Who will be Kenya’s next president?

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BY: William Makora

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The March 2013 elections will offer Kenyans a window to usher a new regime that can rejuvenate their hopes. The deteriorating economy; high inflation leading to high cost of living, insecurity and the ever rising unemployment levels have eroded hopes of the citizens and confidence in the Kibaki led coalition government.

Since wananchi have almost given up on the current regime, Kenya’s next president will have to implement the new constitutional dispensation, oversee devolution among other reforms to restore confidence and optimism of Kenyans.

2003: High expectations for president Kibaki

President Kibaki’s tenure that began with high expectations in January 2003 enjoyed high approval ratings for almost a year. He promised zero tolerance to corruption, new constitution and economic development. Instead, corruption, wrangles and rhetoric became the touches of the day.

The regime registered some progress up to 2005; the economy was growing, many infrastructure projects were commissioned, improved commodity prices and the new constitutional making process was on course – though with controversies.

However, when the then Ethics Secretary, John Githongo, revealed details of high level corruption  in the government, the president stopped discussing the vice. He has instead found it easy to address non core issues. By end of 2005, the optimism of Kenyans had dwindled and Kibaki’s approval rating plummeted. Outright tribalism, favouritism became the order of the day.

Seeking re-election in 2007 was a headache for Kibaki, with tribalism and corruption tainting his gains in economic development. The president had little to showcase to Kenyans. The situation pushed him to for results for a final term. A fierce violence broke out.

The 2008 post election violence is Kibaki’s worst nightmare as his half century active politics comes to end in few months.

As Kenya’s next president promptly strides away in a near future, political torrents and undercurrents leave adherents, reformists, fundamentalists, futurists, moderates and avant-gardes in a political high sea to cross. Though people’s anticipations elicit inspirations, this is where confusion confounds the national population in elections. The messages that form the broadcasts simply either sound the same or maliciously desirous.

The March 2013 elections are touted to be a two horse race featuring ODM’s Raila Odinga and probably TNA’s Uhuru Kenya. The two have in the past supported other candidates and are not likely to support any other this time round.

Kenya’s next president: The Big Five and ‘‘others’’

Many Kenyans including veteran politicians, former civil servants, student leaders, civil society activists and clergy have declared interest in the presidency. Some aspirants are vying on established political parties while others have formed ‘special purpose vehicles’ (fringe political parties) and others will contest as independents.

There are five aspirants who almost represent five regions (or communities) in Kenya. They are known as the big five. Together, the big five control almost the entire nation. This makes the winning equation a little complicated. Apart from analyzing respective voting patterns consideration of individual brand worthiness and share of the remaining swing regions are crucial for a precise analysis.

Political re-alignments are expected to take shape in weeks come. Some candidates may opt out of the race going by the lukewarm reception they have so far received from the electorate. Earlier casualties include Mutava Musyimi who has been shopping for a party. He has finally chosen to settle in TNA hoping to support Uhuru. To many analysts, this is just a soft landing for Mutava to save face from a crumbling presidential audacity.

Alliances will see some leading candidates from among the big five opting for running mate positions as it the race shapes to be a two horse race.

A nebulous G7 alliance, touted over the time, is literally dead. Its members who include Uhuru, Ruto and Kalonzo have been unsuccessful in articulating their agenda for Kenya other than what they publicly confessed; an alliance to stop/block Raila ascending to the presidency.

Former close allies; Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi lead separate teams. Together with Ruto they are itinerant hunters.

By and large, the big five are capable of swaying votes one way or the other causing upset to either team as observed below.

Kalonzo Musyoka

Currently serving as the Vice President, Kalonzo has a wealth of political experience spanning from 1983 when he fruitlessly vied for Kitui North which he captured in a by-election two years later. The constituency was split in 1997 and Kalonzo clinched Mwingi North which he has since represented in parliament. He became an Assistant Minister in 1986 for two years and has since sat in several influential dockets in the Cabinet, especially, the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He faces criticism of lackluster performance in his constituency for the many years he held powerful positions in government. Yet he controls much of the Kamba community votes – part of lower Eastern Province.

He first vied for presidency in 2007 and emerged third in controversial presidential results.

The 59 years old lawyer is endowed with a genteel art of tongue which he has used to gain recognition as a peace negotiator regionally especially while serving as Foreign Affairs Minister. He sat as the Chair of Sudan and Somali peace talks. His articulate aptitude and facial appeal make womenfolk endear to him more.

Kalonzo teamed up with Raila Odinga to oppose a proposed constitution in 2005, during which time he led in opinion polls for president. They won the referendum. He opted out of the team when it emerged that he could not beat Raila to an ODM ticket.

He is viewed by many as a traitor of the Orange dream after he joined Kibaki’s rigged government in 2008. The traitor-tag featured prominently in 2010’s constitutional referendum campaigns where, as a born again Christian, he was against abortion clauses, etc. He issued contradictory messages hence the watermelon baptism.

The soubriquet would haunt him again a few months ago when his G7 compatriots luridly accused him for mischievously plotting to reap from their International Criminal Court, predicaments. He pleaded back into the fold.

These and other developments have reduced the VP’s standing. He does not endear well with his compatriots.

Another pain that squeezes Kalonzo’s breath out of the diaphragm is the entry of his political nemesis, Kitui Central legislator Hon. Charity Ngil,u into the presidential race (or G7).

The iron lady also christened Mama Rainbow was the first woman presidential candidate in independent Kenya in 1997 on a Social Democratic Party ticket. She gained fame and has never melted from limelight. Today, as a Minister for Water and Irrigation, she is feted as the leader who has addressed Kamba people’s plights at a higher degree by ensuring the dry area get water resource. She may not be a strong contender but Kalonzo’s grassroots steam fizzes off.

Uhuru Kenyatta

The 50 year old Gatundu South Member of Parliament, son of first President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, has been declared a horse in the forthcoming elections.  He first he got nominated to Parliament by former President, D.T. Moi in 2001.

In 2002 presidential elections, he combined both his father’s and Moi’s resources to contest for the presidency but registered a dismal performance. He sat on opposition benches.

In 2007 Uhuru backed the Kibaki re-election causing his party to set a history of not fielding a presidential candidate for the first time in post independence Kenya. The move was interpreted as tribal. It was meant at protecting the Mount Kenya mafia’s hold on power.

The decision to support Kibaki in 2007 changed Uhuru’s fortunes, the post election violence and ensuing investigations saw his name notably feature as part of the Ocampo Six. Currently, he is one of the four suspects accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands. The trials will commence mid April 2013; just after the general elections. As he aspires for the presidency, he is a man contending with monstrous ghosts.

Uhuru’s hold on the larger Mount Kenya region is almost certain. The warming up to Uhuru by senior politicians who include Kiraitu Murungi is a signal of his ground support. Since the Ocampo debacle Uhuru’s hold on the region has grown to a near religion; to the extent of overshadowing his erstwhile competitors; Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth and Paul Muite.

Uhuru will benefit from Kibaki’s networks and state machinery. He is viewed by many as powerful figure in the Kibaki administration going by the influence he has had in Cabinet changes. His allies have secured plum positions both in the Cabinet and Civil Service.

In July 2012, his spin masters got a few articles published by leading media houses depicting Uhuru as a renegade of the Kibaki kitchen cabinet, having failed to join UDF that was specifically created to buy Mudavadi out of ODM.

The rumour that Uhuru was against UDF – an alleged state project – was only meant to shed off any baggage of the Kibaki regime that might injure his campaigns. Uhuru knows the purpose of UDF and dissociating from it is merely playing out the strategy as per the script.

With four million Mt Kenya votes, Uhuru will only need a few pockets here and there for a close contest with the hot favourite front runner Odinga. He requires a suitable running mate in order to secure a few more votes outside his community. Kalonzo and Musalia are the only candidates who can comfortably add value to his team.

Since he is ranked among the top richest individuals in Africa, Uhuru has the financial muscle to run well-oiled presidential campaigns in both first round and in a runoff (if circumstances demand).

Despite the highlighted strengths, Uhuru has tribalism to contend with. Since he has blood and long workin relationship with President Kibaki, propaganda of a Kikuyu succeeding himself will find him out.  It’s also public knowledge that he has greatly influenced in current regime. That makes him share blames of any failures.

The other major threat he faces, in case of a runoff, is the ICC. Otherwise, he is a man to watch.

William Ruto

Hon. Ruto is known as the man with highest oratorical legerdemain in Kenya’s current politics. His charm of speech can buy out entire audience.

