2012: KIBAKI MIGHT GO BEFORE IT’S OVER
By Elly Omondi Odhiambo
To many, the Kenyan realpolitik might just be turning very unpredictable. Even with the new constitution, season politicians, first-timers in Parliament, the general population are agreeable on one thing, the Kibaki succession story is a very ambiguous affair. It has to be handled with extreme care to avoid a future crisis in this country. The pollster phenomenon that has now become mainstream, since the post-Daniel Arap Moi period is also fixated with numbers about what people’s lay opinion is on 2012 politics. But these opinion polls would render silent the political manoeuvres of other ‘constitutional’ players. The media is busy churning out endless stories about political alliances, often as a proxy role for politicians in PNU or ODM parties. With all the weekend public rally noises by politicians about the 2012 power game reaching a crescendo, the uncertainty of these mortals is making one person very panicky. In this transitional sport, were elections called today, who will be the next President after Mwai Kibaki? Only Mr. Kibaki has the secret weapon, his resignation or early exit of the earlier disputed presidency. We all remember the narrative of Mr. Kibaki’s second term and his the twilight swearing in ceremony at State House, Nairobi. In November this year, the President will be celebrating his eightieth birthday. To put it crudely, he has nothing to lose, Kibaki does not need any more power than what he currently enjoys, what he wants is a smooth exit. Furthermore as a pragmatist in the real sense of the word, he does not think that he can add any new value to the executive presidency in the months left after the quiet birthday anniversary.
However, some of the political shenanigans being displayed by generally junior politicians or political megaphones of the real candidates places Mr. Kibaki and his smooth exit plan from statehouse a lot more dishonourable. Ironically these unsophisticated politicians are known to be playing a surrogate role for Kibaki the practical politician. Some of the candidates who have declared their intention to stand for presidency in next year’s elections are clearly in big trouble, namely responding to the international summons at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Mr. William Ruto and Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and their indictment at the International Court put a very precarious spin to the uncertainty of the Kibaki succession story. Whether Kenyans like it or not, the combined Rift Valley region and Central Province electorate is a key bloc for determining Kenya’s succession politics and any person thinking otherwise must be living on a different political planet. In essence, this analysis does not make an assumption that Mr. Ruto and his Gatundu South counterpart are absolutely indispensible to their regional constituents, certainly not to the national vote. But what is worrying Mr. Kibaki is the fast changing pragmatic events that are taking place in Nairobi, including challenging his very own brand of practicality that is borne out of diplomatic responses to crises. It is because of Mr. Kibaki’s silent intervention that PNU for example has laboriously rebranded itself in preparation for 2012. Again, Mr. Kibaki has nothing to lose.
So what is going to happen? What most commentators are quite afraid of saying is the possibility of President Kibaki calling it a day before this term is over. It is perfectly constitutional, this action will not amount to a crisis and more importantly, none of the declared candidates would be surprised. It must be noted that the succession debate started in earnest more than two years ago, soon after the coalition government was formed. Mr. Kibaki has every right to politically abdicate and enjoy his octogenarian birthday out of office if he dims fit. Such a likelihood is the dream of many a Kenyan presidential candidate, Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka his deputy, would be in the short term, be the biggest beneficiary. But this does not mean that Mr. Kalonzo will win the presidential elections because in the eyes of Kenyans he has the biggest homework to make public who he really is. His political strategy would still be in question; who would form an alliance with Kalonzo when the 2007 elections showed that the majority of his supporters came from Eastern Province, where Prime Minister Raila Odinga also won considerable votes. Do Mr. Kibaki and his Vice President know something that Kenyans don’t have a clue about in the succession plan?
The pollsters have continued to give results that indicate that were an election called tomorrow, Prime Minister Raila Odinga would win with a comfortable mandate. But as the political pyramid is gradually crumbling, realism will demonstrate that Mr. Odinga would have to work very hard to persuade the Rift Valley and Central Regions that all is not lost and that with the new constitutional dispensation, it would not be possible to use presidential powers to marginalize people because of the ethno-ideological position. Mr. Odinga can only hope for a walk out of some but not all pro-Ruto Rift Valley MPs who would then have to defend their seats on a different party ticket in the current parliament. The by-election results would then either proof Mr. Odinga and Mr. Ruto wrong or effectively vindicate one of them. Whatever happens, Mr. Kibaki does not really give a hoot!
Ms. Martha Karua, another declared presidential candidate knows only too well that in the new constitution she cannot run for another elective position. This puts her in a difficult political arithmetic; hypothetically what would she do as a former M.P who has just lost a presidential election. Just like Mr. Kalonzo, she might just go back to her legal profession fulltime. Mr. Kalonzo, the Premier and even The Hague 2, have to be particularly confident that they will win the race to the smooth transition. None of them wants to be a jobless former M.P. All this untidy speculation gives Mr. Kibaki the King or Queen maker, stature he does not particularly relish given his pragmatic politics. Let’s all wait and see.
Elly Omondi Odhiambo is a Research Associate based in Northern Ireland.