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The big faces to watch in 2021


Activist Okiya Omtatah challenging the use of the late Mzee JomoKenyatta statute on the new currency. [File, Standard]

As Kenyans usher in the New Year and the political destiny largely lies in the hands of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga will likely play a key role in shaping the upcoming events.

While the President and Raila are fully committed to the passage of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, Dr Ruto has been of a contrary view on the urgency to change the Constitution.

With a new party, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) linked to Ruto in the offing, according to his allies, it remains to be seen how he will navigate the stormy water in his ruling Jubilee Party and the place of Jubilee Asili Centre, a parallel office he opened in June.

Party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford-Kenya), Isaac Ruto (Chama Cha Mashinani) and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua (Maendelo Chap Chap) will also be rallying their troops to guide the national discourse and succession politics amidst the clamour for a constitutional change.


Gideon spearheads

Baringo senator Gideon Moi makes his speech during Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) sensitisation rally at Wamba town in Samburu county on December 19, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi will continue to spearhead the BBI referendum campaigns, as he did last year. The independence party signed a post-election pact with Jubilee, which saw it get leadership slots in Parliament in West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio, who is the Senate Majority Leader, and Tiaty MP William Kamket, the National Assembly Delegated Legislation Committee chair.

Gideon has been attending numerous closed-door meetings with Raila, Jubilee Vice Chair David Murathe, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli and former MP Peter Kenneth, among others, to steady the BBI ship.

In Parliament, speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate) will be tasked with ensuring the House leadership prioritises the President's legacy in his second last budget.

As these leaders take charge of the political scene, the health and pulse of the nation will depend on the stewardship of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. Apart from dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and ailing economy, Kenyans will expect him to midwife the mass rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

At the same time, the vaccine by Kemri-Wellcome Trust in collaboration with Oxford University is in stage II and III of clinical trials, and there are expectations that they will make great progress in 2021.

Through Covax facility, Kenya is expecting 24 million free doses, the bulk of which the World Health Organisation says will be delivered in the second half of 2021.

The country’s war against graft is under the command of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Directorate Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, who are already under immense pressure to nab suspects.

In the past year, Kenyans have exuded confidence in the graft fight that saw high-profile names, such as Cabinet Secretaries, Principals Secretaries, governors, legislators and State cooperation bosses dragged to court to answer various charges.

Education CS George Magoha and Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) Chief Executive Officer Mercy Karogo have a tough task ahead in ensuring millions of learners are safely back to school after a wasted year and are ready to sit their final examinations.

ODM, Wiper, ANC and Ford-Kenya, among other parties, will have to conduct their polls to conform to the requirements by Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafulka Chebukati will, however, have a tough year, for he has to preside over a number of by-elections and steer the country through a planned referendum.


Chebukati's work

IEBC Chairman, Mr. Wafula Chebukati making his remarks during the IEBC BBI Supporters Verification Exercise held at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on 30th December, 2020. [Emmanuel Mochoge, Standard]

Mr Chebukati will also be expected to conduct constituency boundaries delimitation as stipulated in the Constitution and start preparing the country for the 2022 General Election.

And on January 12, Chief Justice David Maraga will drive out of the Supreme Court premises as a civilian, marking the end of his tenure at the helm of the Judiciary.

His departure has given way to elevation of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu to the top of the third arm of government.

Mwilu has an unresolved case in the Court of Appeal and High Court, pitting her against Haji and Kinoti, who also filed a petition for her removal before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The Judiciary will literally be on trial, as the suitability of the DCJ is pending in the Court of Appeal and the High Court. It is also unclear whether Mwilu will be in the race to succeed Maraga.

Her relationship with her JSC colleagues – Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and Law Society of Kenya (LSK) representative Macharia Njeru – will be an intriguing thing to look out for, as she accuses them of bias and wants them out of the team that will hear the petition filed by Haji and Kinoti.

If the BBI proposal to amend the Constitution sails through, it will be interesting to watch who will occupy the proposed independent Judiciary ombudsperson. Maraga maintains that by having a Judiciary ombudsperson, the Executive wants to erode the independence of the Judiciary.

At the same time, five High Court judges George Odunga, Jairus Ngaah, Janet Mulwa and Chacha Mwita will determine the fate of BBI.

They will be hearing a case filed by David Ndii, Jerotich Seii, James Ngondi, Wanjiku Gikonyo and Ikal Angelei, seeking to block the amendment of key articles of the Constitution.

Several cases are already before the High Court and Supreme Court. Their end result can keep reggae playing, mute it or change the tune altogether.

The petitioners claim the country is now steering into uncharted waters, driven by few political bigwigs instead of a wave of change by Kenyans, which is similar to the quest to do away with the 1969 Constitution.

Dr Ndii, Seii, Ngondi, Wanjiku, and Angelei, through lawyer Nelson Havi, want the court to stop the process by declaring four Chapters of the 2010 Constitution – one, two, four, nine and 10 – form the foundation of the country and cannot be altered or changed through amendments. They argue that the chapters can only be changed through Parliament or a popular initiative.

Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi. [FIle, Standard]

LSK CEO Mercy Wambua, the LSK Council, and its president Havi, are another lot to watch. After a stormy year and intrigues surrounding how the society is run, how the team will relate with each other and who will go out first will give the country some fodder to talk about in 2021.

The LSK Council is split, with Havi and some of the members wanting Wambua out, while others, said to be the majority, being against that decision. The battle has already spilled to court and there is a push to kick out Havi.

Meanwhile, lawyer Paul Gicheru voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he was wanted for alleged witness interference. His lawyer John Khaminwa will be appearing before The Hague court for the first time, as he seeks to secure Gicheru's freedom. Will he match Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's wit?

Lastly, the country will be looking out for Memoirs of a civilian general by former Attorney General Githu Muigai.

And although he is not a lawyer, activist Okiya Omtatah will be a man to watch, for he has a number of pending cases, which may change the course of governance and policy making in the country.