Branding himself as a performer who walks the talk, Ruto comes out as an active, passionate and fearless person capable of plunging into the heart of any trouble for whatever course he believes in.

The Eldoret North MP is a man who believes in practical wisdom. That Hon. Ruto does what he believes in was best illustrated by his participation in YK92, a youth movement that spearheaded Kanu to win the first multiparty elections despite a strong opposition then.

In 1997 Hon. Ruto entered parliamentary race and floored Reuben Chesire, a veteran who had direct support of the then President Moi. Since then, Ruto has acted as one who can jump into fire if he believes that he can put it off. That has made him a darling of majority of youthful Kenyans.

Hon. Ruto became more popular as a member of the ODM Pentagon. It was widely believed that he was pushed by Raila Odinga to declare his interest in the ODM presidential race in 2007. He played a crucial role for ODM in 2007 elections.

He was linked to the 2007 post election violence, a charge that he has denied. Many people believed that he was set up by civil society organizations and the PNU extremists who manipulated intelligence reports. Justice Waki Commission reports contain the compliments..

Since the vote-rich Kalenjin nation of Rift Valley has no other significant presidential aspirant yet, Ruto has made serious efforts in campaign, especially among the pastoral communities. His preferred running mate Chirau Makwere bowed out of the ticket to concentrate in a his Kwale County Senate race.

The reluctance of Hon Makwere to be his running mate is a signal that despite his spirited effort, it is hard to secure votes outsides his Kalenjin community.

KANU the party he once served as secretary general announced recently that they will be backing Raila Odinga’s bid for presidency. KANU is presumed to have a good ground network in Rift valley. Ruto’s hold on the community is strong. It is enhanced further by the Hague trials.

The South Rift has been engineering a revolt, an effort whose success will likely benefit ODM candidate, Raila.

Ruto does not have a clear running mate given that his team mate, Uhuru, cannot give him any vote. The Ruto – Uhuru ticket will definitely frustrate PM Odinga stab at presidency but not fatally.  The two communities are opponents in today’s politics of Kenya.

Ruto is seen as the best running mate for Odinga; the ticket will definitely ignite the Orange party and will be a sure 50%+1 threshold winner, easily avoiding the runoff. Rumours of Ruto angling towards Raila are doing rounds and the nation waits, with abated breath, to see if it will come true.

Musalia Mudavadi

Mudavadi joined politics in a by election in 1989. He has since served in Cabinet except in the period between 2002 2007 having been humiliated for being a running mate of the then president Moi’s project, Uhuru Kenyatta.

The five year interlude was a lesson he seems to have forgotten when he got reprieve from Odinga who picked him as his running mate in the 2007 and eventually named Deputy Prime Minister.

Having been favoured by PM Raila in appointment to DPM position at the expense of the ambitious William Ruto, the Sabatia MP’s departure from ODM was seen by many as an act of betrayal. His UDF party is regarded by many as a state project and his inability to gain momentum in the campaign trail has led to prediction of a crumpling campaign and a repeat of 2002 humiliation in his own backyard.

At the time of his defection, rumours of Uhuru and Ruto backing his candidature displayed great foreplay. The duo abandoned him thereby hoisting him as a colourless flag. Like his kinsman, the late Martin Shikuku of 1992, Mudavadi is seen as a mere diversionary project meant to cleanse president Kibaki’s legacy pave way for Uhuru’s win. Only Ruto can dare back him up. Uhuru and his people are selfish.

However the DPM appeals to opinion holders and power barons for his moderate approach to issues. Though he is highly unpredictable, very important people in the power corridors cumbered with doubtful deals see solace under his leadership as he shares history of haunting scams which include gigantic Goldenberg scandal. He can hope for their support.

On the ground Mudavadi’s hold on the Luyha nation is in doubt going by the surging popularity of PM Odinga. Ford Kenya factions led by Hon. Wetangula, Hon.Eugene Wamalwa and Hon. Bifwoli Wakoli seem to hold keys of the populous Bukusu sub tribe of Bungoma County.

If he backs Uhuru’s bid again, he is likely to lose the support he command in Western Kenya; a possible humiliation reminiscent of the 2002 elections.

Raila Odinga as Kenya’s next president?

