Succession: Uhuru has to keep his word

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BY PHILIP OCHIENG

However one looks at the much touted merger between The National Alliance (TNA) of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the United Republican Party (URP) of Deputy President William Ruto — the conclusion is simply ineluctable. It appears designed to ensure Mr Ruto as the successor to Mr Kenyatta at State House.

And why not? Isn’t that the stuff of what the Germans call Realpolitik? Just before the last presidential election, Mr Kenyatta must have offered Mr Ruto a quid pro quo – “something for something” —  which convinced Mr Ruto to momentarily sacrifice his own personal ambition by swinging his whole populous Kalenjin voters behind candidate Kenyatta.

The question is: What was that “something”? The answer, according to political pundits, is that, for the next presidential election, Kenyatta pledged, in turn, to swing Gema – the even more populous Kikuyu-Embu- Meru culturo-linguistic consanguinity of voters – behind Ruto’s candidacy.

 

If that was the case, then, in a game like politics,  characterised universally by the vilest betrayals, Ruto can be seen as either astonishingly naïve enough to have accepted a mere word for future repayment or as having  had something up his sleeve by which he might force his side of the bargain should the time arrive. 

But, throughout history, the political arena has produced exceptions to prove the rule that you take a politician’s pledge only at your own risk.  Will Kenyatta prove that he is the rara avis in terra – the rare bird  who keeps his promises no matter what the circumstances maybe? The present merger seems to answer that question affirmatively.

But it remains to be seen. Indeed, a look at the present situation may intensify the positive answer for Kenyatta. In any case, as an individual, he has no objective interest in any coming presidential kidumbwedumbwe because he has exhausted his constitutional quota. In short, he has nothing personal to gain by going back on his solemn word to Ruto. 

Yet – as the English language knows – blood is thicker than water. And there remain extremely powerful blood forces within Gema who have never yielded even a single inch of thought to the oft stated ideal that a member of any ethnic community, however small, has a right to aspire to the seat of power at State House.

For the present situation, however, ethnic bigots of that kind appear to be in a dilemma.  In the race for that seat, once upon a time, the betrayal by a stratum of them of a strong ally – Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of the equally populous Luo – is a salient chapter in the annals of Kenya’s history.   Everybody – including all Kalenjin observers – can read it.

Thus, if Ruto is hurled as so much jetsam into the Sargasso Sea, the Luo leaders – including a Jaramogi scion called Raila Amolo – will taunt him with: “We warned you but you refused to listen to us.” From Napoleon Bonaparte – one of history’s most consummate tacticians – we learn that, for strategic purposes, you must never anger too many potential allies into alienation.

The point, then, is salient. If succession to Kenyatta was the promise you made to Ruto in order to persuade him to sway his community into supporting Kenyatta in his last bid for State House, then the choice today is stark. Either you support Ruto’s own bid for the presidency or you face the political effluent.

 

If you betray Ruto, the cinch is that his ethnic people will feel the excruciating pain that other large ethnic communities have felt by being betrayed – whether really or only in imagination. That is what may again drive the Kalenjin into an embrace with the Kamba, Luhya, Luo and Mijikenda into a new political consortium a hundred times more difficult to deal with. 

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