Kagwanja: 2022 may have a surprise presidential candidate

Professor Peter Kagwanja, former Government Adviser (2008-2013) and currently Chief Executive Africa Policy Institute laughs with KTN NEWS host Tony Gachoka at Serena Hotel after the interview on June18, 2019. [John Muchucha/Standard]

The race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 may spring a surprise candidate who will win the hearts and minds of Kenyans.

Africa Policy Institute Chief Executive Peter Kagwanja, who is also a former Government adviser, suggested that the truce between Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga last year, would also occasion political realignments that would inform the presidential vote.

But Prof Kagwanja insisted that while ethnic mobilisation continued to be a factor, it was unlikely to count for much like it had done in elections in 2007, 2013 and 2017.

“You cannot win the vote in 2022 the way President Uhuru won in 2013, or retired President Mwai Kibaki did in 2002. The leader in 2022 must be someone who will win the hearts and minds of Kenyans. That person might not be the usual characters,” Kagwanja said during an interview with KTN’s Point Blank last night.

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He cautioned Deputy President William Ruto against fighting the handshake, saying the political matrix in 2022 would be different.

The university don explained that the country comprised ethnic minorities, noting that no candidate could ascend to the presidency without the mobilisation of the Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Luo votes.

Kagwanja argued that there were communities that had over the years mobilised their troops during election time, and whoever wants to ascend to the throne must endear themselves to them.

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“The Luos can mobilise beyond their numbers. The Kikuyus way beyond their numbers, and Kalenjins beyond their numbers. They have cultivated political acumen to the point of mobilising their numbers. You cannot ignore the infusing power.

Negative ethnicity

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“The reality is you cannot get to the presidency without the mobilising power of the Kikuyus, the Luos or Kalenjins. You cannot win the vote but only the minds of Kenya. Ruto has crossed the Rubicon and Uhuru has crossed the Rubicon with their armies, and Rome is not safe,” said Kagwanja.

He opined that Uhuru’s recent tirade targeting his deputy and his allies should be a wake-up call to Ruto, who had been on the campaign trail to succeed him.

According to Kagwanja, Uhuru has a vision of uniting Kenyans and breaking the yoke of negative ethnicity and tribalism while Ruto’s vision is pegged on becoming president in 2022. The move, Kagwanja said, is rather ambitious for Ruto, unless he resigns and takes on the role of alternative government-in-waiting.

“Uhuru and Ruto are two people who did not understand each other and their visions. It is the diversity of their vision that is becoming very clear, which explains that frustration in Uhuru,” he said.

Kagwanja said the stakes for Ruto in 2022 would be high, adding that the promise that Uhuru would be in power for 10 years and leave him to rule for the next 10 years was hogwash.

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“Ruto should either resign or work out a handshake that will leave him credible in the face of Kenyans. Democracy is not about deals.”

Kagwanja also cautioned the leaders allied to the DP, commonly referred to as Tangatanga, against harbouring a mentality of absolute victory, noting that such sentiments had in the past brought a feeling of ethnic exclusion.

“A winner-takes-it-all as envisioned by Tangatanga will not take us anywhere. We are not going anywhere and we must come to the table and forge a new Kenya that is united. The debate on exclusion of Kenyan communities is dangerous. This is why Uhuru put his head on the block.”

He described the Tangatanga team as “political realists who are only after money”.

“Investing in MPs in Mt Kenya region where 95 to 98 per cent of them do not get re-elected, or investing so much thinking that they will help, is basically splitting hairs.

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“The Tangatanga MPs go where they can get money to remain relevant every weekend, every month and every year up to 2022 in the hope of re-election. That’s a short vision,” said Kagwanja.

Political communists

The don argued that Tangatanga’s agenda is at odds with Uhuru’s vision of leaving behind a united country.

“President Uhuru is an idealist. His vision is that you will have a united Kenya and Mt Kenya people are going to be part of Kenya even when he is out of office. He feels that a united Kenya can only be realised by bringing the Odingas, bringing the Kalonzos, bringing the Mudavadis, bringing the Gideons and everybody to the table. We are back to Poland where the Pope, the trade unionists and the political communists sit round the table and chart the future for Poland. Kenya would have to come back to the table for the Republic,” he said.

Kagwanja said politics of exclusion had resulted in some communities mulling cessation and dismantling of the country along tribal lines.

After the 2017 polls, economist David Ndii penned an article titled “Kenya is a cruel marriage, it’s time we talk divorce”. The sentiments got traction among opposition supporters.

According to Dr Ndii, the transition to multi-party politics in 1992 had afforded Opposition leaders opportunity to set the country on a different political trajectory. But Kibaki tore up the political covenant, allegedly tribalised the government and returned to post-Independence doctrine of wealth above all else. “The Kibaki administration’s belligerence and political thuggery brought the country to the brink of civil war. The Kenya project is dead due to our failure to develop a national narrative to nurture comradeship beyond tribe,” Ndii opined.

Yesterday, Kagwanja said Ndii’s call for cessation and dismantling of Kenya along tribal lines got traction because the feeling of exclusion was real and practical.

He said fear was rife in Rift Valley among Mt Kenya communities that failure to endorse Ruto might lead to a recurrence of 2007 violence.

“Uhuru has put his head on the block. The game changed in 2018. Uhuru was not a Kikuyu or a Kalenjin product. I don’t think Uhuru Kenyatta is going anywhere because his role in uniting this country is still intact,” said Kagwanja. 

He added: “The unity of Kenya is paramount. That is why he went out of his way to shake hands with the former PM. The reason he shook hands with Odinga, Kalonzo and Mudavadi is so that post-2022, we think of each other as Kenyans.”

He added: “The unity of Kenya is paramount. That is why he went out of his way to shake hands with the former PM. The reason he shook hands with Odinga, Kalonzo and Mudavadi is so that post-2022, we think of each other as Kenyans.”

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President Uhuru KenyattaPeter KagwanjaRaila OdingaWilliam Ruto2022 general elections