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It's possible that we have a deep state

Who determines the national interests of a state? [iStock]

A few days ago, Internal Security CS Fred Matiang'i was asked by members of the clergy to speak about the 'deep state'. Most people have been disturbed by the alleged existence of a deep state.

The answer Dr Matiang'i can help us to understand what deep state is or is not. The CS said he had no idea about the existence of such an entity. Could deep state exist without the Internal CS's knowledge?

Is the deep state idea merely the result of widespread pre-election paranoia or is it true there exists a faction of high-ranking state officials scheming nefarious affairs to undermine our democracy? Recently, DP William Ruto accused the State, which he is part of, of conspiring to tilt the 2022 election in favour of Raila Odinga.

To the general public, the term conjures the image of a secretive association of bureaucrats determined to sabotage the outcomes of the elections. We hear phrases like serikali iko na wenyewe, meaning the government has its owners. Who are wenyewe? To answer this question, we need to look at some of the reasons why the State exists.

Historically, every nation has followed the policy of idealism or realism in formulation of foreign policy. We all know that the State has the monopoly of power and that states are primarily motivated by the desire for military and economic power, rather than ideals. As such, states move towards their own national interest. The overriding 'national interest' of each state is its national security and survival.

If this is the case then, who determines the national interests of a state? Not long ago, I had an opportunity of speaking to former CJ Willy Mutunga. He told me that our national interests are determined by several individuals or states: Some powerful nations represented by their diplomats in Nairobi; the richest and powerful Kenyan importers and exporters who trade with these states and lastly the president and his advisors (not the Cabinet). So, according to Dr Mutunga, this becomes the deep state.

It is true deep state exists like it does in many nations, but it manifests itself in different versions. In some cases, it is a secret networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership in pursuit of their own goals or, we can say, it’s a shadow government or a state within a state. Under the above circumstances, sources for deep state may include powerful elements among organs of state, armed forces or intelligence agencies, secret police, party agencies, and state bureaucracy.

Recently, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia admitted that indeed the deep state exists and that it must back a candidate of its choice, and ensure this candidate wins. Like Mutunga, Kimemia refers to the influence of the international community on the country’s leadership, saying a bond between the deep State and international community must be formidable. Curiously, he also adds an interesting ingredient of a deep state which also includes popular people in the villages and constituency level who are backed by the state.

-Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University