As President Uhuru Kenyatta remains with just about a year to complete his two terms tenure, there are volcanic eruptions at the mountain and the once united voting block is met with challenges that threatens a schism - Will they keep their votes in one basket? Can Uhuru, a perceived kingpin reorganize his backyard?
Kenyan politics is deeply poralized within tribal lines. Political parties and coalition alliances usually have an ethnic outlook. In fact, before giving the presidency a shot, one must ensure that he/she can mobilize his "own people" behind him even before giving a thought to his manifesto and how to drum up national support for their candidature. In simple terms, can they be the tribal chief?
Therefore, naturally, this has usually created a tribal kingpin - the spokesperson (or supreme leader) for an ethnic group or a region. This populism appeal to an individual figure enable them to have unrivalled influence over his people to a point his political views are supported without questions because he is not only the embodiment of the grievances and solutions for that region but also a demigod leading it to a promise land. He/she can either bargain on the behalf of the region or vie assured of almost all the votes from his/her ethnicity.
However, contrary to popular belief, Uhuru Kenyatta was not a Kikuyu kingpin. Uhuru Kenyatta is not a Kikuyu kingpin.
The only reason why there are jitters in Central Kenya in 2022 succession politics is because Uhuru Kenyatta is not able to convince the region to accept the handshake and a possible political pact with his former archrival ODM leader Raila Odinga after a fallout with his Deputy President William Ruto. This is a testimony that he is not the absolute leader and unrivalled kingpin of Central Kenya.
If the Luo Nyanza who bore the brunt of 2017 disputed election witnessing police brutality and worst human atrocity, can easily fall behind the commander in chief who, because the buck stops with him, was directly involved in issuing orders resulting to the deaths of former IEBC ICT Director Chris Msando, babiy Mutinda, Pendo and Moraa, among other causalities the hotly contested general election, what's very difficult for Uhuru Kenyatta in convincing Mount Kenya, a beneficiary of the 2017 charade who has nothing to lose?
The answer is simple. Uhuru Kenyatta is not to Kikuyu what Raila Odinga is to the Luo Nation or William Ruto is to Kalenjins - Kingpin. However, why do people assume that Uhuru Kenyatta is the tribal chief of Central Kenya?
The short answer is that among many factors, Railaphobia in Kikuyu, the Kalenjin-Kikuyu unity and perceived as Moi preference for presidency (at the request of founding father Mzee Jomo), Uhuru has always enjoyed the regions support even without being it's Kingpin. But the long answer is what we are about to get on.
In 2002, when Moi was forced to bow out, after coming to the end of the two terms limit the second liberation had offered in the constitution, he settled on Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor. Even though it could be viewed through the lenses of a fulfilment of some secret pact with the late Jomo Kenyatta, it still left many shocked and dismayed. But because Moi was the kingpin of Kalenjins, the son of Jomo Kenyatta was sure of basketing votes from the Rift and William Ruto aware of influence of Moi on the ground, came a long as his deputy even when he was sure they stood no chance in the rest of the country. That young inexperienced and politically immature candidature compared to the opponents in the newly formed coalition (Narck) comprising of all opposition outfits, garnered more than 1.8 millions vote. Kibaki needed to double this(3.6 millions) to win the 2002 contest but it underscore Moi's hold on Kalenjin who had entrusted these two boys with the presidency just because a kingpin thought the same. However, it had kicked off Uhuru's ambitious political career from a position of privilege - Kenyan politicians usually do not begin from the top(presidency) but at least wins some ward, constituency before thinking about leading the country but here was Uhuru.
More importantly, the mountain voted for Mwai Kibaki overwhelmingly despite having Uhuru Kenyatta in the race. Realizing that the Makerere University graduate was still a reckoning force in the region, the son of Jomo would throw his weight behind him in 2007 election that ended in a post election violence and a coalition government he would be made the minister for finance and Deputy Prime Minister. Coupled with the exit of Kibaki in 2013, these positions and having shelved his previous ambition to support the Othaya MP, there was a feeling that he was the next big thing in the region. He was not necessarily thought of as a kingpin but at least enough had prepared him for this and had an appropriate CV for State House.
But 2013 polls would be won with completely different issues. Apart from the fact that Mwai Kibaki subtly preferred Uhuru over Martha Marua, Peter Kenneth and Paul Muite, the political pact between Uhuru and Ruto meant a reunion for Kalenjins and Kikuyus who had been previously on each other throats in 2007. To take it to the next level, the two having been accused of worst crimes against humanity in an International Criminal Court, the two communities thought that a vote on Uhuruto was a move to rescue them from the jaws of Moreno Ocampo. Once again, Raila was painted as the devil orchestrating these hellish false accusations to lock the two thus, as a people of God, they were going to do everything within their power to send him to Bondo. So that you see a Uhuru Kenyatta becoming president, not because of being a kingpin but because of a plethora of factors working on his favour - ICC, regional unity (tyranny of numbers), Railaphobia, destined Moi political child, son of Jomo Kenyatta, among many others.
The situation was not any different in 2017 when incumbency and Railaphobia would still play a crucial role in rallying for Kikuyu vote, even though coming short of winning the presidency, if NASA's claim leading to the voiding of the election is to be taken seriously.
Now that he is a lame duck President with no goodies or threats to offer for the future, leaders from his backyard have publicly disrespected him including his own area MP handing him a shellacking in Juja polls. Because he is not a kingpin, lacking a direct influence on the mountain, his former allies are convinced that they can continue the journey under the leadership of an outsider (Ruto) than waiting for his direction, without writing a political obituary.
Imagine if someone pulled such a move at Raila in Nyanza or William Ruto in Rift Valley. In fact, you do not have to imagine; when James Orengo ran for presidency against Raila-Tosha Kibaki, he did not only lose by far but also had to salvage his dwindling political career by begging Raila to be back home, and since then, has been his greatest backer and adviser. When Isaac Ruto felt that he was worth his salt and became a NASA principal contrary to the Uhuruto direction the kingpin had given the region, he was crushed by a woman for Bomet gubernatorial seat and he has now knelt before Ruto to have him back home as they focus on 2022. Such are the unshakeable power of a kingpin and Uhuru is, sadly, not one.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL AREGA AND EUGYNE OCHIENG