. This is the concern of other communities that have not enjoyed such leverage. They have better reasons to be angry. They have pending historical grievances.

 

Craving power could change, and it’s a good thing, if the sulking in Central Kenya is decoded. There is much to the discontent than the claim Kenyatta II is failing his people.

There are three sides to the turmoil: First, there is no clear successor to Kenyatta II from the Gema communities. This undue sense of entitlement should be disabused.

There is also Ruto’s stranglehold on some Central MPs, who supported Uhuru during the 2017 presidential elections. Cynics say their revolt is self-serving; that their rental account may expire with clear stakes in the post-Uhuru regime.

Then there is the Handshake between Uhuru and Raila Odinga. This brotherhood, and its offset Building Bridges Initiative, could change the partisan assumptions of the Uhuru succession. Ruto’s Mt Kenya lackeys dread the possibility. The anger against Kenyatta II then could be fore-pains of the unknown. The beef about dying coffee, dairy and tea economies is a decoy.

The solidarity of other Kenyans who have been sidelined for 56 years can cause national change. The 2022 regime change general election is the time.