Kenya:Assessing The Political Coalitions Of The 2013 Election Season

By Samuel Omwenga*

Samuel OmwengaWitnessing the events of this week as key politicians in the country scrambled to form alliances ahead of the December 4th deadline, one winner is clear even before the votes are cast for 2013 and that is constitutionalism.

Having these politicians entering into marriages willingly or due to desperation and forced to stay there through elections is the right thing to do as it brings along a level of stability that is refreshing and assuring.

These alliances having been formed, one can look in a crystal bowl and determine in advance which one shall carry the day come March 4, 2013.

To do so, it would be necessary to understand the importance and history of coalition forming in Kenya as well as the pros and cons of the coalitions formed last week ahead of the 2013 elections.

Coalition building in Kenya can be traced back to 1960 with the formation of Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). KADU was founded by several leading politicians of the time who refused to join Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya African National Union (KANU).

The party was led by Ronald Ngala and the party’s stated objective was to defend the interests of the KAMATUSA (an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu ethnic groups), against the dominance of the larger Luo (Kenya) and Kikuyu that comprised the majority of KANU’s membership.

KADU lost the first general elections in Kenya in 1963, where it had campaigned on a platform of Majimboism. Adopting the “if you can’t beat them, join them” but not without the cohesive help from Kenyatta and the ever powerful KANU, KADU merged with KANU, turning us into a de fact one party state.

Soon after the merger, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, our first Vice President under Kenyatta became increasingly opposed to KANU’s direction and policies, which marked him for political extinction.

In no time, a coalition against Jaramogi formed within KANU and he was soon left out of decision making, and in 1966 a KANU reorganization conference abolished his post of party vice-president.

In April 1966 Odinga resigned from the government and party to form an opposition group, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), which faced government harassment, and ultimately the banning and arrest of its leaders, including Jaramogi who was jailed and stayed in prison for 15 months.

Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka, prime minister Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula during the wiper democratic party's national delegates conference which endorsed the vice president as the party's sole presidential candidate.PHOTO/HEZRON NJOROGEOne can therefore say the first successful coalition was against Jaramogi and what he represented in terms of leftist policies that favor the less powerful and more vulnerable members of society. KADU, on the other hand, represented a coalition of the less powerful and neglected majority until it was consumed by KANU.

After the swallowing of KADU by KANU and the banishing and effectively silencing of Jaramogi, nobody dared form any alliances or coalition against the Kenyatta regime and KANU remained paramount as the ugly elephant in the room until the advent of multipartysm in the 1990s when Moi was forced to repeal Section 2A which made that possible.

It is worth noting Moi was KADU’s chairman and unbeknownst to all at the time, he would emerge from under the shadow of Kenyatta and become arguably worse a leader than Kenyatta himself taking KANU to its height of power as “the party of Baba na Mama.”

Meanwhile, and as Kenyans would come to realize to their disappointment, opening up the country to multipartysm did not come with it the key to unlocking the people’s power to disgorge Moi and his regime.

Indeed, owing to a splintered opposition, Moi was able to remain in power both in 1992 when he won the presidency with just 37% of the vote and in 1997 when he improved only to winning reelection with still less than a majority vote at 47%.

The opposition wised up in 2002 when Raila Odinga became instrumental in putting together a coalition that won that year’s presidential elections propelling Mwai Kibaki to office with his Kibaki tosha declaration.

After parting company with Kibaki when Kibaki refused to honor an MOU entered into between the two prior to the 2002 elections, Raila went into the opposition and once again formed a coalition that he maintains won the elections in 2007 but was stolen.

As a prelude to 2007, Raila had flexed his muscle by putting together another coalition that effectively campaigned against adoption of a new constitution he and many others deemed flawed and the efforts paid off as the coalition defeated passage of the flawed draft constitution.

Raila would later join with Kibaki in leading a coalition of interests that passed our new constitution. Following the elections of 2007 and the violence that ensued, Raila and Kibaki entered into a Grand Coalition in which the two were to share power equally that is still in force but few disagree the power sharing is even remotely equal.

If coalitions have to this date been a matter of political necessity, the constitution now actually makes them mandatory for no one can plausibly meet the constitutional threshold required to be sworn as president without having formed a coalition of some sort.

It is with this in mind that we saw the up-to the last minute scramble to forge alliances and coalitions in marriages whose lasting effect and impact is yet to be seen. However, as in any marriage, we can ably predict what’s to happen to them with some degree of precision.

To best do this, we would have to examine the pros and cons of these marriages but, there are really two which should be examined more carefully and these are the Uhuru and Raila marriages.

The Peter Kenneth marriage can be dismissed in a few words and these are, good husband, unattractive pride and doomed to fail from the get go.

