Political merry-go-round or revolution: Which is it?

We need to ask people running for office what is in it for us, and then hold them to their word

In Summary

• We have been dancing to the same tune forever, one of coalitions of convenience

DP William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta
DP William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta

It’s no longer funny how often Kenyan politics repeats itself, or that we seem to be set against learning from experience. However, as a friend of mine might say, the phenomenon needs to be studied.

Having observed Kenyan politics all my life and read about the stuff that went on before my life began, I can safely say that, using Einstein's definition, as political beings, Kenyans are certifiably nuts.

We’ve been dancing to the same song. There has been the odd re-recording by a new line-up or the adding or subtracting of the odd instrument here and there. But essentially, it's been the same tune forever.


For instance, recently there's been excitement over whether allies of Deputy President William Ruto will get to register Jubilee Asili (or, for that matter, Jubilee Patriotic Front), to ensure their fellow has an electoral vehicle since things don't seem to be going his way at the moment. 

In the early days of Kanu, back in the 1960s, there were divisions in the ranks between those who supported Jomo Kenyatta and those who leaned towards Jarmamogi Oginga Odinga. To throw the Jaramogi team off balance, Kenyatta did a deal with Kadu that saw all of that party’s members cross over to join the ruling party without having to face re-election.

Jaramogi hung on as hard as he could until the infamous Limuru Conference of 1966 (which would foreshadow the Kasarani kichinjio of 2002). In a move ostensibly to make the merged party more cohesive but actually meant to show Jaramogi he was a spent force, the post of Party VP was replaced by eight provincial VPs. The rest is history.

In the run up to the first multiparty elections since the 1960s, the political juggernaut that had been the Ford party began to break up over who would hold what office and who would run for President. Will this kind of talk derail the current under-construction coalitions?

In the first week of September 1992, the names Ford Kenya and Ford Asili had not been coined yet. We in the media were still referring to the Jaramogi Odinga grouping as the Agip House faction, after the building that housed its offices, and the Kenneth Matiba/Martin Shikuku grouping as the Muthithi House faction, after it’s office block. But that would all change.

Both factions had held internal elections in a bid to satisfy the Registrar of Societies of their legitimacy, and had been very careful to balance tribal politics as well as those based more on the sentiment that drives our electoral logic. 

Before the split, popular opinion held that Jaramogi would be the party's presidential candidate and Matiba would be his deputy to satisfy the tribal arithmetic of big tribes (learnt in the days of Kanu and Kadu). 


However, once the two factions split into distinct parties, the tribal mathematicians would have to go back to the drawing board. 

Today in 2020, there is already talk of creating or reviving new government posts so that all the eating chiefs can be accommodated. It's the same names and faces, except for the odd newish one one here and there.

Meanwhile, we need to learn to ask people running for office why they are running and what positive significance their win will have on all of us, and then we hold them to their word.

Of course if 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the completely unexpected. Maybe my dreams will be answered and we will be presented with completely new faces at the ballot in 2022, and all those responsible for the mess we’re in will be answering for their misdeeds. A guy can dream, right?