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Intrigues linked to 2022 polls keep Uhuru distracted from legacy push

Saturday June 27 2020
uhu

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his deputy William Ruto. The two raised their entertainment budget by Sh422 million in the nine months to March 2020, defying the government’s austerity drive. PHOTO | PSCU

By KWENDO OPANGA

It matters precious little whether or not Jubilee Asili is a registered or amorphous entity. What carries political currency is that it is linked to Deputy President William Ruto.

That makes it a party and, importantly, helps put more distance between the DP, the governing Jubilee Party and President Uhuru Kenyatta. In propaganda terms, it is advantage President Kenyatta. It is easy for the President to portray the DP’s corner as the enemy within who roiled the party high command and derailed the President’s agenda, all along aware that they would decamp at an appropriate time.

It appears that if Dr Ruto sees a banana skin the other side of the street, he will cross over so that he may slip on it. But if he is seriously considering jumping ship, he may first want to think about the timing and second about strategy. Banking on public sympathy is not a strategy.

Second, whether it was coincidence or not that Jubilee Asili surfaced as Mr Kenyatta moved to eject Mr Aden Duale from the majority leader’s perch carries no freight. What does is that Mr Kenyatta dispatched yet another important ally of Dr Ruto from a politically strategic post.

Mr Duale, like his Senate counterparts Kipchumba Murkomen, Susan Kihika and Kindiki Kithure, or his fellow National Assembly colleague Benjamin Washiali, was not removed because he was incompetent. He was just the last, but highest-ranking legislator ally of the DP’s to be toppled.

Parliament was presumed Dr Ruto’s stronghold, where, in a showdown with the President, his numbers would prevail. It was wrong to think about a showdown with the party boss in the first place. Tellingly, the power of the presidency prevailed and the DP’s allies did not stand up to be counted. Importantly, four moves that have shown that the President does not mind a bloodbath in a ruthless pursuit of his agenda have left Dr Ruto without any of his allies holding any of the leadership positions in the twin Houses of Parliament.

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Their 50-50 seat sharing agreement is dead in the water. However, the President’s sword is double-edged. His every manoeuvre and move on the chessboard makes clear his legacy will be largely about his management of his succession than about his promised double-digit economic growth or achievement of his legacy-themed Big Four initiatives.

Suffice to say the economy was struggling before the Covid-19 crisis struck. And while the President swiftly locked down parts of the country, and put in place containment measures, their adverse effects on all sectors of the economy will still be painfully felt long after Mr Kenyatta has left office.

Covid-19 may be a natural disaster but the disastrous effects of the President’s handling of it, perceived or actual, are political and he will carry the can into his retirement.  All things being equal, the stark differences between Kenya and Tanzania will be a factor in the 2022 General Election.

In fact, the economy is not top on every Kenyan mind aware of the country’s politics. It is the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), not the largely out-of-sight intellectual-cum-bureaucratic-cum-technocratic panel, but the euphoric festivals of cacophony that have been the weekend rallies.

While BBI is sold as a unity-seeking project keen to give Kenya a national ethos and path to prosperity, these themes are not dwelt upon, much less explained, at BBI rallies. Here the DP is barracked as corrupt, while Mr Odinga, a prime mover of BBI with the President, is hero-worshipped.

Though time is of the essence, management of it has clearly not been the President’s strong suit. He has spent two years fighting the deputy in a public war, the reason for which remains unknown, but whose every battle is linked to the 2022 presidential poll.

The President would like to build 500,000 housing units every year, but that is not happening. He would love to leave behind a universal, accessible and affordable healthcare system, but he will exit before that happens. Ditto the remainder of the Big Four.

Now that means if Dr Ruto, in Jubilee or not, runs for the presidency, he could argue, things went awry because he was never in the loop because Mr Odinga had to be in. If Mr Odinga will be running, and the economy remains in intensive care, he will not hesitate to dump it on the President. I told you, a Cabinet does not a legacy make.

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