Raila and Uhuru, however, have a few things going for them both pro and con but only one appears to be the likely winner come elections day 2013.

Uhuru Pros:

Money.  The man—thanks to his father—basically has an unlimited supply of cash both from his personal kitty and from deep-pocketed backers and supporters. With money, anything is possible, including mischief or worse.

Credible sources report there is a plan underway by Uhuru to try and buy as many ODM MPs and those from other parties as are gullible and that will be a definite advantage for team Uhuru undesirable as it is.

Tribal numbers:

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto at a rally in Mombasa's Tononoka grounds.Photo Elkana Jacob The second pro in favor of Uhuru’s TNA/URP/UDP alliance is this is the coalition most likely to exploit tribalism to the maximum. For this to be a pro, however, one would have to assume that both Kalenjins and Kikuyus will vote as a bloc for the Uhuru coalition.

We know the Luhyas will not vote as a bloc for the coalition because Raila is significantly popular there and now with Wetangula on his side and possibly Wamalwa, Mudavadi will be unlikely to deliver any meaningful votes from the area. Were the Kalenjins and and Kikuyus to vote as a bloc, though, Raila and ODM will have their work cut-out for them.

However, the money is on this not happening for several reasons:

First, it is not lost in anyone’s minds, especially those most affected that the underlying reasons why there have been tensions and conflicts between the Kalenjin and Kikuyus, namely, the land issue has not and cannot be resolved merely with the marriage of convenience between Uhuru and Ruto.

Were the two politicians actually able to unite the Kalenjin and Kikuyus against their historic past to the extent they are willing to bury it and forge a new relationship free of the misgivings and resentment, then that’s an accomplishment worth commending.

Again, were that to be the case, then Raila will have his work cut out for him to counter such a tectonic shift in attitudes and realignment with the icing on the cake being it’ll be a win-win situation for the country then regardless of which coalition wins.

Much as it’s highly desirable that these two communities are bury their past and are united, it is unlikely this will be accomplished merely because of Uhuru and Ruto joining hands in their quest for the presidency.

There is anecdotal evidence, especially in the Rift Valley, that many believe and have dismissed this Uhuru/Ruto alliance as an effort to propagate their self-interests related to that only which they have in common and that is facing crimes against humanity charges at the Hague.

For this reason, RV will not vote as a bloc for this Uhuru/Ruto alliance but the question remains, what percentage will. Although Ruto has been pushing the notion that he has a lock on the Kalenjin vote, a more realistic portion of his support is put at closer to 40% and even that is now questionable and certainly going down, given the increasing rejection of the deal between him and Uhuru and particularly because Ruto has agreed to play second fiddle to Uhuru after having campaigned all along that he is going for the top job and nothing less.

On the other hand, it’s conceivable and actually expected that nearly all the Kikuyu vote will go to TNA/URP/UDP alliance. Meanwhile, it’s being reported that the deal made between TNA/URP and Mudavadi is that the latter becomes the flag-bearer of this alliance were Uhuru and Ruto to be barred from vying.

Many argue were that to be the case, Mudavadi becomes a formidable opponent and likely victor against Raila. Those taking this position base this on the premise that Mudavadi is “neutral” and more “acceptable” than Raila, especially among the Kikuyus.

This position doesn’t hold water when subjected to analysis because Mudavadi inherits all the sins of Uhuru and Ruto the moment they make him the flag-bearer for one, and secondly, one cannot be “neautral” in having to defend scuttling of the ICC cases against Uhuru and Ruto as Mudavadi obviously must in order to be deemed playing ball and neither is being “acceptable” to only a portion of the Kikuyu community tantamount to being acceptable to all Kenyans.

For this reason, Mudavadi’s chances of being elected as president mirror those of Uhuru in every respect and a better argument can be made he actually has a lesser chance of being elected than Uhuru if anything because he is not Uhuru and he has not done anything to separate himself from the mediocre when it comes to matters politics.

Indeed, 40 MPs allied to Uhuru have said the will bolt and join Raila if the powers that be were to force Uhuru to step down in favor or Mudavadi. Another pro for TNA/URP/UDP alliance is the potential and likely use of the state machinery, courtesy of Kibaki, to deliver votes to the team.

While no one expects flagrant electoral violations and theft as was the case in 2007, there is a realistic possibility the State can still do mischief sufficiently enough to make a difference in close elections.

The irony of it is, Raila as Prime Minister is no better positioned to take advantage of incumbency than someone totally outside of government running for office thanks to the slanted power sharing deal that left him with less than the half-loaf he said he got.

Finally, but not least, the ICC and odd as that may be, can, in fact, be considered a net-positive for the Uhuru/Ruto alliance to the extent it has and will continue to be exploited to drive tribalism based votes to the duo.