The Prime Minister and de facto ODM leader is the hot favourite for the coveted seat. He has charisma and experience. He has passion and compassion. As the son of the first Vice President of Kenya, Raila is held high in the Kenyan social ladder but steps so low and shares plights and grievances of the lowly and needy masses; otherwise how do you explain the masses thronging his office in times of need. Whatever he tells them they recommend.

The Prime Minister’s open door policy with his long history for second liberation has endeared him to the people across board. World diplomats trust him. It is no also lost that his aggressive, fearless and honest nature seems to be what troubles the powers that be. The deep sludge they form along his path has not held him back. He forges ahead.

Hon Odinga first contested for presidency in 1997 through a National Development Party. He finished third and merged his party with Kanu. He joined Cabinet in 2001 as a Minister for Energy and resigned in 2002 in protest against President Moi’s choice of a successor.

Yet Odinga is not a selfish man. He backed Kibaki in the 2002 elections and went on to lead the NARC campaign while Kibaki was nursing injuries he suffered in a near fatal accident while on campaign trail. Odinga’s infamous call “Kibaki Tosha” could swept and inspired Kenya thereby handing Kibaki power on a wheelchair..

Odinga walked out of the the NARC government in 2005 accusing Kibaki of endemic corruption, tribalism, non commitment to the reform agenda and dishonoring a pre-election pact. He led a team of senior politicians to defeat the constitutional referendum of 2005 a point in which ODM was born.

The 2007 elections were his for taking. He crafted one of the best campaign strategies ever used in the independent Kenya. He won the elections though President Kibaki was quickly sworn in darkness leading to post election violence that led to deaths of 1300 people, 360,000 people displaced and property worth billions destroyed.

As fate could have it, Raila was forced into a national accord that was drafted to end PEV bloodshed in January 2008. He struggles with 50% share of government with Kibaki.

Raila is credited with the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010. Of the big-five, only Mudavadi can partly share genuine credit via ODM’s spirited effort to have the constitution passed. Kalonzo and Uhuru came out indifferent or watermelons – a crafted reference to double standards, or simply, doubters who skeptically ‘boarded the campaign train’. Ruto actively opposed the new constitution.

Implementation of the constitution or reform is one of the main campaign agenda as Kenyans hope to see how major changes in the system, especially the devolved governments, affect them. Since Raila leads the big-five in the crusade, it heaps hopes on him that he believes in the spirit and the letter of the document. He says he wants to realize it in a timeline of five years, and yes, he can! Why? Because it requires goodwill! It requires leadership and Raila is a people leader.

Raila is a symbol of safety to many ordinary Kenyans and that explains why his office is a point of call for any aggrieved parties or people with interest in Kenya; be they hawkers, Matatu crew, teachers, marginalized communities or leading foreign investors, governments and multilateral partners, etc; opportunities which Kibaki rarely gets. He only needs the right people around him for the nation to realize her dreams. To attract the much needed foreign investment to grow the economy requires an enabling environment that guarantees among others security and stability.

Running mates

In the Running mate category; Raila is the only one who can genuinely attract other candidates. Mudavadi, having positioned himself as a compromise candidate, attracts all and sundry though with little Luhyan caravan. Kalonzo and Ruto are more attractive as running mates than flag bearers. Kalonzo wasted his precious time when he joined a less enthusiastic Kibaki. The little inspiration he got from Raila has gradually wilted leaving him with not enough breath for contest. He can only rejoin Raila to regain momentum for another chance. To the Mt Kenya mafia, he is an orphan in the dustbin of political wilderness.

Ruto almost makes the best running mate of all time. He can deliver his community votes especially if he takes the right route. If he goes Uhuru way, he loses his votes and self. That is because his Kalenjin community cannot comfortably create account of it for coming elections. It makes them slaves who serve for no pay as Uhuru’s Kikuyu community vote not for none of their tribesmen. If he goes with Mudavadi, it is an orchid or a small garden in a scattered field. But he can make Mudavadi the surprise king especially if they manage a run-off slot with Raila of Uhuru whom they can beat hands down. That will only work in Ruto’s strategic interests, especially, if he desires to injure rival aspirants.

If Ruto goes with Raila, he is not only sure of forming a vibrant government but also true rest from malicious court cases including the ICC and further training and anointing for future leadership with ready voting blocks. In fact, he will have entire Kenya in his basket for more promising future. That is true.

God bless Kenya.

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