The New Year is, by all indications, going to inherit the grandstanding and dogfights that have characterised the political arena in 2017.
Already, the opposition plans to unveil its programme of civil disobedience against Jubilee which, in turn, is digging in for a fight, signalling tough times for Kenyans already fatigued by a long- drawn electioneering period.
Nasa disputes President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the repeat poll on October 26, an exercise it boycotted, claiming the playing field was not level. Jubilee, on the other hand, maintains that the time for politicking is over and it is time the country got down to business.
“Within the first week of the New Year, we will unveil a programme for civil disobedience, peaceful protests, non-cooperation with and resistance to an illegitimate regime in addition to People’s Assemblies.
Nasa’s position remains that until electoral justice is achieved, we will not recognise the Jubilee regime and the so-called election of Uhuru Kenyatta as President,” opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Saturday, prompting an immediate response from Deputy President William Ruto.
“We have laws. We should not attempt to bend them to favour us. We should not discard them because we are not comfortable. We should not ask to change them because of self-interest. The future’s only promise lies in protecting these laws and enhancing them whether they favour us or not,” Mr Ruto fired back.
He accused Nasa of seeking to stoke violence in the country to occasion anarchy.
“Some have continued to fan the embers of violence, but Kenyans have outrightly rejected this path. Kenya has earned its respect courtesy of a difficult and even tragic past,” the DP told the Nation.
Mr Odinga said their opponents have an option of agreeing to have the contentious matters resolved at the earliest opportunity, “or we may very soon not have a nation”.
“The imperial presidency that we sought to contain is rearing its head again, interfering with and intimidating other institutions. We cannot stand by and watch as the monster rises again. Soon, it will be too late.”
He further warned that the only way Jubilee can avoid Nasa’s wrath is by agreeing to dialogue on electoral reforms.
“We can sit down on the negotiating table with our Jubilee opponents and discuss how to fix our electoral system, reform the Executive, protect the Judiciary, reform the security sector and strengthen devolution. We are ready for such dialogue as long as these issues are on the table. Alternatively, we take the issues to the people and let them decide without the involvement of the State,” the former prime minister said.
Mr Kenyatta’s close ally and Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale ruled out the possibility of such talks. “President Kenyatta is ready for dialogue on his Big Four legacy projects,” he stated.
Foreign envoys led by the US Ambassador Robert Godec and religious leaders have tried to get the two factions to the negotiating table with little success.
Some have sought to link prospects of such talks to Mr Kenyatta’s delay in naming his cabinet with suggestions he could be keen to incorporate opposition figures in his government as part of the settlement.
And with Nasa threatening to swear in Mr Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka as president and deputy respectively, Mr Kenyatta has a delicate challenge of addressing the rising tensions as he starts his new term.
Mr Ruto, however, insists that they will not allow any act that violates the Constitution to take place.
Jubilee’s tough talk has also been tempered with subtle gestures that they could, indeed, agree on how to move the country forward.
In instructing his troops in Parliament to support the tickets of Mr Odinga’s elder brother Oburu Oginga and Mr Musyoka’s son Kennedy for the East African Legislative Assembly, Mr Kenyatta left little doubt that, if push comes to shove, he would actually arrive on a common ground with Nasa politicians.
There are those who hold a contrary view that the move to have Dr Oburu and the young Musyoka supported was more about preserving the two dynasties than any other reason.
President Kenyatta is today expected to outline his agenda for the New Year in his address to the nation as has been the tradition in the last five years. He will be glad to bid farewell to a year which has seen more turbulence than any other under his watch, the year that saw his victory annulled by the Supreme Court before the same court upheld it after a repeat exercise.
His handlers who are privy to details of the speech told the Nation that he will dwell on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and inexpensive healthcare as the key areas of focus during his final term in office.
Christened as the Big Four in his Jamhuri Day address earlier in the month, Mr Kenyatta hopes to use them to transform Kenya economically and leave a lasting legacy.
“During the next five years, I will dedicate the energy, time and resources of my administration to the Big Four,” said the President.
“The big shift from politics for politics’ sake to the politics of production is a beacon of hope. However, I know it will attract cynics and pessimists but we will not be distracted. Let me emphasise that the big shift cannot and will not be achieved by me and Jubilee alone. It will need all of us.”
In the plan to have an estimated 500,000 Kenyans own houses, the government will reduce the cost of mortgages and cut the cost of construction through the use of innovative technologies and materials. Low-cost funds will be raised from the private and public sectors for investment in large-scale house projects.
Mr Kenyatta is, however, faced with a divided nation owing to a protracted electioneering period.
He has the task of uniting the country and one such big step will be seen in the composition of his cabinet. Those around him say he is keen to start on the right footing by broadly reaching out to even those regions that did not support his re-election.