There is no question Uhuru and Ruto have to some degree of success turned being charged with these serious crimes against humanity into something of a badge of honor at least among their supporters.

Raila and ODM were surprisingly slow in countering the lies and propaganda about ICC such that by the time they made efforts to counter same, some damage had been done they may not erase.

To the credit and wisdom of our people, however, many have not bought into the lie that Raila is responsible for the ICC suspects being hauled to the Hague but it won’t surprise anyone this line of attack against Raila will continue to be pursued, especially if the duo are barred from vying.

Raila’s pro-reformist credentials

As for Raila and his coalition, he, too, has a number of pros and cons that may be summed up as follows: On the cons side, Raila, unlike most active politicians in the country, far more evokes an almost equal measure of love and hate largely owing to the onslaught of negative reporting about him aided by the likes of Ruto who for a long time have told big whoppers about Raila and Mau forest at first and later regarding the ICC, which they falsely blame Raila for being there.

Others joined in the fray in planting false stories in the media adversely mentioning Raila while their supporters parroted the same in the social media as well as on the ground.

These attacks are bound to have an effect no matter how false they are and there is no question that’s been the case, given the number of people who simply hate the man but cannot point to a single valid reason as to why.

On a related note, Raila’s previously impeccable reform credentials have taken a beating both due to the same falsehoods but also because several people in his office have, in fact, been implicated in corruption.

Another con is his now partnering with Kalonzo Musyoka, a man he has not in the past hesitated to state exactly how he felt about him, which has not been exactly flattering in any way.

Besides these, being a Luo is a con to the extent there are those so backward they still believe a Luo cannot lead our country or that if he does, we have not seen the worst in leadership—so they claim, which is false.

On the pros, the number one has to be Raila’s reformist credentials coupled with his individual sacrifice to attain same. In a country of civilized people, such a sacrifice is worth noting and is often rewarded with election to high office.

Raila’s opponents readily recognize this and thus their effort to try and portray him as having spent whatever goodwill he had from his reformist past but, those objective will note Raila is still the reformer he has always been except times have changed and people have such a high and almost unrealistic expectations as to what a reformist should or ought to be.

To hear some describe it you’ll not differentiate that from being a saint but the reality is there are no saints in any political society. The Bible clearly reminds us this in the book of Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

The most objective way to look at this is to conclude of all those vying for president, Raila has the most proven reformist agenda and is therefore likely to continue on that path were he to be elected as president.

Another pro for Raila is his record of proven leadership unlike his challengers besides reforms that few, if any can question. When it was apparent the opposition was in 2002 about to splinter as it did in two previous occasions and allow Moi to vicariously remain in power via his then project Uhuru, Raila gave up his own presidential ambitions and threw his weight behind Kibaki with his Kibaki tosha declaration.

When the first Kibaki administration tried to push through a flawed new constitution, Raila organized an effective campaign against the effort that resulted in the defeat of the draft constitution, paving way for passage of a new, much better and acceptable constitution a few years later in which Raila was equally instrumental in its passage.

When the country plummeted into near a civil war following the elections of 2007 in which he and others believe he won but not sworn as president, Raila agreed to enter into the Grand Coalition currently in effect, thus saving our country from calamity.

Populist agenda

DPM Musalia Mudavadi during the launch of his presidential bid for the 2012. Photo/ Jack OwuorWhen Kibaki attempted to appoint his cronies to important constitutional offices in violation of the law, Raila led efforts to stop that from happening much to the relief of Kibaki himself, who had obviously not quite grasped the reach and import of the new constitution and how empowered the people know they are with what it provides.

The other pro for Raila is his populist agenda. When Raila campaigned for team Kibaki in 2002, the three salient points he made were (1) getting rid of Moi regime (2) ushering in new reforms, including a new constitution and (3) saving our country from economic decay brought about by the Moi regime and years of neglect.

This was a populist message that the voters readily bought in overwhelmingly voting for Kibaki. In 2007, Raila continued on the same theme in promising to deliver that which Kibaki had failed to despite the overwhelming mandate from the people and chief among them being ushering in new reforms and adoption of a new constitution.

Again, the message was well received by the voters and he and others make the case they voted for him in the majority but he was denied the presidency thanks to electoral theft.

Raila’s message of reform, including ending impunity and corruption and returning the country to even its glory days of the past, if not better is still very popular with the people.

Several other related pros for Raila include leading a broad-based party that has nationwide support; having a strong name recognition and strong international connections that will be vital in putting our country on the map in terms of both international relations and attracting foreign investment.

Taking all of this into consideration, one cannot but conclude Raila’s coalition is far much stronger and better positioned to carry the day come Election Day having formed it is simply a precursor to winning.

*Samuel Omwenga is an investment consultant and blogger in the US. This piece was previously published by The Star newspaper Kenya


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