THE CIRCUS OF KENYAN POLITICS

The Kenyan political scene is like a whirlwind of never-ending soap operas that makes each Kenyan a political commentator of sorts. Perhaps the most peculiar thing about Kenyan politics is its going round in circles with different politicians finding themselves in the same old spots, that others have been in before. Do politicians ever learn from others mistakes?

The entry of the multiparty democracy in Kenya, in the early 90’s sounded a death knell on the KANU single party system in Kenya. Though former president Daniel Arap Moi’s KANU somehow survived the divided opposition wave in 1992 and 1997, it was handed a humiliating defeat by a united opposition, in 2002, when Mwai Kibaki swept into power through the help of an MOU between his NAK and Raila Odinga’s LDP.
This is the year the single party dictatorship was replaced with the curse of coalitions and dishonored MOUs. True to the Machiavellian type of politics that has dominated Kenyan politics since independence, Mwai Kibaki soon reneged on the MOU which brought him to power.
Barely eight months into the new regime of the NARC government, the LDP wing, led by Raila Odinga was crying foul of being short -changed and accused president Kibaki of allocating more cabinet slots to the Mount Kenya region. They also accused him of not only doing the same with parastatal chiefs and permanent secretaries, but they argued that some of his appointees were way past retirement age. A rebellion was simmering in the ruling NARC coalition which led to ministers allied to LDP openly opposing the government that they served in on several occasions. This forced Kibaki to sack a number of the LDP wing ministers led by Raila Odinga, who was then minister for roads and public works.
This was a fatal mistake by the NARC regime since it led to the government suffering a big humiliation, in 2005, when its proposed new constitution (symbolised by a banana) was shot down by the Orange group led by Raila Odinga. Buoyed by their success against the govt, the Orange Movement later morphed into a political party, ODM, which incorporated William Ruto who was emerging as the kingpin of Rift valley politics, slowly replacing Moi. In the hotly contested 2007 general elections, the main contenders turned out to be ODM’s Raila Odinga and the then president Mwai Kibaki who ran on a PNU ticket. It is widely believed that Raila beat Kibaki but somehow the results were doctored to favor Mwai Kibaki who was subsequently sworn in in twilight. This almost pushed Kenya to the edge of a precipice.
The post election violence that threatened to tear the country apart, was contained when Koffi Annan brokered a deal that led to the signing of the peace accord which suggested a 50-50 power sharing arrangement whereby Raila Odinga became prime minister and Kibaki remained as president.

The 50-50 power sharing deal emerged to be only on paper as the PNU wing seemed to be in control of all important state organs. Raila Odinga knew that he had once again been taken for a long ride by Kibaki, a man he helped into power in 2002, but he had no alternative other than respect the peace accord lest he be termed an enemy of peace.
Things were not made any easier by the simmering internal rebellion in his ODM party, led by William Ruto, who expected more from the “Nusu mkate” (Half loaf) government. Ruto led an onslaught against the PM claiming that his Kalenjin people got a raw deal from the cabinet slots reserved for ODM and that the PM had evicted kalenjins from Mau forest, an important water source. Ruto successfully alienated the Kalenjin nation from ODM and later led the former ODM pentagon members out of the party in the run up to the last general elections, hence denying Odinga an almost assured presidency in 2013.

Today, William Ruto, the deputy president of Kenya finds himself in the same tricky situation that Raila Odinga was in while in the grand coalition government that came to an end when the Jubilee coalition took over power last year. Just like the grand coalition between Kibaki’s PNU, Raila’s ODM and Kalonzo ‘s ODM-K, Jubilee is a marriage of convenience between URP and TNA. While the grand coalition was prompted by the fear of a genocide in Kenya, Jubilee coalition was prompted by the fear of ICC.

Perhaps the most striking resemblance in the two governments is the grumbling. The same complaints that Raila’s team had against Kibaki ‘s team are the same complaints that Ruto’s URP has against Uhuru’s TNA in JUBILEE! Just like ODM in the grand coalition, URP feels short-changed on the pre-election pact they signed with TNA! It is all about sharing the spoils! However much Ruto wants to downplay the fire of rebellion being fanned by Alfred Keter and Bomet governor Isaac Ruto in his Rift valley backyard, he knows that he stares a real rebellion in the face. The arrogant way in which he has chosen to deal with the nascent rebellion isn’t helping things either.

Ruto might end up being in a more trickier position than Raila was. While the Peace accord gave Raila an entitlement of 50% of power, at least on paper, the new constitution is very clear about the powers of the president and his deputy. But the problem is, the pre-election pact between URP and TNA created an impression that the President and his deputy would end up sharing power equally. That is why Ruto is at pains to explain to his people why he seems to be left out in important decisions when his people are demoted or replaced.

It is obvious that the president and his deputy exhibit great chemistry in public. The fact is,It doesn’t matter how many times the president and his deputy smile at each other and hug in public or how many notes they exchange in public if the foot soldiers remain disgruntled. It only helps to create the impression that the ruling coalition is between two individuals, not parties. That is the curse of coalitions for you. It can only be settled in a boardroom.
It is obvious that the deputy president is in an unenviable situation whereby he can’t publicly complain for fear of rocking the government he helped bring to power from within, while on the other hand there seems to be no end in sight for the rebellion that has started brewing in the Rift-Valley. It is none other than the no non-sense Bomet governor who has warned Ruto to stop imagining that he still holds the “magical sway” over the Kalenjin nation. It will be very interesting to watch how the drama unfolds.

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