Uhuru Kenyatta's personal loss could be Mt Kenya's biggest win, analysts say

Immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves after inspecting a guard of honour mounted by the military personnel during the Kenya Defence Forces Grand Farewell to the commander-in-chief.  [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

 Many political pundits have blamed former President Uhuru Kenyatta for his active role in succession politics which they believe has soiled his legacy, especially in his Mt Kenya backyard.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who led the onslaught especially during the campaign season, warned the then Head of State that they would deal with him as their rival claiming he would head to his Ichaweri home dejected and frustrated.

They warned of a replica of 2002 when the retiring President the late Daniel Moi’s preferred candidate Uhuru was rejected by the people.

President William Ruto scolded Uhuru and urged him; "To stop meddling with politics and let me deal with Raila Odinga alone.”

But the former President who had been assigned the role of chairman of Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance stayed put. He defended his role in succession politics, saying he had responsibility of guiding his people.

“I have a mandate of guiding Kenyans on who shall ensure continuity of the projects that my administration initiated and that person is Raila Amollo Odinga,” he told Mt Kenya residents in the last days of campaigns.

That however did not materialise since President Ruto emerged the winner and was consequently sworn in on Tuesday (September 14) in an event that Raila skipped but Uhuru availed himself to ceremoniously transfer power.

Political players and peace ambassadors aver that Uhuru’s main achievement has been securing peace for his community who have paid a heavy price whenever cases of electoral violence occurred.

In 2013, in an unprecedented move, the former President shook hands with Ruto, former arch-rival and entered into a political marriage that united the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities who had clashed in the aftermath of 2007 elections.

That however did not solve the skirmishes that had been the order of the day after every election cycle.

After 2017 elections, the chaos took a twist after Raila swore himself as People’s President, a move that piled pressure on Uhuru to push for opening of treason charges against his long term political nemesis.

Some of Raila’s allies led by TJ Kajwang and Miguna Miguna were charged with treason where they were accused of illegally administering an unlawful oath to Raila on the January 30, 2018 at Uhuru Park Nairobi.

Raila however was never arrested and to the dismay of many, he shook hands with Uhuru which was christened Handshake.

Although Kajwang was released a year later, Miguna was deported to Canada where he remains to date.

Although President Ruto and his allies dismissed the handshake and succeeded in inheriting Mt Kenya region which was perceived to be Uhuru’s turf, his actions, players argue have benefited his community most.

Immediate former Mt Kenya assembly’s forum chairman Charles Mwangi said Uhuru lost politically but gained in maintaining peace during the transition period which he noted was his main mission while initiating the handshake.

“It’s an interesting scenario since his community which is the biggest beneficiary of his actions of shaking hands with his political enemies (Ruto and Raila) his community woke up early in the morning to punish him by rejecting his preferred choice," he observed.

Mwangi continued; “It will take Mt Kenya region a while to realise and understand Uhuru’s moves that have ensured peace for his community who have integrated in every region of the country to look for greener pastures,” Mwangi added.

After taking oath of office, President Ruto revealed that the retired President would continue steering peace initiatives in the region.

The President hailed his predecessor for a commendable job in steering peace initiatives, especially in Ethiopia which was affected by a bloody conflict in November 2020 after Tigray rebels attacked government soldiers.

"On the peace initiatives in our region including both in Ethiopia and Great Lakes Region, I have asked my elder brother President Uhuru Kenyatta who has done commendable engagement with those regions and he has graciously agreed to continue chairing those discussions on behalf of the people of Kenya," Ruto said.

Murang’a Bishop’s forum chairman Stephen Maina of the Full Time Winners Gospel Church said the retired president remains a hero to his community and in Africa for his wisdom of presiding over the most peaceful elections since 2002.

“He will remain unsung hero to our country. We did not experience any bloodshed or violence and all this is because of the handshake,” said Maina.

Political scientist Felix Muchoki noted the division of Agikuyu community between Raila and Ruto contest was the best thing as they could not be viewed as traitors by communities of the two leading presidential contenders.

“Kikuyus in Rift Valley supported Ruto, those in Nyanza supported Raila and those in Nairobi supported both, this meant that wherever they were safe no matter the outcome of the presidential election. Maybe this was Uhuru’s strategy,” said Muchoki.

Prof Gitile Naituli however used the ‘law of unintended consequences’ situation to describe the handshake between Uhuru and Raila saying although the Kikuyu community has benefited, Uhuru’s main motive was to assist Raila to ascend to the presidency.

Naituli said the high cost of living and feeling of disappointment from the Kikuyus removed the ‘mtu wetu’ feeling by the Agikuyu community which provokes emotions as ethnic communities fight to see one of their own ascending to the presidency.

“The handshake detached Uhuru from his support base who felt let down by their son, they had no attachment to the election results due to the feeling and the resultant issue was that they did not vote based on tribe and ethnicity," he said.

“The move has changed the trajectory of Kenya’s politics permanently which is a good thing,” added Naituli.

In his last address to his community through vernacular stations, Uhuru said he has never been after his selfish interests but the best for his community.

He reminded his people about his roles of 'protecting his community' in 2007 when he used his personal proceeds even though he was not in the ballot for the sake of his 'people'.

"The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment Bill would have benefited my community most, while they are the biggest gainers of handshake it has never been about my wish to cling on to power as you have been told," said Uhuru.