Bad press is winning Ruto public sympathy

Many a time, political stock is created by hedging on relationships that serve the interests of those who bet on them. In some cases, the lines between facts, innuendo and lies are blurred as long as the information peddled serves the short-term expediencies of propagators. The relationships themselves are as transient as the causes they serve so that as one Kenyan once put it, “in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only shared interests.”

The alacrity with which politicians in Kenya change camps is astonishing. Alliances are mooted and discarded at the drop of a hat. Loyalties are fleeting and dependent entirely on what one gets out of a relationship. There are no inviolable principles. Nothing is sacrosanct. Self-preservation is elevated above cardinal truths so that it seems the end justifies the means.

The last 20 years have exposed our political values to be built on quicksand. For instance, Raila Odinga, Charity Ngilu and Mwai Kibaki were once pitted against Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in national elections. Five years later Kibaki and Uhuru would team up against Raila, Ruto and Ngilu in yet another election. Still, in another session of political musical chairs, Uhuru, Ruto and Ngilu have twice teamed up and carried the day against an alliance of Raila and others.

Presently, the Jubilee administration of Uhuru and Ruto is in power. Ngilu is governor of Kitui County while Raila is referred to as opposition chief, but in essence, appears to hold more sway in government than the deputy president. Uhuru and Raila have, after a period of tension, put aside their animus and shaken hands in a détente. This is, in the eyes of some, to the exclusion of Ruto. Camps of supporters have emerged allied to Uhuru and Raila called Kieleweke, and pro-Ruto named Tangatanga.

There was a reduction in the tension between the two camps following the death of former president Daniel Moi. During his funeral, many struggled to outdo each other, claiming a close relationship with Moi, never mind that while he was leaving power, the same characters vilified him. But the pretended esprit de corps has lasted only the duration of Moi’s burial. The hostilities are back in full swing.

This is why the Rashid Echesa scandal is deemed, in some quarters, to be a fortuitous boon to the DP’s detractors. A former Sports Cabinet Secretary (CS) and an avowed DP supporter, Mr Echesa has been charged with conspiring to defraud some foreign businessmen in an alleged fake arms procurement tender. Because Echesa, at some point, visited the DP’s office with these businessmen, Kieleweke adherents have called on the DP to step aside and allow for investigations to be carried out.

But one may be mistaken if they believe these calls are based on deep-seated convictions of probity. They could be nothing more than the quirks and quiddities of Kenyan politics at play. For one, investigations are still ongoing and hitherto, the DP has not been fingered as being complicit in the scam. Calls for his resignation may, therefore, be premature. Then there are more pressing issues germane to the national conversation.

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The first of these is that the economy is in flux and in dire need of the steadying influence of a peaceful environment. Early campaigns for the 2022 presidential elections have been an unwelcome distraction. Second, a referendum to pass Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals has been contemplated. This is even as Kieleweke factions are busy organising public rallies over the BBI report, whose contents are not known. Views are being gathered and the amended report is yet to be written.

The Kieleweke-Tangatanga spats have been a sticking point in the BBI. They negate its essence as intended to bring about national cohesion. Further, the rush to amend the constitution raises more questions than answers. Can the country afford the unwieldy governance structures that the BBI proposes? Is unity possible when dissident voices are coerced into submissive acceptance? Are BBI interests about resuscitating the economy or are the alliances about giving a new lease of life to evanescing political careers?

The law of unintended consequences has been to the advantage of the DP. Because of concerted attacks on his character, he has been in the headlines lately. The resultant publicity has not cast him in the notoriety intended but has elicited sympathy from a public unable to distinguish between truth, lies and innuendo.

Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst

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