• When a rising power challenges the dominance of an established ruling power, the dominant power always responds with violence, and the result is always warfare. This is the Thucydides Trap.
• The Kenyan rendition of the Thucydides Trap is taking shape. There is political warfare between the hustlers and the dynasties.
Ten years. This is how long the Peloponnesian War lasted, from 431BC to 401BC.
This was a long drawn out war between Athens and Sparta, two cities in ancient Greece.
Life in Sparta was vastly different from life in Athens. Sparta developed a militaristic society ruled by two kings and an oligarchy that exercised political control. It was also the dominant power and often opposed the democratic reforms in Athens.
Athens, on the other hand, created a new kind of government where people were free to choose their leaders. These democratic reforms were championed by Cleisthenes, who was a political and constitutional reformer. He is credited with reforming the Athenian constitution and setting it on a democratic footing. Athens has since been referred to as the birthplace of democracy. The word democracy comes from two Greek words Demos (people) and Kratos (power) meaning people power.
Despite Sparta’s hegemony, Athens was growing very rapidly. This spooked Sparta. They worried that Athens would soon become a real threat to their power. Athens ambition and Sparta’s fear of losing power drew the two into conflict. Other Greek cities were forced to pick a side thus forming opposing alliances, which ensued into the decade-long Peloponnesian War.
Historians tell us the triggers to this war, and to 12 subsequent world wars have all been the same. These are, on one hand, the rising power’s growing entitlement, sense of its importance and demand for greater say and sway; and on the other hand, the established powers' fear, insecurity and determination to defend its status quo. These drivers are also the same ones that trigger political wars.
In politology-speak, this is known as the Thucydides Trap. This means that when a rising power challenges the dominance of an established ruling power, the dominant power always responds with violence, and the result is always warfare. The Thucydides Trap has become the indicator to predict when warfare is likely to happen between nations or political factions.
Fast forward to our country's political space where our Kenyan rendition of the Thucydides Trap is taking shape. The discourse has been that there is political warfare between the hustlers, on one hand, led by Deputy President William Ruto, and the dynasties, on the other hand, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta with an alliance of Gideon Moi and Raila Odinga. The three are all scions of former presidents and a vice president, respectively.
Ruto has been quite overt about his presidential ambitions. To help him succeed, he has assembled an alliance of other politicos to propagate his aspirations. Being a self-labelled hustler, he like, the city of Athens, has been a rising power that is threatening the established hegemony of the dynasties. And like Sparta, the dynasties have been rattled.
This has resulted in political warfare, where the opposing alliances have unleashed their mercenaries to vilify each other at every public gathering. And they are not leaving anything to chance. The arsenals are open and the weapons include threats of impeachment, pressure to resign, mistreatment by the system, allegations of corruption and of murder, and hurling of mobile phones during press interviews.
It is, therefore, quite perplexing that our political pundits and the media have been baffled by the lost bromance between Ruto and Uhuru; yet this was an expected outcome of the Thucydides Trap.
Begs the question, are the dynasties spooked that Ruto is the unpalatable bellwether?
Could his bellwether ranking be the reason why National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi was booed by mourners during the burial of Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori when he accused Ruto’s office of hosting criminals? Or when Nyeri residents issued instructions to Uhuru to greet Ruto during his recent surprise visit to the county? Or during the infamous walkout led by two of Ruto’s foot soldiers, Moses Kuria and Kipchumba Murkomen, from the Meru BBI rally? Or when pro-Ruto slogans filled the air during the recent meeting in Kandara, Murang'a county, when the governor chest-thumped that it was his county?
Allegations have been advanced that Ruto is corrupt beyond redemption and that is why he should not ascend to the position of President. He has also been castigated for being too audacious with his presidential ambitions. Others have chided him for upstaging his master. And still, others have accused him of public misconduct, grave malpractices and failing to live up to the oath of his office.
Begs another question, if corruption, misconduct, malpractices and abuse of office allegations are the gold standard with which we should determine leaders that are fit for purpose, what choice among the probable 2022 presidential candidates are we left with? Is there anyone of them that is not tainted by similar allegations? Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
I submit that the sustained attacks on Ruto are not entirely about his character. What we are witnessing is our rendition of the Thucydides Trap. The politicos are at war, and the onslaught on Ruto will only escalate from here on. Hence, his supporters should not expect sympathy or a retreat from the dynasties. Neither should they expect Ruto to take the foetal position and play nice. Because as they say, all is fair in war and love, and nice guys always finish last. So do not be surprised when things get uglier before they get better.
Finally, my unsolicited advice is to Ruto is a good general never quits the battlefield early. He soldiers on until the last shot has been fired; to David Murathe — you do not pass the sniff test as a beauty pageant judge to assess Ruto’s looks on the ballot paper; to Francis Atwoli — tantrums do not work among peer groups.
Lastly to Wanjiku, when upright and reputable men and women offer themselves in 2022 to take up leadership positions that will unshackle us from this greed, bad governance and poor service delivery, yet you still choose one from the dynasties or the hustler nation as your preferred leader, kindly forever hold your peace. You will have lost all moral authority to lament.
War does not determine who is right, only who is left — Anonymous