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Political intrigues that almost ruined Moi Day

By Macharia Munene | Oct 19th 2020 | 3 min read

The days leading to Moi Day (rebaptised Huduma Day) were full of political intrigues. There was high drama that involved influential religious and political personalities, confrontations with the police, cultural exchanges, as well as different ‘harambee’ functions. Being a mixture of good and bad, promises and contradictions, remorsefulness and political chest-thumping, the events were perplexing even to a casual observer.

Moi Day goes back to 1988 when after the contentious mlolongo elections, Josphat Karanja full of political gusto after taking over Mwai Kibaki’s job as vice president pushed through Parliament a special holiday to be celebrated on October 10 every year.

Although it ceased being an official holiday after the 2010 Constitution, it retained much nostalgic relevance. Moi Day was a day to be concerned about other people’s welfare.

But what we saw during this year’s Moi Day portrayed a frightening, uncaring attitude. With former allies turning on each other, questions arose about methods and application of law enforcement. There is seemingly little desire to minimise the growing tension. For a while, it appeared as if the political leadership got enticed to the idea of a third handshake. Alas, we were wrong.

Kenya’s problem boils down to two feuding Jubilee factions. They are hurting and, with their reluctance to admit the reality, they are watching as the promises they made to Kenyans evaporate. Conflict resolution happens at the moment each of the parties feels it hurts more to continue the conflict.

Upper hand

As long as one party believes it can ultimately gain the upper hand and thus show who the ‘boss’ is, the likelihood of settlements diminishes. It is the hurt in the stand-off that leads to a search for handshakes. This explains former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura’s concept of three-way handshake because all are probably hurting. 

The most visible hurt, however, is in the first (Uhuru and Ruto) rather than in the second (Uhuru and Raila) handshake. As quarreling Jubilee factions hurt themselves (and the country), ODM members are seemingly enjoying and confirming their little interest in offering help.

Matters are made worse by the security agencies refusal to impartially apply the law. When ‘leaders’ gleefully disrupt each other’s functions, the injury is to the entire country and not just the presumed target. Whichever way one looks at it, the disturbances in various parts of the country during the Moi Day week were blots to the presidency and our democracy.

Polite extension

This reality was glaring in the different celebrations of Moi/Huduma Day in Nairobi and Bondo. President Kenyatta called for prayers at State House where he asked for forgiveness ‘if’ he had wronged anyone.

With the Deputy President William Ruto present (against much expectation) and in the absence of the former prime minister, the apology sounded like a polite extension of a handshake in response to the pleas by men and women of the cloth that Jubilee gets its house in order.

And for the bad treatment the security agencies had meted on the DP. In Bondo, a group of elders visited the Odinga family at Kango ka Jaramogi, Siaya. The visit was followed by a fund-raising for a religious project in Bondo. It was politics as usual with a lot of arrows directed at the DP.

For some time, the DP had appeared to be reeling under the attacks of his foes and on the receiving end of political schemes to cut him to size. He had problems holding functions to publicise his ‘Hustler Nation’ ideology while his critics seemingly had the ‘freedom’ to do as they pleased.

In Parliament, MPs, including Kipchumba Murkomen and Aden Duale, lost glamorous positions that went to rival political parties or to internal critics.

It remains to be seen which of the two competing images; the one at State House and the one at Kango ka Jaramogi, will capture and define the national mood going forward into the next electoral cycle.

Even as some of the leaders respond to the DP, it is not lost to the public that they are playing catch-up, which seemingly points at strategy reassessment and a reawakening to changing realities on the ground.

-Prof Munene teaches history at USIU 

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