Coming so early, 2022 succession politics in Kenya are misplaced

The war of words that erupted over statements by former Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe on political succession in Kenya brought several issues to the fore.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; the field becomes slippery and full of cogent minefields. The reactions, as furious and instant as they came, were not unexpected. The fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta is serving his last term has made the political air smelly, and too early too. This is understandable because, without doubt, political leadership change can be messy.

And for good measure, the 2022 presidential election, though still far; has eyes fixed on Kenya’s Deputy President, Dr William Ruto, the heir apparent. His actions, or inaction, are being judged. And this is where the rubber meets the road.

It is just one year after the last general elections and more than three and half years to the next elections, but the country is engulfed in what easily passes for election mood. And with Kenya’s general elections being high-stakes affairs, dominated by a winner-take-all mentality, it is sometimes easy to understand why emotions can run so high about nothing.

Unfortunately, the politics of anger move and mobilize people in very intense and short-lived movements. We aren’t there yet because for every five years, the Kenyan public has a chance to decide who gets to keep the reins of power and it’s not always a wholly rational outcome. It’s as if the customers get to vote on which business they’ll buy from for the next five years.

Three years

And leadership is a major factor in the decision the voters make - style and personality count for a lot. And with President Uhuru now in office, he has more than three years to work and ensure Kenyans get value for their votes. His focus is on several issues amid all the political noises, which may unsettle many a politician as we move towards 2022.

The first issue is the March 9, 2018 ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Opposition coalition supremo Raila Odinga, which has ushered in a new era of sorts and changed the political landscape, as it were.  The undercurrents of the 2022 presidential succession seem to be raging and unsettling many. From this vantage point, the President has affirmed that part of his legacy is seeing a united Kenya, safe for everyone and all.

Using this spring board, President Kenyatta has reaffirmed his commitment to the Big Four agenda as the centre piece for Kenya’s development. To all intents and purposes, it looks like it is only at the backburner of the Big Four that Deputy President William Ruto can move with certainty and claim the crown in 2022 as part of his score card.

For inclusivity

In fact, it is in the interest of the deputy president to ensure that President Uhuru Kenyatta succeeds in delivering the Big Four agenda. From there, he can take an easy ride. President Uhuru seems to care for inclusivity and shared prosperity in Kenya.

The Building Bridges initiative (BBI), which is the product of President Uhuru’s handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga, seems to be another issue which the President is focused on. From his body language and his latest moves, he looks more focused on ensuring Kenyans work together to develop their country.

This may not work well with some politicians whose game plan is, and has always been, using their ethnic card to bargain for their selfish ends, a situation which has led to an unfortunate scenario, hurriedly cobbled political outfits in the name of political parties hunting for power from the people; people struggling to meet their basic needs. Procedural democracy at its best.

Corruption is one of the most insidious and pervasive diseases in Kenya that have eaten the fabric of the country. It has made life harder for the majority of Kenyans.

Corruption has the power to make nonsense of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. This partly explains why the president seems firmly focused on this issue amid all the political distractions and a porous judiciary. But the die is cast.

Kenyans must stop this culture of the big man syndrome, from which many end up with fragments of hatred, revenge and mistrust courtesy of unholy political alliances of convenience. 

And the Kenyan media must also focus on what politicians can do to improve peoples’ lives, not on personalities which make such reporting focus as if it were a horse race.

Prof Mogambi, Communication and Social change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi.

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former Jubilee Vice-Chairman David MurathePresident Uhuru Kenyatta2022 presidential election