Kenya has come a long way from the days when imagining the death of the president attracted criminal sanction. The absurdity of that notion is shown in stark relief considering that the mortality rate of humanity is 100 per cent. Simply put, 100 out of 100 human beings die!
The Constitution promulgated in 2010 has sought to cure this. Article 146 not only imagines the death of a sitting president, but also makes provision for what happens to his office when it is vacated by death or other reasons. In that event, his deputy assumes office as president for the remainder of his term.
What many forget is that unlike under the old constitution, the deputy president is not an appointee of the president. He cannot be fired at a whim. The relationship between the two is transactional in the sense that it is a reciprocal, mutually defining connection of interdependence defined as the presidency.
And therein lays the rub! That Deputy President William Ruto cannot be wished away by team Kieleweke, a motley collection of his political detractors. That short of resignation or inability to execute the functions of his office due to physical or mental incapacity or death; or removal through impeachment by the National Assembly with approval from the Senate, the DP remains stuck to the president like a conjoined twin.
If Kieleweke “scorched earth” tactics are intended to rattle the DP into giving up his presidential ambitions, they have had the exact opposite effect. Dr Ruto has dug his heels in. He has countered their hubris and chest thumping by his down to earth folksy demeanour that has seen him eschew the trappings of power.
At a local university’s graduation ceremony, he chose to take a lowly seat with ordinary citizens even when urged to take a place at the high table. Further, the DP’s “Wanjiku” or pro-indigent rhetoric has a special piquancy that finds resonance with the marginalised.
But it is the conduct of Kenya’s opposition leaders that has been deemed a big let-down to Kenyans. Running into headwinds after the ill-conceived and disjointed “swearing in” of Raila Odinga as the “people’s president,” they have all but abandoned their “government in waiting “and watchdog role.
Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka appear to have all wind taken out of their sails. Ambivalent over national issues, they are deemed exemplars of those who stand for nothing but fall for anything.
Raila Odinga has cozied up to President Uhuru Kenyatta and now appears to be more government than the DP. As some have mentioned, he may be sailing too close to the wind for comfort, denting his hard-earned reformist credentials by associating with a government mired in graft allegations.
The unseemly war of words between Dr. Ruto and his detractors has heated up inordinately. It is now clear to Kenyans that this war has to do with succession politic after 2022, when President Kenyatta’s second and final term comes to an end. The stakes are high, and rumours of an assassination plot have abounded.
Questions arise. When Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) boss, Francis Atwoli, earlier in the year warned of Dr Ruto not being on the presidential ballot, was it prescience or was it foreknowledge of some ominous plot
Was the revelation of the “La Mada 40” assassination plot a pre-emptive masterstroke or a red herring intended to divert attention from pressing national concerns
Because the DP is in pole position to succeed the president, he has been the recipient of concerted efforts to knock him off his advantageous perch. Incendiary rhetoric has sought to cast him as a recidivist unworthy of high office. He has also been accused of being too obsessed with campaigns for president at the expense of core development projects.
But those who stroke the embers of public indignation through pretended umbrage are themselves ambitious presidential aspirants. In any case, there is nothing wrong one having fire in their belly. Dr Ruto has never been secret about his pact with President Kenyatta and that he intends to succeed him.
Because of the natural inclination of human beings to root for the underdog, it would serve the DP’s opponents well to know that the more they go at him hammer and tongs, the greater his chances of making president.
A better strategy for them would be to triage the problems afflicting the country with pragmatic solutions, lest the winds of the disenfranchised fan a revolutionary inferno. Kenya must not be allowed to conflagrate at the altar of self-serving politics.
Mr Khafafa is Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council