SUCCESSION

How Uhuru could play kingmaker in 2022

Political observers say President could play crucial role after saying he will remain Mt Kenya kingpin, and Jubilee party leader

In Summary

• The direction taken by the head of state will influence how his Mt Kenya backyard will vote in the presidential election.

• Endorsement isn't always a blessing.

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
KINGMAKER? Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Image: FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta's keen interest in his own succession in 2022 suggests he could play the kingmaker.

"Some people who look at me think I have nothing I can do since my time is up; but I remind them even though my time is almost up, I still have some days to roar like a lion," the President said on January 26.

There's a feeling that suspicion among the old Nasa chiefs - Raila Odinga (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) - may be deeply entrenched.

It can be argued that unless the President intervenes, it would be impossible for them to work together ahead of 2022.

The direction taken by the energised head of state is also expected to influence how his Mt Kenya backyard will vote in the presidential election.

The President, unlike his predecessor Mwai Kibaki, has openly declared he would not support his critics – the Tangatanga wing of Jubilee.

On February 10, he said at Nairobi's Wakulima Market that he would "not hand over power to those who will steal from the people”, triggering a storm in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

“I intend to ensure that those who will continue will have the heart to unite and not divide Kenyans,” President Kenyatta said.

Ruto wants to be President and could use the United Democratic Alliance to run, considering the President's blessing is less than unlikely.

Days later, the President dared his deputy to step aside, if he can't toe the line and stop criticising his administration from within.

The President also said in Vihiga that it was time communities — other than the Kikuyu and Kalenjin — produced a president.

This was ahead of the Sagana meeting with Mt Kenya leaders where the succession debate and BBI featured.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the 2013 and 2017 camaraderie between Jubilee’s then  Dynamic Duo is no more. The gloves are off.

Political observers say Uhuru's greatest dilemma is how he will treat Raila and Musalia.

Some say the bromance between the President and Raila may fade post-BBI. But both say they have no 2022 plot in the push for the BBI 'unity project'.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Gideon Moi of Kanu in Matungu on Wednesday.
EMERGING ALLIANCE? Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Gideon Moi of Kanu in Matungu on Wednesday.
Image: HILTON OTENYO

There's a cobbling together of a Musalia, Gideon Moi (Baringo senator and Kanu leader), Kalonzo, and Wetang'ula alliance.

The lot has been on a campaign trail for the Matungu MP by-election as well as the Kabuchai poll in Machakos.

Prof Macharia Munene agrees the President would like to be the kingmaker, though it is too early to say whether he will succeed in it.

“He said he will surprise people. He has a role in deciding on who is next. Some of those angling for his endorsement will be disappointed.”

The USIU Political Science don says the President needs someone who is a big force. “This issue is between Musalia and Raila. That is where Uhuru's dilemma lies,” he said.

Prof Munene said whichever camp – Raila or Musalia - is endorsed, there will be a backlash among supporters, the only difference being the impact.

Dr Charles Nyambuga, a political commentator from Maseno University, said the answer lies in BBI.

The Building Bridges Initiative is calling for an expanded Executive – creating five top slots touted as a cure to the tribalism disease that wrecks Kenya’s polls.

Nyambuga said the President is thus “campaigning vigorously for BBI as it would create a Troika leadership at the helm of the Kenyan government".

Kenya has a history of kingmakers, hence, President Kenyatta would not be an exception, he said.

He cited the case of Oginga Odinga making Jomo Kenyatta king; Charles Njonjo to Daniel Moi; Raila to Mwai Kibaki and now Kenyatta's associations with Raila, Kalonzo, Musalia, and Gideon. 

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir also backed assertions the President will have a say in the next polls since “over and above administrative support, he has people’s support.”

President Kenyatta is campaigning vigorously for BBI as it would solve his dalliance and would create a Troika leadership at the helm of the Kenyan government.
Dr Charles Nyambuga

The concern is the President's popularity nationwide and largely in his Mt Kenya backyard.

“Yes, there is the debate on what percentage of support that will be, but he will definitely have an impact,” Nassir said. He said ODM would prioritise BBI, then deal with succession.

Other observers argue that the President, being a protégé of President Daniel Moi, is attempting to follow the 2002 script in which Moi named him the preferred successor.

Political analyst Martin Andati said the President, by having declared he would remain Mt Kenya kingpin and leader of the Jubilee Party, will play an active role.

In this regard, Andati says the current circumstances are different from those in the latter days of the Moi regime.

“When Moi was exiting in 2002, he was not keen on creating a problem because he was leaving. Moi did not say he will remain the leader of the Kalenjin,” he said. 

Prof Edward Kisiangani questioned the President’s influence in shaping the country’s polity.

“The greatest problem Uhuru has is the people of Kenya who seem to have an issue with the way he is doing things. To get them to support his decisions is the biggest challenge now,” Kisiangani said.

He argued Jubilee supporters allied to Ruto are unlikely to accept anyone whom the President endorses, unless it's the DP.

Prof Kisiangani added it would be an uphill task for the President to map out a succession plan to accommodate Raila, Gideon, Ruto, and Musalia.

“Getting them to the table to accept one succession plan is not easy, especially with the entry of former UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi,” he told the Star.

He added that it would be ideal if the President keeps off succession.

“He should create an environment conducive for everyone to participate in the election. That is the the simplest thing to do and he will have no headache.”

The analyst said this was the case when Kibaki left, adding incumbency has its problems that affect endorsed presidential candidates.

“Kenyans may feel that the problems will continue under the new person who President Kenyatta will choose. People will not accept such a candidate easily,” the don said.

Kisiangani added BBI may not help as it is viewed "as a project to make Raila president".

The danger of endorsements, he said, is that people will be more divided and the President would not be able to advise candidates or be an arbitrator .

“Uhuru might in his thinking be saying he must control the succession. It will mess him up and his legacy. The people he will not support will feel bad and it will be bad for him if they win,” he said.

“I don’t think it is his priority to decide who rules Kenya. The job of who rules Kenya – even if it is a thief -is for Kenyans to decide,” Prof Kisiangani said.

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies at a church service at the House of Hope Church, Kayole, Embakasi Central, Nairobi, on January 10,
DANCE: Deputy President William Ruto and his allies at a church service at the House of Hope Church, Kayole, Embakasi Central, Nairobi, on January 10,
Image: DPPS

Ruto’s allies say the best thing the President should do is name his preferred candidate and campaign for that person “the way Moi did for him in 2002”.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany said, “All this other rhetoric and calling people names and referring to others as thieves shouldn’t be coming from a symbol of unity.”

Kositany, a key person in Ruto's inner sanctum, asked the President not be disturbed by his promise of 10-10 to Ruto.

“That is between him and his God. We were not waiting for it so it is neither here nor there. Let him stop being angry and unveil his candidate,” the MP said. 

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, another Ruto ally, said, “There is nowhere in the Constitution where an outgoing president decides who to hand over power to.

“His role is purely ceremonial. The decision of who will be president will be made by the people of Kenya. The outgoing president will have to hand over to the people Kenyans elect,” the lawmaker said.