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How calculated, ruthless strategy won it for Uhuru

Saturday August 12 2017

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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election is a culmination of meticulous planning and long hours on the campaign trail that left the opposition playing catch up.

The consolidation of several Jubilee coalition parties into a single monolith, unashamed use of the government machinery, holding out development sweeteners, and a ruthless social media propaganda campaign, delivered victory to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto ticket.

With elections out of the way, the president will probably want to move swiftly on the promises that could secure his legacy.

He faces the challenge of sustaining the development momentum at a time the economy is hard-pressed and public debt edging towards worrying levels.

He also starts his second stint in office with a country split down the middle after a bitter election campaign whose outcome has been disputed by the opposition.

Healing and reconciliation might thus have to be high on his agenda.



But he might be distracted by tussling over the succession as Deputy President William Ruto moves to cement his bid for the 2022 elections.

President Kenyatta seems personally committed to keeping his promise to back Mr Ruto next time around, but many around him, including a powerful Central Kenya grouping of family and wealthy businessmen, who would prefer to front their own candidate.

This group would look dimly at any suggestion that the president sits back as a lame duck in his final term and cedes power to his deputy.

Another tussle in the offing is that when it comes to community political leadership, there is no  obvious candidate from Central Kenya at present ready to pick up the baton when President Kenyatta finally bows out.

For the moment, however, Jubilee can revel in victory, and it has been a long, hard journey.


From mid-2015 when the government seemed to be floundering under widespread dissatisfaction with the stalled war on corruption and unfulfilled campaign promises, onto the voter registration of 2016 when Jubilee zones seemed to suffer serious apathy, the Jubilee duo approached the elections looking particularly vulnerable.

That they managed to overcome all the disadvantages and secure a first-round victory is testament to the single-minded determination on the election campaign.

The Jubilee campaign managed to deflect attention from the shortcomings of its administration by instead turning the focus to the weaknesses of the opposition, while playing up its own success stories, particularly in infrastructure development.

From the word go when it united Mr Kenyatta’s TNA, Mr Ruto’s URP and another dozen or so affiliates into a single party, the campaign started playing up the disorganisation and discord in opposition ranks.

When the President and his deputy were already settled on retaining their line-up and starting to hit the campaign trail, the key leaders in the rival Cord coalition — losing 2013 presidential candidate Mr Raila Odinga of ODM and running mate Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper party, as well as Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula of Ford Kenya — were still squabbling over the presidential ticket.


Cord seemed set to present a really formidable challenge when it morphed into the National Super Alliance (Nasa) with expansion of its gallery of principals to include Mr Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.

The mathematics suggested that Mr Mudavadi, a 2013 presidential candidate who had worked hard to secure his place as    the main Luhya kingpin, would add considerable votes to the Nasa tally.

Another was that the Bomet governor who had rebelled against his Rift Valley namesake, the Deputy President, would exploit traditional sub-ethnic rivalries to help Nasa penetrate part of the Rift Valley Jubilee strongholds fortress.

It didn’t happen. Mr Mudavadi may have added his western Kenya vote to the Nasa basket, but that was what he won in 2013 rather than anything being taken from Jubilee.

And as for Isaac Ruto, he brought nothing of note to Nasa vote tally. He even lost his seat to Joyce Laboso because he was seen as a traitor to the wider community cause that is focussed on backing William Ruto to succeed President Kenyatta in 2022.

Those two examples illustrate the successful Jubilee strategy that was grounded in holding on fiercely to its 2013 strongholds of Rift Valley and Central Kenya, while aggressively moving to penetrate Nasa turf in Lower Eastern, Coast, parts of Western and Nyanza, as well as battleground regions.


Jubilee also launched vicious propaganda campaigns on vernacular radio stations, social media and campaigns forums, full of scare stories about the prospects of an Odinga victory.

That might have served to ensure superior voter turnout in Central and Rift Valley.

Jubilee suffered its teething problems once it united that were seen in some notable fallouts at the nominations.

It suffered its share of rebellions to independent tickets, and some awkward situations when it came to managing relations between Jubilee candidates, and aspirants from so-called ‘friendly parties’ outside the common umbrella that had endorsed President Kenyatta’s re-election. 


Jubilee strategists had identified opposition zones of Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Garissa, Marsabit, Bungoma, Kitui, Machakos, Busia as areas that could be courted and increase to the numbers.

A look at 2013 voting patterns and 2017 results show that the gamble paid off.

Use of state resources provided an inbuilt advantage, with government helicopters ferrying the president and his deputy and well as state cars they and their aides used, all fuelled by the state went a big way in channelling the party budget to other areas.

The massive advertising campaign showcasing cabinet secretaries as they explained  Jubilee accomplishments were also paid by Presidential Delivery Unit which is a government department. The advertisements ran for close to three months in television and radio stations.