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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Fallen Kingmakers of Kenyan Politics

We learn from history that we don’t learn from history. Kenyan politics, like politics everywhere is full of treachery. There are no permanent friends and alliances are akin to traveling on the New York subway; when you get to the appropriate platform, you may switch from one to another.

Oginga Odinga first met Jomo Kenyatta in 1948. In the early 1960s, while Kenyatta was in detention in Kapenguria, Odinga led other politicians to demand that without the release of Jomo Kenyatta there would no independence, in what became the popular cry “Uhuru na Kenyatta”. Kenyatta was released in 1962 and he became Kenya’s first prime minister and then founding president in 1963, with Odinga as the vice president. Odinga’s relationship with Kenyatta deteriorated dramatically after independence.  In 1966 he resigned as vice president and quit KANU to form his own party. Three years later Tom Mboya the man who was propped as a counter weight to Odinga was assassinated.

Daniel arap Moi become vice president in 1967. His years as vice president were tumultuous. Kihika Kimani, a powerful Nakuru politician and a close ally of Kenyatta actively campaigned to have the constitution changed to stop Moi from succeeding Kenyatta, in the event of his then imminent demise. Moi relied on Charles Njonjo and Mwai Kibaki, his allies in the inner sanctum of Kenyatta’s government to keep his jobs. When Kenyatta died in August 1978, Njonjo single handedly ensured a smooth transition, enabling Moi to ascend to power. So in a sense Njonjo made Moi. Njonjo wielded enormous power in the early years of Moi’s rule. It is believed that he referred to Moi as a passing cloud and that he would at some point ascend to power.

In 1983 Njonjo fell from grace. Bundled out of power through a commission of inquiry. Moi parted with the past and was not beholden to anybody. He was president for 24 years, retiring in 2002 after a peaceful but shambolic handover ceremony to Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki won a landslide victory after Raila Odinga declared “Kibaki Tosha”, bewildering and disenchanting Simeon Nyachae, then a close ally. Kibaki and Odinga had come together under the NARC coalition. Kibaki and Odinga fell out royally in 2005 when Kibaki bundled Odinga and his LDP allies out of his government. In 2007, Raila run against Kibaki and lost in controversial election that led to ethnic violence, killing 1300 people and displacing hundreds of thousands. 

William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi close allies of Odinga in the 2007 election both left him. Ruto and his URP party formed the Jubilee alliance with Uhuru Kenyatta and won the 2013 election. For all intents and purposes, Ruto, like Odinga, Njonjo and Raila before him is the kingmaker. My advise to Ruto is learn from history, it is not what you think.

Kenyatta will govern from the same playbook; emulating his own father, Moi and of course, Mwai Kibaki. Kenyan kings abhor kingmakers. And Ruto must heed Robert Greene, “When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy.” From now henceforth, the preeminent brief of Uhuru’s handlers with respect to Ruto, is “containment”.  Uhuru must at the earliest opportunity free himself from the shackles of Ruto; he must free himself of his debt. And I think TNA will bring in other partners to diminish the risk of being held hostage by Ruto. So Uhuru will destabilize and cannibalize CORD, Kisii, Coast and Western Kenya Counties are particularly vulnerable.

And here is what Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince “He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss”. Every rule in the book says Ruto will fall; it is just a matter of time. But Ruto is pretty cunning too. It will be very interesting to watch the dynamics in the months ahead. 

And as we learn from the Godfather, it's business, nothing personal. 

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