They started on different paths, but the growing rapport between Uhuru, Raila and Gideon points to a new political alliance ahead of 2022 politics
The symbolic transition of political leadership to Senator Gideon Moi following the death of his father sets him on a path walked by scions of two prominent families who are now influencing the country’s political destiny.
And like ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta before him, Gideon, who symbolically took over a replica of a rungu that defined President Daniel arap Moi’s 24-year presidency, did so at a watershed moment for the country - the ongoing clamour for constitutional reforms.
Mr Odinga, who was detained during the struggle for pluralism, set up his base in the city’s Langata Constituency before inheriting his father Jaramogi Odinga’s political constituency following his death in 1994.
It was Raila’s springboard to his first unsuccessful run for president in 1997 - he has since vied in 2007, 2013 and 2017 without success, but in the last three occasions he was a formidable force for his opponents, the then incumbent presidents Kibaki and Kenyatta.
Uhuru was thrust into the big political stage in 2002 when Moi handpicked him as his preferred successor, triggering a walkout from Kanu by Raila and other loyal ministers, like his vice president George Saitoti and Kalonzo Musyoka, who joined an opposition alliance that swept Mr Kibaki to power.
But a decade later, Uhuru, running on a joint ticket with William Ruto, would beat Raila-Kalonzo to succeed Kibaki in 2013, and he went on to win re-election in 2017 after trouncing the two again, leading to a disputed presidential vote.
It took an Uhuru-Raila handshake in March 2018 to calm a tense nation, their truce giving birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) expected to yield constitutional changes that could alter the country’s government structure in the lead up to the 2022 General Election when Uhuru leaves office.
Political analyst Herman Manyora said the timing for Gideon’s crowning as Moi’s political heir is critical and plays a part in Uhuru’s succession politics.
“We may not be a monarchy, but we borrow a lot from that form of government. The passing of the baton was well prepared and done within the matrix of BBI,” Mr Manyora said.
“There is no doubt that Ruto is the kingpin of the region. The event is the beginning of a narrative. It was meant to create a narrative that will be sustained through a series of events. By the time we get to 2021, he (Gideon) will begin to gain traction. At that time, the isolation of Ruto will be almost complete. Remember people are attracted to power.”
While speaking during the State burial of Moi, Raila defended Gideon against the dynasties' narrative, saying the Baringo senator was free to run for any political seat.
“Moi rose from a humble background to become president. He came from poverty, just like Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Nobody can talk about a dynasty when it comes to these three families. What did Moi inherit? Why should someone think that one is entitled to more things because he is related to the Kenyatta's and Mois? Don’t think that Uhuru, Gideon and I are entitled to certain privileges because our fathers were something,” Raila said.
The remarks put together with Raymond Moi’s declaration that Kanu will be part of the BBI process gave a strong indication that Gideon was likely to play a key role in the succession matrix.
“We all know the king has rested and, in terms of family seniority, I am the eldest son. But, in politics, Gideon will be our leader,” said Raymond.
“Mzee took care of everyone in the country and we expect you (Gideon) to take the cue from him, unite the country and revive Kanu. We tell Gideon that Kanu should rise up and be part of the next good things.”
Raymond added that the independence party was strongly committed to supporting Uhuru and Raila in the BBI process.
“We know there is BBI and we want to be part of that process. We are behind Raila and Uhuru. As Kanu, we will be part of that (BBI) team.”
Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat declared the resolve to strengthen the party.
“Kanu is very stable. As youths who have been elected, we shall make sure the party stands out. We shall support others in the cause for unity. We shall join the bandwagon in the BBI that was started by President Uhuru and Raila Odinga,” he said.
In an interview with The Standard, Macharia Munene said the installation of Gideon was a direct attack against Deputy President Ruto over the leadership of Rift Valley, adding that the Moi family made it clear they were taking over the region’s leadership from their late father.
“The Mois were basically trying to pass a message to none other than Ruto. It was unprecedented and directly targeted at Ruto. It was a case of a father passing the baton to a biological son,” said Prof Munene.
He described the Wednesday event as unprecedented, saying both Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga did not directly pass the baton to their sons. The elder Kenyatta died in 1978 when Uhuru was aged 16, while Raila largely made himself.
“There are no parallels because Raila made things on his own. There was no ceremony to endorse him when his father died,” said Munene.
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said the decision to hand over the baton is extremely significant for vote-rich Rift Valley’s politics, as well as the national stage.
“It is extremely significant given that the Kenyan society retains a strong attachment to traditional cultural values. These values encompass, among others, orderly transfer of the leadership mantle from one generation to another,” said Mr Wandayi.
“It has effectively created two de facto centres of power revolving around William Ruto and Gideon Moi in the Kalenjin nation.”
Amani National Deputy Party Leader Ayub Savula described the move as a game-changer in the region’s politics as it hoists Gideon as the community’s spokesperson.
He said Moi wielded a lot of political influence that has been symbolically transferred to the senator.
“Officially, Gideon becomes the spokesperson by the virtue of being handed the baton by a politician who served as president for 24 years,” said Mr Savula.
“The king has passed on and the baton passed on to the son. He will now have powers to negotiate with other political leaders in negotiating for the region’s political interests.”
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said the endorsement was a major boost for Gideon as it signifies the transfer of political loyalty from the former president to his son.
“As alluded to by DP Ruto that Moi had biological sons, as well as many political sons, the choice of Gideon among the many political sons is a major political milestone, particularly in Rift Valley politics. There was no better moment to do that than at the funeral of the late president,” said Mr Osotsi.
But MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Nixon Korir (Langata) and Hillary Kosgei (Kipkelion West) termed the transition as a family affair that has no political significance, with Mr Barasa dismissing the move as inconsequential.