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KEEP 'EM GUESSING

Uhuru's confounding succession game plan ahead of 2022

On Tuesday, the President told Jubilee leaders he will pass the baton to an heir who supports his legacy

In Summary
  • The President is not making it easy for Kenyans as he has cultivated a bosom relationship with all top politicians who are hoping to succeed him.
  • His recent actions have been confusing with his latest interactions with ODM leader Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event
Image: FILE

As the 2022 General Election approaches, perplexed Kenyans are trying  to predict who President Uhuru’s Kenyatta will anoint as his successor.

And the President is not making it easy. It's guesswork, for he has cultivated bosom relationships with all top politicians hoping to succeed him.

Naturally, Kenyans can make up their own minds.

President Kenyatta has muddied the waters recently with his latest interactions with ODM leader Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

On Tuesday, he told Jubilee legislators he will pass the baton to an heir who supports his legacy.

On the night of June 1, after the Madaraka Day celebrations, Uhuru and Raila  inspected road works on deserted Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi.

“Uhuru and Raila were relaxed and we could see them laughing together. The conversation was deep as if they were planning something,” a guard in the CBD told the Star.

It was the latest glimpse of the newfound friendship the two leaders have been enjoying since their famous handshake of March 9, 2018.

Earlier that day, Uhuru and Ruto shared light moments at State House during Madaraka Day celebrations.

The two are at the centre of the Jubilee Party’s wars and Uhuru has been less than supportive of his deputy.

On Wednesday, President Kenyatta for instance, issued the Executive Order No. 1 of 2020 issued that was interpreted to mean Ruto's office had lost operational autonomy and put under the Executive Office of the President.

Once the President said he would support his deputy but after Ruto's frenetic campaigning, the President said many people would be surprised by his pick. That set everyone guessing. 

Now there are questions whether Uhuru could be grooming Mudavadi to succeed him. At one point, the two shared a plane to Garissa.

The two have been meeting regularly though it is not clear what they are planning. Mudavadi has maintained that his relationship with Uhuru is mutual but he also has emphasised his independent thinking.

Kalonzo is on record saying he will be in the formation that Uhuru will support in the run-up to the 2022 elections.

The two have held secret meetings about a possible merger between Jubilee and Wiper.

Jubilee has already announced a post-election agreement with the Independence party Kanu led by former President Daniel Moi's son, Gideon, who is the Baringo Senator.

While President Moi was clear about who his preferred successor was in 2002 — Uhuru — retired President Mwai Kibaki chose not to announce his preference.

Political analyst John Mutua says Uhuru would want to play an active role in determining who succeeds him, unlike Kibaki who did not want to get involved in transition politics.

“Uhuru wants to ensure the people who take over after him will continue with the work he has begun. He has laid the foundation and would want continuity in his Big Four Agenda," he said.

Mutua nonetheless does not believe President Kenyatta would settle on Ruto or even Raila.

“I go by what he [the President] said in Nyeri that his choice will shock many Kenyans. I don’t think that Raila or Ruto will be one of them. When he talks about shocking people, it means the one he will settle for will be someone we least expect. We all know those who are interested in the seat for now but the President might come up with a totally different line up,” he said.

Political and communication strategist Advice Mundalo said the President has brought all political heavyweights close to him as it facilitates the execution of his government's agena.

“The head of state now has to perform outstandingly for the Kenyan voter. No opposition, no enemies, just friends. President Uhuru will go down in history as the most supported head of state, a man who managed to tame all his political competitors and lock them up in one box,” he said.

Mundalo added it would, therefore, be inexcusable for Uhuru not to achieve his agenda and surpass his predecessors to the benefit of “Wanjiku, Moraa, Wafula, Aketch and Ali".

He said, however, it is not always the wisest political moe to welcome all his former nemeses.

“The DP's supporters should not be overexcited over the chit-chat of the two leaders [Uhuru and Raila] after a sacking spree of their pro-Ruto 'Tangatanga' brigade. In the words of Sun Tzu, 'All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable...'," he added.

An aide to Senator Moi, the Kanu leader, revealed that the country’s second president had settled on Uhuru as his preferred successor long before the 2002 elections.

Jonathan Rono, who served as Moi’s aide-de-camp, said in an interview with a radio station said President Moi had confided in him he intended to pick Uhuru two years before he made his decision public.

He said Moi was considering leaving power to Uhuru as early as 1998 but only confided in a few people.

But before Moi made his preference for Uhuru public, several top politicians had hoped to be endorsed by the President.

They included Vice President George Saitoti (now deceased), Raila, Kalonzo and Mudavadi.

However, spymaster Joseph Kibati in his book Memoirs of a Kenyan Spymaster contradicted Rono, saying Uhuru was Moi’s second choice.

Kibati, who worked in the national intelligence service for more than two decade, said Moi's initial plan was to back Kibaki. He said Kibaki declined, forcing him to settle on Uhuru,

It was in June 2002, while in Mt Elgon that Moi declared Uhuru as his preferred candidate.

On the other hand, Kibaki made it clear that he would not name a preferred successor.

His stand left many asking why Kibaki had decided to become a spectator, not a player in his succession.

However, in June 2012, Kibaki disclosed he did have a preferred successor, though he did not openly campaign or anyone.

“If you hear that I’m not campaigning for anything, don’t think that I don’t believe in anything. I know the kind of project that we want in Kenya and I know that it does not do anybody any good to preach a different thing,” he told a meeting in Mombasa.