• The President and his deputy have access to daily security intelligence briefings.
• It must surely occur to them that the uncontrolled rhetoric from their supporters is this close to being a tool for ethnic mobilisation and polarisation of the country.
I watched in horror last week as Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen in an unprecedented fashion took on President Uhuru Kenyatta on Citizen TV.
Senator Murkomen suggested rather liberally that President Kenyatta suffers an inferiority complex that makes him want to keep his deputy, William Ruto, away from the limelight.
Barely 48 hours later, it was the turn of Environment CS Keriako Tobiko. Pointing his finger like a village diviner cursing evil spirits, Tobiko proceeded to demand that Murkomen and Ruto must respect Uhuru, but not before declaring with utmost contempt that the DP himself was a mere clerk of the President.
Not surprisingly, Tangatanga folks, who had found nothing wrong with Murkomen’s utterances two days earlier, suddenly found the CS’s attacks against Ruto disrespectful and unwarranted. Because Murkomen is a politician, and one with a tongue so loose that it could make it to a Loose Tongue Hall of Fame, if ever there was one, it was easy to place his rantings in a familiar pattern. Not so with CS Tobiko.
It is inconceivable that a public servant who took an oath to serve a non-partisan cause, would refer to one of his bosses in such unpalatable terms, no matter the justification.
Speaking of justification, it may not appear to the ministers who assume they are engaging in partisan politics on behalf of the President, that their words tend to convey a disturbing underlying message: That either the President is now too weak to fight his own wars with his deputy, or that he has run out of real politicians to take on the DP’s faction on his behalf.
The love-hate relationship between Kenya’s past and current presidents with their principal assistants has been well documented. In his memoir, Seasons of Hope, former Mwingi South MP David Musila revisits some incidents dating back to the persecution of Vice President Daniel Moi by junior Kenyatta lackeys, and later, Moi’s own poor treatment of Kibaki, who his handlers constantly treated with suspicion.
At some point, Kibaki’s father was murdered by a servant, and Musila, the then Central provincial commissioner, started making arrangements for the president’s visit for the burial. He took it for granted that Moi would attend his VP’s father’s burial.
He was shocked when the President said he wouldn’t, and no amount of pleading would change his mind. Seeing as the President had graced many “ordinary” burials, Musila asked the President to at least send a senior official, after he asked him (Musila) to represent him. Moi dispatched Security Minister GG Kariuki, a fellow Kikuyu, making the underlying contempt rather loud.
Of course the treatment of VP Josephat Karanja and Prof George Saitoti later provides the proverbial icing on the cake to this pattern.
The 2010 Constitution was supposed to be the panacea to this madness - by introducing a DP elected on the same ticket as the President and one who didn’t have to serve at the whims of the President. But none of the past cases comes close to what Kenyans have been treated to in the proxy wars between President Kenyatta and DP Ruto. All indications are that the proxy stage is ending soon,or has ended, and the two gentlemen will soon be going for each other like the fabled Kilkenny Cats.
An appetizer of sorts was served over the weekend, when Ruto visited Machakos county, and on his roadside stops, local MPs in his faction threw jibes at the President as Ruto laughed out loudly enough to be picked by the microphone.
It would be naïve to assume the President won’t be entering the ring soon. However, this is a spectacle that Kenyans are not familiar with, one in which the country’s Commander-in-Chief and the nation’s symbol of national unity engages in an five-year political war that appears to escalate with a divisive election in the offing.
If the DP stays on in government upto the election time, it will also be the first time in the country’s history that the holders of the country’s two highest offices, campaign against each other, with all the attendant potential factional differences in government and security services.
Interestingly, Murkomen said in the same interview that Raila was not to blame for the Jubilee divisions anymore, portending a new phase where Ruto allies would now be dealing with Uhuru squarely. Therein lies what should worry Kenyans the most.
If sections of the Cabinet have taken unequivocal stands on political events in the country, it goes without saying that there will be factions in it, with the DP’s loyalists being forced to wear the team colours in the anticipated contests.
One problem with a general election is that the nearer it gets, the more people are inclined to drop inhibitions, creating a scenario where people otherwise sworn to non-partisan delivery of services suddenly pick a side.
I do not understand why Interior CS Fred Matiang'i needs to be present at these functions where his colleagues throw the civil service rule book out of the window. His position makes him the man we should all run to, if all these ill-advised ventures blow up in our faces. It is incumbent upon him to stay away from the divisive talk.
The President and his deputy have access to daily security intelligence briefings. It must surely occur to them that the uncontrolled rhetoric from their supporters is this close to being a tool for ethnic mobilisation and polarisation of the country.
They have both spoken about the hard choices they had to make to get to where they are, given the past animosity between their communities. They must know that it is the alleged Kibaki regime treatment of Kalenjins in government from 2003-07 that planted the seeds that would be tragically harvested as the post-election violence of 2007-08.
Then, as now, the rhetoric centered around perceived betrayal, and metamorphosed into a fierce sense of injustice. The President’s community may appear aloof and nonchalant right now, but the DP’s community is never averse to turning this type of political quarrel into a hot cuisine of siege mentality, whose implications we don’t need to dig into our history to gauge.
Uhuru and Ruto must be called to order, and be advised that the country is bigger than them. If they are unable to work together anymore, they should meet as they did when forming their coalition and find out where the rain started beating them. They should consequently make a decision that their continued war while in government is no longer sustainable for the wellbeing and national stability of the country.
Before they polarise the country to the level of 2008, one or both of them must bite the bullet, step aside and save us from approaching an election while checking out conditions of possible IDP camps.
Even more scary is the uncomfortable prospect of what would happen if, God forbid, something happened to one of them in the divisive environment they have created. We shouldn’t have to get to that.