What widening cracks in Kenya Kwanza says about our politics

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua. [PSC]

The implosion within the Kenya Kwanza government, involving President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, barely two years into their term, offers several key lessons on Kenyan politics.

First, the notion that a president and deputy running on the same ticket guarantees peace in office is a fallacy. The framers of the Constitution might have been overly optimistic in assuming that politicians could easily be paired for the sake of stability.

Historical precedent illustrates this, as seen with former President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then-deputy, Ruto, who publicly clashed during their final term. This recurring discord highlights the inherent challenges in maintaining harmonious executive relationships within Kenyan politics.

Second, political parties in Kenya often prioritise financial gains over their long-term sustainability. The ongoing conflict within the Kenya Kwanza government underscores this reality, as both factions believe they hold an inherent right to govern.

This sense of entitlement, fueled by the perception of equal shares in power, exacerbates the instability. The financial motivations of political entities often overshadow their commitment to enduring governance structures, leading to a fragile political environment.

Third, political parties in Kenya serve primarily as vehicles for achieving specific ends, rather than enduring institutions. Many parties, whether coalitions or single entities, tend to disband or lose relevance over time. ODM is an exception, being one of the longest-standing parties with a national presence. Conversely, the once-dominant Kanu now wields minimal influence.

Fourth, winning political parties or coalitions in Kenya have consistently failed to honour their manifestos. There exists a disconnect between campaign promises and post-election governance, revealing a lack of a genuine social contract with the electorate.

Votes are often leveraged for immediate gains, only for voters to be disregarded once results are announced. However, it is essential to acknowledge the exceptions—those exemplary leaders who have been re-elected multiple times due to their steadfast commitment to fulfilling their constituents' expectations.

Fifth, the internal strife within Kenya Kwanza highlights a significant constitutional contradiction: The notion that power resides with the people.

Were this principle genuinely upheld, several recalls would have occurred, especially in response to the confusion surrounding the Junior Secondary School transition. However, the prevailing political climate prevents such accountability, allowing elected leaders to retain power despite widespread dissatisfaction.

Sixth, allowing political parties or coalitions to implode and return to elections for the contested positions could be a pragmatic solution. The Kenya Kwanza government has already shifted its focus to campaigning for the 2027 elections, a task traditionally reserved for the opposition.

Instead of redirecting public attention to development and post-election healing, the ruling coalition expended its energy on countering Raila Odinga’s protests. This misallocation of resources and focus missed an opportunity for constructive governance and reconciliation.

Seventh, the absence of Raila and former President Uhuru Kenyatta from the political scene has left the ruling coalition navigating uncharted territory. Previously, they deflected public scrutiny by targeting these prominent figures.

With their absence, the coalition now faces direct public scrutiny, revealing its vulnerabilities. Here, we learn that aspiring leaders must focus on addressing substantive issues rather than engaging in character assaults.

Furthermore, the pervasive influence of money in politics cannot be ignored. Many politicians possess substantial financial resources, which they are eager to spend on self-promotion.

Reducing the term of office from five to four years could potentially align with their interests, providing a legitimate outlet for campaign expenditures. The current scenario, where high-intensity campaigns commence barely two years post-election, raises questions on whether a snap election is in the making. The rapid pace of political realignments feels strange.

Resource-based conflicts are often complex to resolve. Besides fighting over shareholding powers with strong ethnic arguments pelted in the air, the implosion in Kenya Kwanza is yet another reminder that we should strengthen devolution to minimise dependence on political powerhouses at the centre.

The Constitution is meant to cure this centralist political approach but it is being ignored. No wonder governors call press conferences to announce lack of resources from the centre.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, the Loyola Centre for Media and Communication