Uhuru stokes embers of political intrigue with series of meetings

When Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka hosted Former President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mwingi Full Gospel Churches for a fundraiser in aid of the Church on November 19, 2023. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-emergence from the political shadows has piqued the interest of the political class with many now speculating on his next move.

His return to the political stage, at a time his once demonised policies are being brought back to life by the Kenya Kwanza administration, has been characterised by a series of meetings with ambassadors from across the globe, a return to social media and the free-floating display of dalliance with leaders from Azimio Coalition.

For a man who had largely stayed away from social media after his side’s resounding loss to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance in the 2022 General Election, his recent heightened activity on the interwebs and increased engagement in various strategic meetings has conveyed inescapable political undertones and pointed to a man seemingly undergoing a political revamp ahead of the 2027 General Election.

His rising star as a peace and security envoy in the continent has also cut out the image of a former Head of State who is leveraging on his international relations to ensure political relevance.

On Monday, Uhuru gave his clearest indication yet that he intends to remain relevant in the political circles after he, together with opposition leader Raila Odinga, met with Jubilee party leaders from Mt. Kenya amid disquiet in the larger Azimio coalition.

Photos of the meeting caused a stir online after it emerged that the two leaders donned identical blue shirts with some ruling out the idea of it being a coincidence.

Reports indicate that Uhuru took the opportunity to implore Azimio leader Raila Odinga to withdraw his support for the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report launched last month and whose recommendations, if implemented, would lead the country into a referendum. This was his second meeting in a month with leaders from the opposition to discuss the Nadco talks that ended on November 29.

Hours earlier, Uhuru had met with Chinese ambassador Zhou Pingjian at his Nairobi office. Although the contents of their deliberations were not fully made public, many termed it a “stock-taking” meeting between the representatives from either countries and especially on projects started during Uhuru’s tenure.

This was Kenyatta’s third meeting with ambassadors from across the globe in a span of one week. On December 8, he had met with United States of America’s Ambassador Meg Whitman which was also two days after meeting with the British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wigan.

Mwingi meeting

A few weeks earlier, the former Head of State had attended a church service in Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s political turf in Mwingi, Kitui County. He was accompanied by Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti, former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, senators Godfrey Osotsi and Enock Wambua among other leaders.

His visit to the Eastern region came amid the sustained push by leaders from the opposition to install Kalonzo as the presidential flagbearer in the 2027 polls and have him challenge President William Ruto.

While there, he urged the political leaders to be selfless and prioritise the interests of the Kenyan citizens through servant leadership.

Other than organising political gatherings, Uhuru has been active on social media, especially on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), since making a comeback last year. His social media pages have since been rebranded to read “Office of the 4th President of Kenya,” signaling Uhuru’s intent to remain active.

He returned to social media platforms four years after having left. At the time of his exit, he had 3.6 million followers.

All indications now are that former President Uhuru Kenyatta will not be following in the footsteps of his predecessors Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Moi who chose political oblivion after retiring, and instead emulate those of former USA President Barack Obama who has remained politically active.

Political analyst and history professor Macharia Munene opines that Uhuru is out of the political shadows to regain the stature that he had before the 2022 elections and position himself as a force to reckon with come the next General Election.

“He (Uhuru) is rebuilding his political base ahead of the elections to ensure that he is a force to reckon with in 2027. He is also out to recover from the image of loss that he got through the defeat handed to Raila, who was his preferred candidate, by being seen to care for the people,” said Munene. 

The professor points out that by Uhuru opposing the Nadco report, and forestalling any rapprochement between Ruto and Raila, he is seen as raising issues that the President Ruto’s government isn’t for, such as the “one-man-one-vote-one-shilling” ideal, which he is banking on to endear him to the masses.

“The reality is that Ruto and Raila already brokered a deal and the bipartisan talks were to create positions for Kalonzo and company and allies of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and that is why nothing to benefit the public came out of it,” observed Munene.

Javas Bigambo, a political expert, says that Uhuru seems to be pursuing a path that would lead to political upheaval and turmoil that would ultimately ensure that the Kenya Kwanza administration does not deliver on its mandate.

Against tradition

“Uhuru is emerging as politically uncultured in comparison to former Heads of State such as Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Moi who stayed out of politics soon after retiring. He has gone against tradition. Even in other countries in the region, former presidents are expected to give the government of the day considerable respect and space to implement its policies,” said Bigambo.

He also avers that by Uhuru opposing the Nadco report, it demonstrates that he was not for the talks and that the political bile between him and Ruto before the elections seems to have multiplied.

In retrospect, Uhuru’s allies have equally been vocal that he was too young to retire politically and have continuously called for his active participation. Should he choose to follow that route, it is expected that he will from time to time mount an attack on the Kenya Kwanza administration and eventually campaign for Ruto’s competitor in the next elections.

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