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Kenya now a single party state, but the noise will get louder

By Daisy Maritim | November 17th 2018

The ‘break-ups’ of the last election cycle have been resolved in a series of public reconciliations.

The first one was the biggest, Uhuru and his former ‘arch nemesis’ Raila famously buried the hatchet on March 9. An avalanche of truces ensued thereafter: On May 31, during the National Prayer Breakfast, Uhuru shook hands with Kalonzo Musyoka. This ceremony united the four contestants of the 2017 election with hugs and handshakes.

On October 20, Raila Odinga was appointed the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa. The spirit of forgiveness and reunion has percolated downwards to the second level of government.

On November 1, Uhuru sent a delegation of Rift Valley governors and MPs to the home of former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto to build bridges between himself and the governor and to explore ways of including Ruto in the Jubilee government.

Even Anne Waiguru, the governor of Kirinyaga, has mended fences with Raila. And finally, just three days ago on November 14, Kalonzo Musyoka was appointed the head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission on Peace in South Sudan.

President Kenyatta has gradually extended olive branches to his former competitors. Similar to his father, the President seems to be building a patron-client network based on the politics of inclusiveness rather than confrontation.

In doing so, he has effectively quashed all opposition by bringing the key leaders into the fold.

By incorporating former rivals, he is doing two things -- buying loyalty in order to get work done (hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, in fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies - Robert Greene) and buying himself political peace (Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge is a pleasure - Tacicus AD 55-120).

So now that all the political exes have kissed and made up, does it mean that the President’s ‘no politics, only development’ mantra can now happily take over? Far from it.

In fact, Kenya is about to witness ‘Politics on Steroids’. The kind of politics that was last seen in 1991. I say this for three reasons.

One, just like in the 70s, after the Kenya People’s Union was banned in 1969, the country is now a de-facto one-party state for all intents and purposes. There is no real opposition to speak of.

And since history repeats itself, an implosion is inevitable. Because multiple contenders have been swallowed by a dominant entity, there will be a tussle for dominance within that entity.

The aggregation and co-option of political players, who are obviously of diverse persuasions, cannot last in the same political pot. The only reason they entered the pot in the first place is to better their chances of succeeding Uhuru in 2022. They have therefore come to play politics from within.

Two, just like in 1991, there will be major fragmentation. To begin with, the incorporation of major political players into the government fold puts the ‘heir apparent’, William Ruto in an awkward position.

The ‘matatu’, which is headed to the presidency, has suddenly been grossly overcrowded. And all the passengers have their eyes on the steering wheel.

Ruto, who thought that he was the default-designated driver, finds himself having to elbow, push and shove the new entrants away. My prediction is that he will jump out, buy his own vehicle, and fill it with his own people. Especially as rush hour approaches.

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

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