The Building Bridges Initiative report appears to put an end to the speculation that President Kenyatta may seek to extend his stay in power after the 2022 General Election through the backdoor.
While the law bars him from seeking another term, the two positions he could go for are Prime Minister or Deputy President, which would amount to a demotion.
Were he to take the PM’s post, he would have climbed down from an executive position to a largely ceremonial one, where he serves at the whims of both his successor and Parliament.
The ever shifting political alliances and the fact that the position has no security of tenure would further subject him to a real possibility of being sacked or impeached.
“Within a set number of days following the summoning of Parliament after an election, the President shall appoint as Prime Minister, an elected Member of the National Assembly from a political party having the majority of members in the National Assembly or, if no political party has the majority, one who appears to have the support of the majority of MPs,” the team recommends.
It would also mean that he contests for Gatundu South parliamentary seat, or any other constituency, to be eligible for appointment — subjecting him to a full-time campaign, having traversed the country for a higher position in three occasions — 2013 and twice in 2017.
The third time followed the voiding of his victory by the Supreme Court on the basis that the electoral body violated the law in presiding over the polls.
On Wednesday, some close allies of DP William Ruto sighed in relief that the path was now clearer for him.
They had initially been concerned that any attempt by the President to stay on in a different form would have certainly put the two at loggerheads in the next poll with the DP effectively having to forfeit the much needed support from Mr Kenyatta’s central Kenya support base to occupy State House.
“It is a done deal now that the President will not be contesting again. We believe he wants a process that is less divisive and seeking another office, among other things, would have sharply divided the country,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said that while President Kenyatta had not said he wanted to hang on, “contents of the BBI had put on ice the debate on whether he would continue ruling the country after the next elections.”
Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli’s repeated remarks that President Kenyatta was still young to go home attracted debate from the political divide, some supporting and others condemning the sentiments.
The BBI team suggested that the PM may be dismissed by the President or through a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly that wins an absolute majority.
Most analysts who Nation spoke to were of the view that had the document recommended an executive position of the premier, there would have been some remote chance that Mr Kenyatta was keen on sticking around. “The position of PM, as put forth in the report, is a non-executive one. For what purpose would Uhuru settle for that?” asked Mr Tom Mboya who teaches political science at Maseno University.
The only option, the analyst said, would be by fronting a stooge to do his bidding in a case that would mimic the Putin-Medvedev arrangement in Russia. After serving a maximum of two terms in office as stipulated by the Constitution, President Vladimir Putin sponsored Mr Dmitry Medvedev to replace him for one term, between 2008 and 2012, as he settled for the prime minister’s slot, only to come back after four years.
Medvedev is the current PM of the Russian confederation, perhaps waiting to be president again.
But Prof Amukowa Anangwe, another political scientist, advised caution. He said that where there is smoke, chances of fire remain high.
“Remember if implemented, the proposals would usher in a new Constitutional order which could see Uhuru starting on a clean slate. This is what happened in 1992. President Daniel arap Moi had served for more than 10 years and when the laws were changed to limit the presidential term, he argued that it (the law) could not be applied retroactively. He was the country’s boss for the next 10 years,” Prof Anangwe said.
He noted that having Mr Kenyatta running again is the only way to stop a Ruto takeover of central Kenya.
A number of DP Ruto’s allies have not hidden their disgust and sense of betrayal at the very idea that was quickly gaining currency in the political discourse.
And when he said Kenyans in their wisdom would decide who their next President would be, adding only God knows who it shall be, President Kenyatta was making it clear that he would not campaign for his deputy.
Last year, the President was forced to clarify to an anxious nation and especially a restive support base of his principal assistant that he was not interested in extending his rule.
DP and his handlers are convinced they will be running against opposition leader Raila Odinga, now 74.