The last three presidential elections have been political tsunamis. In 2002, Kenyans defied convention and voted out Kanu, Kenya’s long-ruling political colossus. Until then, the idea of Kanu on its deathbed was unthinkable.
In 2007, Mwai Kibaki’s PNU did not clearly win against Raila Odinga’s ODM. In 2017 — under the glare of a new democratic Constitution — Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee was declared the winner in a disputed poll. My point is that none of the last three elections has been predictable. You can take this to the bank of your choice — the 2017 election will be equally unpredictable. Don’t listen to the propagandists who bloviate that Jubilee has it in the bag. The only thing in the bag is anxiety.
But from my snowy perch, I see a silhouette. I am not Moses, the raven of Animal Farm. You will recall from George Orwell’s Animal Farm — the allegorical and dystopian novella — that Moses sold the oppressed the myth of Sugarcandy Mountain. His detail was to peddle saccharin to the toiling masses. He was the master of the falsehood to flummox the wretched of the earth.
That’s Jubilee’s yarn. Mine, however, is studied science — the stuff of thoughtful analysis. That’s why I am predicting here and now the second coming of Narc. History is about to repeat itself. Just like 2002, an opposition alliance juggernaut will coalesce around Mr Odinga’s persona and decimate Jubilee. The missing puzzle is the standard bearer.
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Let me be cold, though not calculating. Again I say unto you that Kenya’s voters are deeply ethnic. They cast ballots for ethnic elites, or alliances of ethnic syndicates. That’s why 2002 wasn’t a break with the past. It’s only that all the major ethnic elites ganged up against the Kalenjin to deny Mr Kenyatta power. It’s true that Narc had a progressive platform — and Kanu didn’t — but it was still a constellation of ethnic barons. Methinks history has come full circle and this year, Jubilee will suffer Kanu’s fate. The die is cast — and it won’t even be close. Mr Kenyatta will be sent home back to Gatundu by noon. Not even the clout of William Ruto’s Rift Valley chops will save Jubilee.
You might wonder what changed between 2013 and 2017. Why did the “tyranny of numbers” evaporate? I never bought the concoction. The election was deeply compromised and the constitutional institutions — IEBC and Supreme Court — were either impotent, or in collusion. This notwithstanding some of the colossal mistakes made by CORD.
It’s patently false that even a combined solid vote of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin can overcome the other ethnic groups together. But that’s in the past. 2017 will mirror 2002 in another way. Just like Kanu was sluggish and had lost any reason to rule, Jubilee doesn’t have the foggiest rationale for re-election. Corruption and a deep tribal state can’t be viable election platforms. The end is nigh.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto came to power on a nationalist and chauvinist crusade against the International Criminal Court. They whipped up their ethnic kin against the white bogeyman and by demonising Mr Odinga. Already so predisposed, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin drank the Kool-Aid. But the ghost of the ICC has long left Kenya.
That’s why Mr Kenyatta is trying to manufacture the figment of foreigners meddling in the elections. This much is clear — it’s only a figment of Mr Kenyatta’s imagination. Beating up on NGOs and falsely crying wolf are signs of panic. A deer caught in the headlights freezes and suffers paralysis. Mr Kenyatta’s goose is cooked unless he can come up with another bag of tricks.
But the Odinga brigade shouldn’t assume 2017 will be a cakewalk either. There is the little matter of agreeing on a flag bearer. Who is it going to be? Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi, and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula cannot allow their egos to get in the way. Do they hate Jubilee more than they hate each other? Would they like to stay in political purgatory — even Siberia — for another five, or even 10 years? Nor can they forget to placate the coastal electorate and the Kisii. To triumph, they need to make a play for every vote — even among the Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Somali, Meru, and Maasai. They need to genuinely project themselves as pro-Kenya, not anti-Kikuyu or anti-Kalenjin.
Kenya came into being as a coerced colonial project. The people who call themselves Kenyans today didn’t choose to form the colonial state. But now we are stuck together. That’s why we must make this experiment work. We need to go from being a country with a state and a government to a true nation. That journey must be normative and political — and deliberate. Throwing Jubilee out and creating a new national consensus is our best hope.