BBI POLITICS

How regional and international geopolitics back Uhuru, Raila's post-2022 era

In Summary

• Kagame and Museveni have extended their terms and this would help stave off arguments that Uhuru is turning into a despot by altering the Constitution to allow him to continue as Prime Minister.

• The US and China require strong political leadership in countries they have strategic interests such as Kenya, and Uhuru and Raila offer the strongest leadership imaginable.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
BEST OF FRIENDS: President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: FILE

The second decade of the 21st Century has begun on a bountiful note for the handshake principals —President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.

 

Of the two, Raila has earned the dubious distinction of the most influential political player for two decades who never ascended to the throne.

Since 2002 Kibaki Tosha General Election, Raila emerged and has remained the highest-ranking national leader without the ultimate state power.

 

All politics, competitive or otherwise, has always revolved around his interests. National political initiatives have been launched either in support or opposition to his interests and objectives. These initiatives have had negative effects on the fabric of the nationhood and nearly thrown the country to civil catastrophe on two occasions.

Over the same period, Uhuru also emerged from relative obscurity to be a major player in national politics. Fortune favoured him ahead of Raila to the State House throne. When all had but written Raila off, the two pulled a major surprise to friend and foe through their handshake in March 2018.

Both of them are sons of the founding President and  Vice President respectively. They inherited a bitterly fractured political union between the Kikuyu and the Luo communities. The bitterness arising from the violent fallout between erstwhile bosom friends Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga. However, things seem to have turned positive for Kenyans when the two foremost protagonists chose to close ranks ostensibly for the sake of the country.

It is not yet fully known what exactly inspired the two to reach such a profoundly wise, patriotic and nationalist decision. Whatever their motivation, the impact of this epic decision has brought peace and stability to a country on the brink of civil strife.

The action has been lauded worldwide and replicated in more than one country. More importantly, it altered the direction and content of local political processes. Previous covenants have been replaced with new hitherto unexpected alliances. Allies in the ruling Jubilee Party have cried foul alleging betrayal, while previous opposition members have assumed the inglorious responsibility of government propagandists.

 

Fate has brought together Uhuru and Raila in a union that will offer them the rare opportunity to lead Kenya in the new era. Through the handshake, the two launched the Building Bridges Initiative, whose report has recommended radical changes to the country's governance structure.

If implemented, the country will see a restructured Executive that would have a President and a prime minister, who will exercise executive authority at the levels of state and government respectively.

 

It is this arrangement that gives the UhuRaila duo the grand opportunity to lead Kenya together at the transition to the new political order.

THE DIVIDE OVER BBI PROPOSALS

However, this proposal has already alarmed many key political operatives with sights trained on succeeding Uhuru in the present constitutional order. Led by Deputy President William Ruto, opposition to the BBI report has gathered sufficient momentum to derail its implementation.

The troops have been organised and regularly energised for the impending referendum with a view to clinically defeating the proposed amendments. They appear highly self-motivated, athletic and energetic. They roam the country and have been felt in every inch in length and breadth.

The anti-BBI team under the banner of Team Tangatanga is worryingly very strong in the President’s backyard — Mt Kenya region.

While the BBI report is popular in the opposition strongholds, the Jubilee regions appear ambivalent, if not hostile. The BBI task force has not helped the course better by their incomplete report, as it lacked clear recommendations and implementation roadmap.

This has given cannon fodder for the opponents to pour scorn on the novel proposals in the report. Therefore, at the local scene, the BBI proponents were going to face huge mountainous tasks to have the report adopted.

The anticipated referendum has promised to offer the Deputy President allies the opportunity to crush their opponents in their march to State House in 2022.

LIMITLESS PRESIDENCY IN EAC

Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) are assured of winning additional terms in office under the new limitless presidential term constitutions. This would help stave off arguments that Uhuru is turning into a despot by altering the Constitution to allow him to continue as the head of the Executive.
Oching' Kanyadudi

However, events have happened both at the region and global political stage that seem to tilt the game in favour of Uhuru and Raila. In the East Africa region, there are leaders who have persuaded or coerced their countrymen to endorse their bid for extended unlimited terms in office.

Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) are assured of winning additional terms in office under the new limitless presidential term constitutions. This would help stave off arguments that Uhuru is turning into a despot by altering the Constitution to allow him to continue as the head of the Executive.

The Ruto camp recently had to cheekily ask the President to state his desire on the matter. At the burial of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua's mother, Ruto polemically said Uhuru is a good democrat who cannot conspire to cling on to power. That the push to have Uhuru as PM was a scheme by 'brokers and political merchants" to gain power through the backdoor.

If there were no neighbours who have successfully launched their succession bids beyond previous term limits, Uhuru would have appeared bad. But the presence of Kagame, Museveni and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi puts him in good company.

US AND CHINA INTERESTS

Then the strategic interests of the US and China come into play again to favour the UhuRaila duo. US President Donald Trump is facing the greatest challenge to his presidency before the next election this end year. Senate is set to hear his impeachment sometime soon. The outcome is unpredictable even though the Senate is dominated by his Republican Party.

He, therefore, had to divert the US public attention through foreign military action in Iran. The killing of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani is chiefly meant to give Trump breathing space at the domestic front.

Trump thus requires strong political leadership in countries in which the US has strategic interests. Kenya is one and Uhuru and Raila offer the strongest leadership imaginable.

The US administration would thus support the BBI and have Uhuru and Raila at the helm of the country’s leadership for its selfish and strategic interests.

On the other hand, China has emerged as the biggest lender to Kenya's infrastructural development. Given their totalitarian style of leadership, it would be natural and logical for the Beijing administration to support the BBI.

Its implementation provides an avenue for a strong and popular leadership that ensures compliance with the punitive loan conditions that come with the Chinese bilateral arrangements. They would fear a weak national leadership that would succumb to popular demands to review the loan agreements.

Under the circumstances, therefore, Uhuru and Raila are poised to ride on the regional political events and the global strategic interests to continue dominating the national political landscape beyond 2022.

These factors will most likely support their bid to manage the implementation of the BBI constitution as president and prime minister respectively.