TIGHT BALANCE

Uhuru needs caution in succession

In Summary

• Project Kalonzo or Gideon would crash on arrival for lack of gravitas. Mudavadi would need an alliance that consolidates Raila and Uhuru's bases.

•But a spurned and agitated Ruto could declare someone 'Tosha!' to steal the thunder from his boss.

Uhuru needs caution in succession
Uhuru needs caution in succession
Image: OZONE
Uhuru needs caution in succession
Uhuru needs caution in succession
Image: OZONE

Kenya is 172 years behind Switzerland in finding practical solutions to challenges of ethnic relations. Denial merely defers possible implosion.

The clash between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, or between denial of skewed ethnic relations and acceptance of the challenge, offers the opportunity to reconstruct Kenya.

The President and former PM Raila Odinga showed leadership through the Handshake on March 9, 2018. But virulent ambitions and rabid denials could derail the vision.    

Succession interests should not muddle the cause and the challenge is heavier on the President. However, that does not exclude key politicians from responsibility for stalled nationhood. The vision could be derailed if the President entertains the illusion of power beyond the possible.

Uhuru should be cautious in trying to influence his succession. He should not bait what he cannot bite.

'Uhuru Kumi, Ruto Kumi' has a new meaning for burgeoning UhuRuto cynics: They say the promise meant the two would leave after 10 years in the Executive. The semantic 'confusion' explains Ruto's fury, and his attempts to disown their shared muddle of the economy, and bungled promises.

Untempered ambition has severed the bond between the duo. Ruto has invaded the President's turf, and is challenging him to a duel in Mt Kenya's master bedroom  — Gatundu South. MP Moses Kuria is the DP's doorman.

Uhuru cannot handle more politicians craving endorsement. He can’t play Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Senator Gideon Moi and hope to be the master chess player.

President Daniel Moi could entertain a presidential 'project', which Uhuru was in 2002. But the backlash haunted Moi for decades. His blue-eyed blood son, Gideon, lost the power plot to his adopted son raging Ruto.

A spurned Ruto could team up with Raila in an alliance that could outmatch the Rainbow wave that ejected Moi and his project. The wave installed Mwai Kibaki during his third run for president. Ruto knows when to advance and retreat.

Project Kalonzo or Gideon would crash on arrival for lack of gravitas. Mudavadi would need an alliance that consolidates Raila and Uhuru's bases. But a spurned and agitated Ruto could declare someone 'Tosha!' to steal the thunder from his boss.

Uhuru still has a chance of neuter implosive tribacracy. Voters always gang up around 'their sons' who can bag the presidential trophy. The Kikuyu have always built an impenetrable wall around 'their own' to protect the prize.

Founding President Jomo Kenyatta enjoyed ethnic cover for 15 years. They did it for Kibaki from 2002-12, and for Uhuru during the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections. The Kikuyu did not reject Uhuru in 2002 as Moi's successor. His moment came in 2013, when Kibaki retired.

The Kalenjin built firewalls around Moi for 24 years. Their elite fought in State House for space around Moi. Sally Kosgei, then Cabinet Secretary, wept as Moi left State House for the last time. Months later Sally, and other Kalenjin elite were evicted to create room for Kibaki's ethnic office-seekers.

The Kalenjin loss was the Kikuyu gain. Other Kenyans have watched the power race from the fringes. They have genuine grievances. Historical injustices partly fueled post-election conflict in 2007-2008. Kibaki enablers muddled presidential election to secure for him a second helping. It was too soon to let go after 24 years of the Moi era. Kibaki had fallen into the ethnic power trap.

Uhuru has told a country crying for inclusion that tribacracy is wrong. Ethno-democracy rides on tyranny of numbers, exclusion, and ethnic prejudices. It thrives on doublespeak.

Ruto is exploiting the hustler decoy to perpetuate two-tribe dominance. His Kalenjin turf is consolidating to relive the Moi days after a 20-year presidential power drought. Uhuru and Ruto proved in 2013 that two communities - the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin - with padding from state machinery could lord in over other marginalised communities. Right-thinking Kenyans are saying enough is enough.

Practical challenges demand practical solutions. Switzerland's stability, from 1848, owes its success to the practical solutions its founders deployed when it mattered. It has three major tribes: Germans make up 60 per cent of Swiss population; French have 30 per cent; Italians and others make another 10 per cent.

Germans don't load it over the French, Italians, and others. Switzerland has no majoritarian or minoritarian crises that bedevil other countries. Switzerland’s earlier appreciation of its diversity guarantees national stability.

The senior-most member of the federal council becomes the president and he next senior-most is the vice-president, unlike Kenya's anarchic ambitions.