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Stop stalking us and give Kenyans a break from your 2022 obsession

By Makau Mutua | November 11th 2018 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

White noise is usually an abomination unless it lures you to sleep. Used in political lexicon, white noise is bad. It can be infuriating. 

That’s what all the talk of 2022 is – white noise. I agree with ODM’s Raila Odinga and Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta – the new-found twain political buddies – that too much talk of the 2022 succession is bad for Kenya’s soul. 

Kenya is only a year removed from a catastrophic electoral season. Yet, like the biblical Satan – the once powerful and beautiful fallen angel – some mandarins are tempting us towards the precipice again. I saw it in Liberia where warlord Charles Taylor – who rots in a jail at The Hague – took a country to the hell of damnation.

There’s a rule in Employment 101. The cardinal principle is that don’t give a job to a candidate who craves it too much. The logic is that a maniacal obsession with a particular job is evidence of a deep psychosis. An employee – and politicians are the public’s employees – should have a healthy relationship with a job. 

There’s something like too much love, or infatuation. Often, such obsession leads to stalking, or the forcible self-imposition of the stalker on his victim. These stories don’t usually end well. The stalker wants the victim to “love” him. The victim doesn’t, and can’t. You know how the movie usually ends. That’s why politicians should stop stalking us for 2022. Give us a break.

I am worried about all the talk for 2022 that’s coming out of DP William Ruto and his camp. Personally, I don’t begrudge Mr Ruto his ambitions. Every person needs to dream and reach for the skies. But my concern is that while Mr Ruto is entitled to run for president – every day of the week and twice on Sundays – there’s something amiss. 

The language that he and his acolytes deploy is either illiberal or outright intimidation and harassment. Plain threats are woven in his campaign. He wants to clear the field of all worthy competitors and smother his opponents with the kamuti [deadly Kamba witchcraft] of harambee. His motto – if you won’t submit, I will stuff money in your mouth.

I admit that as they say in America, “politics ain’t beanbag.”  Which means politics isn’t child’s play. In fragile societies – and Kenya is one – politics should be approached carefully. We saw what happened in 2008 after elections the previous year. We saw what almost happened after the debacle of elections last year. 

Luckily for Kenya – I know some are deeply unhappy about this – Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta decided to take the road to Damascus. Like the biblical Paul, the two titans of Kenyan politics sought salvation. They avoided turning the ignition key to Kenya’s political bomb. The fight between the two would’ve trampled mwananchi underfoot.  That’s why I made a virtue of necessity and supported the handshake.

To be sure, I don’t want to put all the blame on Mr Ruto. He isn’t alone in committing this sin. But he and his lieutenants are the most bellicose. My good friend Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has anointed himself Mr Ruto’s Svengali. He swats Mr Ruto’s detractors like flies. He’s forgotten what the constitution teaches, although he’s a “learned friend.” 

Like a dragon, he spits fire at enemies, far and near. Like a viper, he shoots poison at you if you so much as look at Mr Ruto sideways. Which begs the question – what would Mr Murkomen do to protect Mr Ruto if the latter ascended to State House? Would we be forced to live in hiding?

To his credit, Mr Kenyatta has put his foot down and told Kenyans – especially Mr Ruto’s boosters among the Agikuyu – to pipe down and instead work for the electorate. Last week, Mr Ruto’s errand boys and girls in the Mt Kenya region took a supplicant’s petition – ostensibly on behalf of Mr Ruto – to Mr Kenyatta. I hear the piece of paper didn’t see the light of day, or the glow of the night. 

Instead, the son of the Burning Spear cut the motley crew to size. In a stunner – defying a narrative advanced by Mr Ruto’s men and women – Mr Kenyatta told the assembled peonage that he will shock them with his pick for successor when the time comes.

African states have been destroyed by men with blind ambition. Every African state that failed, or collapsed, was brought to its knees by a megalomaniac. Think of Mengistu Haile Mariam and Ethiopia. Siad Barre in Somalia. Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga of Zaire, today’s DRC. His name said it all – no imagination needed. Samuel Kanyon Dole of Liberia. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The list is as long as the damned wreckage of African states. Let’s not go there.

- The writer is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC.  @makaumutua

Raila Odinga Uhuru Kenyatta 2022 Succession Politics William Ruto
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