I have in the past specifically identified the structure of the Executive as the source of Kenya’s political instability.
After President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term amid boycott by Nasa, Raila Odinga’s team vowed to conduct a parallel swearing in ceremony, a promise kept on January, 30 2018.
The country was palpably tense and tinkering on the brink of civil war. Economic sabotage was launched in the escalating political violence that invited police brutality in Nasa strongholds. It was argued then that Kenyans needed to soberly debate the organisation of government and review its performance to determine its efficacy.
The handshake between Raila and Uhuru helped create a conducive environment to engage in objective debates regarding this sensitive subject. One year down the line, it is now but given that the country will hold a referendum on a host of issues, key among them the structure of government and system of governance. The Building of Bridges Initiative is currently collecting views from interest groups. Hopefully they will concretise these petitions into referendum questions that Kenyans would vote for or against at the plebiscite.
This exercise anticipated in 2020 will have far-reaching ramifications on the political landscape of the country. It will affect, in one way or the other, careers of many prominent politics significantly. The postulations made here are not entirely scientific and based on the assumptions that a) There will be a referendum before the 2022 election (Former Nyeri senator Mutahi Kagwe thinks otherwise), b) That Donald Trump and Xi Jin Ping will be presidents of the US and China respectively, and c) That Uhuru, Raila, William Ruto, Gideon Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Hassan Joho and Wyclliffe Oparanya will be alive and politically active as they are currently.
If Kenyans maintain the status quo at the ensuing referendum, then Ruto will have his match to State House a rollercoaster. He shall have vanquished the handshake and Building Bridges Initiative proponents. He will have emerged as the quintessential political kingpin for the country. The presidential system will have been entrenched as the all-time preferred system of governance with all its imperial tendencies. The Tangatanga team will have been emboldened and rejuvenated to romp home at the 2022 General Election without much hindrance and resistance.
Alliances would be crafted around the Ruto presidency and there will be established new political order. The new order will be teaming with young and new entrants into political brinkmanship and wheeler dealing. Uhuru’s legacy hinged on the Big Four agenda shall be derailed and focus would shift to preparations for a peaceful handover. He would then be more concerned with securing his peace and comfort at retirement. Raila’s fortunes would have greatly dwindled but not dimmed. He would still be the man with capacity to call out the incoming President and offer some checks on his possible excesses. Kalonzo and Mudavadi will somehow find relevance and might be included in the coalition of interests as the general elections approach. Joho and Oparanya will have hard nut to crack finding alternative routes to reinvent themselves and be relevant post-2022 polls. Otherwise, the duo might as well be staring the end of their illustrious political careers.
CHANGE IN GOVERNANCE SYSTEM
On the other hand, if the referendum goes as currently planned, then Ruto will have to redouble his energies to be a serious factor at the general elections. Raila and Uhuru will work out an alliance that will ensure both of them control the next government either directly or indirectly. The presidential system shall have been reviewed to allow for the expansion of the Executive. Most likely, the parliamentary system would have more prominent role in the governance with a Prime Minister. The Head of State will no longer exercise the role of the Executive.
Kenyans should take note that it does not mean that the President will not have executive authority. The authority of the presidency will be exercised at the state level and will generally involve superintending the functions of the three arms of government — Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary.
It is unlikely that Jubilee and ODM will merge into one party. Therefore, neither Raila nor Uhuru will garner outright majority in their respective political quests. Political prudence would thus demand that they enter into an alliance that would enable themdetermine the outcome of the election. This they would do by themselves as principals or through their trusted proxies. On this Kenyans should listen to former Jubilee chairman David Murathe and Senator James Orengo keenly. By then, Johnson Muthama and Isaac Ruto would have joined the club of wise men. In this scenario, Ruto will lead the opposition forces and prepare for his troops and resources for the 2027 duel of the century. Senator Moi, Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Joho and Oparanya would be prominent players in this cast.
REGIONAL ECONOMIC GOVERNMENTS
The other issue that has gained prominence and traction in the referendum debate is structure of devolution. President Kenyatta had to accede to the governors’ perennial demands to increase the county remittances from the Exchequer. In order to rope the county chiefs to support his Big Four agenda, he agreed to allow them play a leading role in the referendum process. This led to closing of ranks between Nasa and Jubilee at the last Council of Governors elections.
This is where Oparanya and Joho have their best opportunities to curve a niche for themselves in the political constellation of Kenya. The argument was well elucidated by Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o last weekend in his column in this paper.
It has been established out the experience of the last eight years of devolution that many of the units are economically unviable. The counties have, therefore, been grappling with the establishment of regional economic blocs as a response to this challenge. However, there have been legal obstacles that are not easy to surmount in the immediate future. Sub-nationalistic and jingoist considerations have also come into play to sabotage these grand efforts. Kenyans have variously expressed their dissatisfaction with the heavy burden of county personnel.
The county development goals have been sacrificed at the altar of payroll financing.
It is argued that counties as presently constituted are bastions of nepotism, graft and lack capacity to deliver on high impact development projects.
Their geographical conclaves impede the implementation of inter-county and crosscutting development projects involving infrastructure, health, education and trade. Then there is the mouthwatering matter of increased funding.
These issues need to be synthesised and settled at the referendum since devolution is a protected provision in the constitution. If it is well executed at the plebiscite, then Oparanya as the CoG chief will emerge as the next frontier of national political leadership. Raila and Uhuru will have their way in the next elections and with the counties behind them, craft the leadership of the next generation. The referendum will have established regional governments with executive and coordinating responsibilities. The country will welcome the regional premiers as the new kids in the political bloc, bringing together a string of counties.
The counties will have been reduced in terms of stature, authority, power and glamour. Ruto will have to retreat and reorganise his strategy for 2027. Moi, Kalonzo and Mudavadi will be key players in the resulting coalition government. Muthama and Orengo will be the cogs on which the wheels of UhuRai legacy will be spinning.