It’s clear to those with eyes and ears that the rift in Jubilee – the house that TNA’s Uhuru Kenyatta and URP’s William Ruto built – is as wide as the Gulf of Mexico. For the first term of the Kenyatta tenure, he and Mr Ruto behaved as though it was a co-equal executive. Ruto acted as though he had equal tenancy rights to the presidency.
The clues hid in plain sight – remember the matching red power ties and white shirts – jackets off and rolled sleeves – as the duo announced the first Cabinet? According to some analysts, that was a marriage of convenience. My own personal view was that Ruto had taken Mr Kenyatta hostage. No más.
Beneath the surface, the two wings of Jubilee were involved in bloodletting – an internecine warfare. But that war was fought by proxy much in the way the Soviets used to fight Americans. For more than fifty years, the two superpowers never directly faced each other. The closest they came to a nuclear conflagration was the Cuban Missile Crisis. That’s when the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, really came to live focus. In the event, the attacker and the defender would’ve have been annihilated by nuclear power. Both Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and President John F Kennedy blinked. Nuclear catastrophe was averted. Let’s be clear – MAD requires two co-equal parties with the power to equally destroy.
My argument is that in his first term, Kenyatta acted as though Ruto held an equally powerful nuclear button. My humble submission is that Kenyatta was wrong. Ruto may have had a nuclear button but as President Donald Trump would say, Ruto’s button was way smaller. I can explain what I mean by a “nuclear button” but not today. Suffice to say, Kenyatta’s advisers failed him. Marriage counsellors say you shouldn’t start a practice when you are dating that you aren’t prepared to continue in marriage. That’s the stuff of divorces. Ruto is a master of the optical illusion – he made Kenyatta believe that he had a bad-ass nuclear button.
The only leverage Ruto had on Kenyatta was his support for a second term run. People are mistaken to believe that the Agikuyu in the Rift Valley Diaspora are “hostages.” That’s an empty threat allies of Ruto may want Kenyatta’s side to believe. A do-over of the 2008 violence is not possible in the Rift. But it pays politically to keep that illusion alive. I believe neither Ruto, nor any elites in the Rift Valley, would countenance a repeat of 2008. That’s the MAD scenario. Like Mr Kennedy and Mr Khrushchev, Ruto and Kenyatta will not tempt fate – again. This means that Ruto has zero leverage over Kenyatta. Zilch. Nada.
Kenyatta isn’t running in 2022. I don’t know what he promised Ruto. What I know is this – political promises can be, and often are, broken.
The convoluted nature of the 2017 elections – and Kenyatta’s desire to secure his legacy – have changed everything. That’s why he “shook” hands with NASA’s Raila Odinga. Raila is the only person in Kenya – not Ruto – who can torpedo Kenyatta’s legacy. The handshake is a masterstroke by Kenyatta and Raila. It frees Kenyatta from whatever remaining “jail time” Ruto had sentenced him to and insulates him from political manipulation by political and corrupt cartels. Raila has given Kenyatta his greatest political gift yet.
Kenyatta seems to have realised that he’s actually not beholden to Ruto. He’s now his own man. That’s why he’s openly scolded Ruto even as his deputy puts on a brave face. Instead of Ruto, Raila has now become Kenyatta primary confidant.
Let me spell it out to the likes of Majority Leader Aden Duale and Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen – the 2022 ship has sailed, and it’s not headed to Eldoret. My crystal ball tells me that Raila will play the largest role in determining who becomes the prexy in 2022. I can offer this advice to Ruto for free – a frontal assault on Raila is a flight of fancy.
I know numero dos is a formidable political force. He’s a “hustler” as he himself likes to remind Kenyans. If so, he should change tack. This talk of a “debt” owed by the Agikuyu is a turnoff. He shouldn’t listen to the quisling Kikuyu MPs and MCAs – who are worth only two pennies – because they aren’t speaking for their constituents. No one likes “debts.” I don’t – and I don’t repay ones which are coerced. The better course of action is to sell your platform.
-Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua