Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TWO ISSUES THAT WILL DICTATE KENYA'S MID AND LONG-TERM POLITICAL DIRECTION

Two events - both of a political nature but with a different cast of characters - will most likely dictate the medium and long term political direction Kenya will take as it tries to define its democratic route.

No. I am not talking about the ideological discourse that has been going on for weeks relating to Kenya's perceived close relations with the East as opposed to the West; nor am I alluding to the fights over whether or not to impeach Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru.

I am talking about the unfolding events in the Rift Valley in which the leading player is the Deputy President, William Ruto; and the issues surrounding the return home of CORD leader Raila Odinga, whose two months sojourn in the United States has fanned a lot of speculation in the social media.

Signs are already there that some parts of the expansive Rift Valley, which voted almost to a man and a woman in the 2013 presidential elections for Ruto's United Republican Party, are re-evaluating their support for the Jubilee Coalition. Already, rebel MPs there have warned President Kenyatta and Ruto not to underrate "the boiling political heat" in the region.

It is said that penye moshi hapakosi moto (where there is smoke there is fire). The noise emanating from that vote-rich region is something the ruling coalition must not ignore. I say this because that noise could be the genesis of a profound political game changer.

If the rebels manage to convince their kins to move away from the Coalition because they are dissatisfied with the way the Government is treating them, then it will certainly derail President Kenyatta's development agenda and upset his declared desire to retain power for the next twenty years. Uhuru knows that and hence his tour of Eldoret - the political nerve centre of the region - this week.

But more importantly the shift away from Jubilee will put Ruto - the person responsible for getting the Kalenjin from ODM to Jubilee - in a politically delicate position. He will then have to make a critical decision: to go along with his people or stay put in Jubilee and risk isolation. Either way, the Coalition will suffer. In the meantime, the big question is: will the forces now fighting Ruto gain enough traction to render the Jubilee Government unworkable? Time will tell.

Now to ODM and CORD. In the absence of Raila, the opposition has been virtually dormant. It was only very recently, buoyed by the impending return of their party leader, that functionaries woke up from their slumber. It is now clear, more than ever that Raila is CORD and CORD is Raila.

What Kenyans should be asking is what new things Raila is bringing back to his party after a long sabbatical steeped in controversy? If he is coming back with fresh, innovative ideas to re-energise his Coalition in order to bring peaceful change in the way the country is governed, then his credentials as a democrat will have another feather.

However, if he decides to subscribe to the kind of chest-thumping and baneful rhetoric we have been hearing lately from his juniors, then the next three-and half years to the polls would be very bumpy for Kenya.

I hope he embraces the former.

And that is my say.