-In presidential succession race, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, the second time as farce
Kenyan politics often resembles a reality show, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why many of us seem to treat it more as entertainment than with the seriousness it probably deserves.
With that in mind, sometimes I like to play a little game in which I try and find historical incidents that contemporary actors can learn from.
In this game, I am guided by two slightly overused sayings: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, the second time as farce”.
I remember reading somewhere a political analysis piece that suggested Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto (2013 to present) had taken a leaf from the 1967-78 Vice President (and subsequently President) Daniel arap Moi.
Supposedly, like Moi during those years, Ruto’s resolve to eventually ascend to the presidency is being sorely tested (corruption allegations and threats to impeach), but meanwhile, again like Vice President Moi, Ruto is busy shoring up his support across the country for when the time comes.
In my game, if (heaven forfend) Ruto does eventually emerge victorious and succeeds President Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 to present) as the next resident of State House, he may decide to continue channelling Moi, in which case his greatest supporters better have a plan B ready.
I say this because if history repeats itself and Ruto does a Moi, I can tell you that once President Ruto has settled down in office, he will find a way to get rid of the most powerful of his supporters so he can control his own legacy and succession without having to keep any promises that may have been made.
Ask Charles Njonjo, GG Kariuki and Stanley Oloitiptip (the last two are deceased, so you may need to hold a seance) and others how life worked out for them after their man got to the top of the tree.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was mentored by President Moi. When President Moi no longer had a use for his deputy or a potential rival, he successfully made use of legislative noisemakers to do his dirty work.
It was attacks in the House that finally saw Njonjo off, though just to make sure he stayed down, Moi further instituted a warts and all commission of inquiry into his erstwhile pal and the two men only rebuilt their friendship which was never going to be the same, many years later. Moi’s parliamentary snipers also saw off Vice President Mwai Kibaki and later Vice President Josephat Karanja.
However, with Vice President Saitoti, Moi was particularly cruel, dropping him from the post then publicly test-drove potential replacements, only to reappoint him with the theatrical aside: “Let’s see if your pots of ugali will now increase.”
In his final twist of the knife, Moi damned Saitoti with faint praise before the entire country, saying: “Saitoti here is my friend. But leadership isn't about friendship.” And this during Kanu “elections”, where Saitoti and his supporters were publicly humiliated.
If Kenyan succession, politics are a reality show. I’m curious to see which of these methods, if any, will be applied to DP Ruto, and how he will react.