Why Uhuru has the most control over his own succession

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past event.
Picture this. It is 2019, you still have three and a half years left to govern, and of late your least favourite word is impeachment, followed closely by the word ‘mshenzi’.

Nothing annoys you more than the mention of 2022. You find it incredibly rude that there is an obsession with the next election before your last term is even halfway done.

Now flip the image. It is 2019, you have been trying to be president since 1997, and you just celebrated your 74th birthday with the person who took your dream job from you not once, but twice.

Your last chance to take a stab at the presidency is just around the corner, 2022. Nothing annoys you more than the presumptuousness of a 52-year-old who has never even ran for president. 

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Finally, imagine this. It is 2019, you still have a whole three and-a-half years to be president after waiting patiently for seven years like the biblical Jacob.

What annoys you the most is that almost everyone around you looks like they are trying their best to mess it all up for you.  

Now back to reality, and the question is this. Do you think that the three political actors in these situations would sit on their hands and see what the three and a half years bring? Will they do nothing about their many political annoyances?

Being students of history, Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and William Ruto know that the best way to predict their political futures is to create it. This is why 2019 is already a year of high political drama. 

Of the three actors, Uhuru has the most control over the future. As the sitting president, he has the power, authority and all the necessary instruments to play mind-games.

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From the mwananchi’s standpoint, it looks like Uhuru is propping Raila up. Speculation is that the President’s public friendliness with the former PM is an endorsement for take-over. The logic for this plan is that Uhuru is securing himself a post-presidential future that is more certain. It is a case of ‘better the devil you know.’

But if this is the case, the future that Uhuru is creating for himself will be problematic in five ways. The first problem is that, since he had already made public declarations of his intention to support Ruto’s presidential bid after his own term, the plan will fail miserably.

All other voting blocks will align against the ‘Kikuyu Nation’, as they would have proved to be disloyal coalition partners.

Because of this, the second problem for Uhuru becomes Raila himself.

Forming a partnership with Ruto would guarantee Raila team a formidable voting block, just like it did in 2007. Only this time it will have alienated ‘Central Kenya’. 

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The third problem is that he risks becoming the first president in the country’s history to face impeachment.

Even if it fails, an attempt to dethrone him will eat into Uhuru’s ‘Big Four’ time and energy, and become a bad blotch in his political history.

The fourth problem is that if Uhuru appears to have ‘betrayed’ Ruto, he will be handing him the ultimate political golden ticket: the ‘victim card’. This will likely have the ICC effect.

The ‘underdog paradox’ will propel Ruto to be the ‘woiye’ candidate, adding ‘pity’ votes to his existing voting block.

The fifth issue is that if all the problems ultimately align and Ruto wins, revenge will be served to Uhuru cold. Politicians forgive and forget by mouth, but remember by heart. 

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Simplistic strategy

Anyway, let's forget all these problems. It is unlikely that Uhuru would use such a simplistic strategy to create his future.

We must remember that a scheme is not a scheme if it does not have a layer of deception. The Uhuru public display of affection towards Raila could be a Kibaki-inspired trick.

Musalia Mudavadi enjoyed presidential love from Kibaki - but it was a ploy to install Uhuru in the presidency. History shows that Kenyans are allergic to projects - and will reject a candidate that is force-fed to them by the ‘powers that be’.

Uhuru himself was a project of Moi in 2002, and he was decisively rejected. So, who is in or out of Uhuru’s design of the future?

- The writer is a PhD candidate in political economy at SMC University. [email protected]

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President Uhuru KenyattaWashenziMoses Kuria