The battle is between Jubilee and the National Super Alliance. Already the swords are drawn, but what is at stake for Kenyans as we head to the elections?
By Tom Mboya
Kenyans go to the polls on August 8, and as usual the stakes are very high. For the ruling Jubilee coalition, this year’s elections are very important as they would want to prove that their 2013 victory was not a fluke.
Winning this election would help Jubilee debunk the theory that the siege mentality they created among their supporters was responsible for their win. The siege mentality resulted when then presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto turned their misery into an opportunity.
After the two were hauled to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to face crimes against humanity charges, their message took a different turn. The duo insisted that some Kenyans—read opposition leader, Raila Odinga—had connived with some imperialist forces to have them jailed. The message resonated well with their support base, which turned out in droves to vote for them.
This time round there are no looming ICC summons; therefore, Uhuru and Ruto will have to get back to power through the sweat of their brows.
Getting back to power is a critical affair for DP Ruto, considering that he carries the burden of overseeing Jubilee’s prophecy that they will rule Kenya until 2032. By all indications, if Uhuru gets back to State House, his will be a laid back affair reminiscent of Mwai Kibaki’s second tenure.
Such an occurrence will see Ruto play a more prominent role in running the affairs of the republic in readiness to take over from Uhuru come 2022.
Ruto’s current grip on Kalenjin politics is not as solid as compared to Raila’s hold on to Luoland or Uhuru’s stake in Mount Kenya. The man is forever facing strident albeit spontaneous opposition from Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi. However, if Jubilee gets a second chance at leadership, things are bound to be different.
With a retreating Uhuru, Ruto—who isn’t hesitant at playing hard-tackle politics—will consolidate his stranglehold on the Kalenjins, thereby making them perceive him as a realistic chance of getting back the presidency, which they last had in 2002 when Daniel arap Moi retired.
On the opposition benches, the sense of urgency is even more palpable especially if they pick Raila as their candidate. By all indications, including age, this will be the former Prime Minister’s last chance to be president.
The Jubilee coalition has never stopped reminding Raila of his age, saying that it was time he left the political playing field for younger blood. In retort, Raila’s supporters reel off the names like Donald Trump of the United States, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, all of whom recently got to power in their 70s.
It would therefore be a do or die for Raila.
Various factors will influence this year’s elections, one of which is tribal voting patterns. As they have told us time and again, the Jubilee nabobs will be relying on their ‘tyranny of numbers’ to sail home. As presently constituted, this tyranny ropes in the two major tribes, the Kikuyu and Kalenjin and their satellite tribes: Meru and Embu for the Kikuyus and the pastoralist tribes for the Kalenjins.
However, if the frenzy of whipping Kenyans to register as voters is anything to go by, the opposition is convinced that with good turnout, they can send Jubilee packing.
The other dominating issue is corruption. Raila has made the fight against corruption his key campaign plank and the government, through the many scandals, has not let him down in providing fodder for his broadsides. Just recently Raila declared that the country was too corrupt to be redeemed. A few days later, Transparency International issued their annual ranking in which Kenya had slid further on the corruption index.
The collapsing economy and ensuing rise in the cost of living coupled with runaway unemployment will be a major issue of debate. The limping economy has seen many firms close shop or move their operations to other countries leading to job losses.
There is no doubt that the current drought and how the government manages it will also feature. The opposition believes that the Jubilee administration has a cavalier attitude in solving the matter while on its part the government says it has done the best in alleviating against the calamity.