Let me start with three uncomfortable truths about Kenya’s presidential elections.
One, since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992 the presidential vote has been decided on tribal lines. The exception was 2002 and it was because the two top candidates were from the same ethnic group. Two, each of these elections has been determined by seven tribes; the Kikuyus, Luhyas, Kalenjins, Luos, Kambas, Kisii and Meru, who together make up 75 percent of Kenya’s population.
Three, since we embraced multiparty politics every election where an incumbent has been defending his seat has had some sort of violence. However whereas in the first two such elections (1992 and 1997) there was what has been referred to as ‘controlled violence’ in ‘defence’ of the incumbent, the violence in 2007 was instigated by the Opposition against government.
In the 2013 elections the seven communities above were clothed in different political parties. TNA was for the Kikuyu; URP for the Kalenjin; Wiper for the Kamba, Ford-Kenya and Amani for the Luhya, ODM for the Luo, APK for the Meru and Ford-People for the Kisii. As we head into the 2017 elections the tribal political formations are still the same though they are organized under two main coalitions; Jubilee, which is in government; and CORD, which is the Opposition.
Today three of the seven communities; the Kikuyu, Meru and Kalenjin are formally organized under Jubilee and ready to defend their incumbency in 2017. The other four – the Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kisii are organised as Opposition and are meant to challenge Jubilee. However the Opposition coalition is struggling to stay together as shown by Moses Wetangula’s troubled presidential launch a few weeks ago.
As we head into 2017 there are several things we must expect.
One, Jubilee will stay together up to 2017. This is primarily due to the collapse of the ICC case against Ruto last week. They are also in charge of government so they have more opportunities to keep everyone in the coalition happy.
Two, CORD will collapse before 2017. This is because they have only one position to compete for; the running mate and deputy presidency. (I think only a child would believe that the Opposition presidential candidate will be anyone else but Raila Odinga). I can bet that once one of the two main tribal formations in the opposition gets the running mate position, the others will leave, and most probably into Jubilee.
Three, Jubilee will leverage CORD’s fall-out. This is because Jubilee needs at least one more of the seven communities to guarantee a win. Jubilee also needs to win in the first round if we are to ensure that the opposition does not instigate political violence. I therefore expect Jubilee to create opportunities to entice one or two of the other communities in CORD, to their side. For example the Nairobi tribal arithmetic is such that if the Kikuyu decide to support either a Luhya or Kamba candidate for Nairobi governor, it’s a done deal.
Four, the Opposition cannot win the 2017 elections. The four communities that make up Cord cannot mobilise enough numbers to get 50pc+1 of the presidential vote. However they can stop Jubilee from winning in the first round, instigate political violence as we head into the run-off and force a coalition government. This worked in 2007 and it’s the only way they can get into government. All they need is to ensure that they delegitimize any institution that could resolve a political dispute in 2017.
This is Kenya’s political outlook as we head into 2017.
(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Affairs Consultancy)