Like most patriots, I was encouraged by the March handshake between NASA’s Raila Odinga and Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta. I support the handshake not because manna will rain on Kenya from its heaven.
No – I understood the handshake as the genesis of a new tomorrow for our country. There’s a side of me that’s like a kid. My innocence allows me to dream and hope. For me, hope springs eternal where Kenya is concerned.
I am also a critical intellectual and a wide-eyed pragmatist. I am not easy to fool. That’s why I am watching the handshake with exuberant hope and studied caution. My brain – not my crystal ball – tells me I should live at the intersection of optimism and pessimism.
Let me tell you why I am pessimistic before I tell you why I am optimistic about the handshake. First, although the handshake is between two equals, Mr Kenyatta controls the levers of power and the instruments of violence. He can kill the deal – like yesterday.
If he does, Raila will go back to the trenches. But that threat may not be enough to keep Kenyatta at the table. Now, why would Kenyatta want to kill his deal with Raila? Mind you, I am not saying he will. Anything is possible, although not everything is probable. The biggest threat to Kenyatta’s commitment to the deal is a cabal of politicians and mandarins in his court.
A WILY ACTOR
Secondly, Kenyatta’s numero dos – William Ruto – is raving mad. The man from Eldoret has been spooked by the handshake. He was cut out of the secret negotiations and only learnt of the deal minutes before Kenyatta and Raila emerged out of Harambee House to announce their détente. The message to Ruto is that he wasn’t Kenyatta’s Co-President.
Nor was he actually Number Two. No – Raila had supplanted him in hierarchy within the state although he doesn’t have an official title. The deal initially put Ruto’s cojones in a vice. He couldn’t denounce it without alienating his boss. So he sent out his ready surrogates to do the dirty work.
Ruto’s top attack dogs – Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Majority Leader Aden Duale have been lobbing grenades at Raila, not directly at the handshake. But their puppy voices weren’t effective. That’s why Ruto – the lion king in waiting – came out of his lair in broad daylight. He’s vowed to cut Raila to size and re-take his position as the unquestioned Numero Dos, even as Co-President. But so far, he’s been swinging wildly and hasn’t landed a punch on Raila. Raila is reprising the Rumble in the Jungle doing a rope-a-dope on Ruto. Will the son of Samoei punch himself into exhaustion and open the door for a knockout by Raila?
I am sure Kenyatta’s is watching Ruto panic and commit unforced errors. Does Kenyatta have the stomach to tell Ruto to go jump into a lake? We know he doesn’t politically need him. Can Ruto exact pain and force Kenyatta to abandon the handshake and the bromance with Raila? It’s possible.
The man from Eldoret is a wily actor. But even the indomitable Paul Ngei – he of nine lives – eventually came to a cul de sac. History has not been kind to Number Twos in Kenya. Can Ruto prevail on Kenyatta to recalibrate? It’s possible. Whether it’s probable is another matter. Raila should keep his eyes peeled.
Let me tell you why I am optimistic. Kenyatta will think of his legacy. Right now, the record isn’t looking good. Although the handshake has given him legitimacy as Kenya’s CEO, the ship of state is wobbly. The maggots around Kenyatta are bleeding Kenya to death. Corruption cartels – all in the inner sanctum of power – are on a looting spree never before witnessed in Kenya. The robbery is gargantuan. It’s humongous like Mount Olympus. This is the greatest threat to Kamwana’s legacy. The Mafiosi will destroy his tenure unless he destroys them. He knows the stakes. He needs to leverage Raila for cover so that he can destroy the corruption networks before they do him in.
Kenyatta should know unless he fights – and defeats the Mafiosi – the handshake will be for naught. I am sure Raila knows this too. Otherwise Kenyans will look at the handshake as a deal for the survival of Kenya’s two most powerful politicians. Kenyatta doesn’t want that to be the case. I know Raila doesn’t. Their legacies are at stake. Now that they are joined at the hip they will rise or fall together – hang together, or hang separately. Which will it be gentlemen?