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How Uhuru treats Raila will make or break Kenya in 2022

Sunday January 12 2020

Building Bridges Initiative

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga demonstrate their cordial relationship during the annual prayer breakfast in Nairobi on May 31, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta is many things. He’s the scion of Jomo and Mama Ngina Kenyatta. In 2002, when he ran as Kanu’s presidential candidate, I heard echoes of the Burning Spear in him.


Those who knew Mr Kenyatta, the father, attested to his fierceness — a character trait symbolised by his penetrating lion’s eyes. He was a nationalist, one of the greatest Pan-Africanists of his time. 

In his later years, Mzee, as he was popularly known, betrayed parts of that iconic legacy. One of those betrayals was that of the indomitable Oginga Odinga, the father of ODM’s Raila Odinga. Mzee’s betrayal of Jaramogi was a historical disgrace, and changed the trajectory of Kenya’s history. Will Uhuru, like Mzee, betray Raila?

If Mr Kenyatta betrays Mr Odinga, he will be repeating history. You know what they say — those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. I don’t write this column lightly, and it’s not because I seek any particular outcome in 2022. 



Mr Kenyatta’s irascible deputy, the precocious William Ruto, has managed the impossible — he’s put the Kikuyu elite asunder while gluing together the motley Kalenjin. 

It’s a feat that’s never been accomplished by anyone outside the House of Mumbi. In the past, only Kikuyus have been successful splittists against fellow Kikuyus. It’s a completely different matter whether the Kikuyu hoi polloi are also split.

I raise this issue because it has the potential to upend Mr Kenyatta’s legacy, the only royalty the Kikuyu have known since Mzee’s release from Lodwar. This is the question — will Mr Kenyatta squander the family legacy? Is the man from Gatundu so wobbly that pedestrians like MPs Moses Kuria, Alice Wahome, Ndindi Nyoro can eat his lunch? 

The aforementioned aren’t even fit to tie Mr Kenyatta’s shoes. Which begs the question — is Mr Ruto’s mojo or “kamuti” [Kamba aphrodisiac] so potent he can turn into Lazarus even the least consequential of Kikuyu anti-Kenyatta noisemakers? Or is the reverse true — that Mr Kenyatta is inept at using the instruments of power?


I have seen Mr Kenyatta bloviate often since the Handshake with Mr Odinga. He’s more or less told Mr Ruto and his nattering nabobs of negativism to go drown themselves in Lake Victoria. But like the tilapia, Mr Ruto’s brigade, especially those from Kikuyu Country, have dared him to show them his fangs. “Come baby, come” they taunt Mr Kenyatta in the tradition of the man with the same name twice, Miguna Miguna, or as TV guru Jeff Koinange calls him, Njuguna Njuguna. Is it possible that Mr Kenyatta, a graduate of the prestigious Amherst College, is less adept at wielding state power than the virtually illiterate former President Daniel Arap Moi? When will Kamwana learn how to govern?

My guess is that eventually the deep state will have its way and that Mr Ruto and his satellites will burn off and crash like meteors. But will the deep state consign Mr Ruto and his ilk to the dustbin of history because of Mr Kenyatta, or in spite of him?


In other words, will Mr Kenyatta become his father’s son with respect to Mr Odinga? Jaramogi denied himself pride of place to take the helm of Kenya at independence so that Mr Kenyatta could be freed and lead the country to uhuru. Jaramogi’s scion, Raila, shelved his march to Canaan to save Kenya from collapse by “shaking” Mr Kenyatta’s hand. He freed Mr Kenyatta from Mr Ruto.

How will Mr Kenyatta repay Mr Odinga? Will he repeat his father’s mistake by eviscerating Mr Odinga in 2022? These aren’t idle questions. Those who’ve studied African history understand the stakes. 

The Handshake saved Kenya from economic and political collapse, but the country sits on tenterhooks. People are angry. Hope is in short supply. Who can restore hope in 2022? Will Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga become the kingmakers, or will Mr Kenyatta agree to pass the crown to Mr Odinga? Or will Mr Ruto run circles around both of them and extend Kenya’s Kikuyu-Kalenjin ruling diarchy?


If so, will Kenya survive the 2022 elections? Or is there a dark horse stalking the landscape ready to rescue Kenya?

I know this. Kenya’s journey to nationhood is unfinished. We are a country but a nation we aren’t. 

That’s why the economist David Ndii called Kenya a cruel marriage and urged a divorce. 

Part of the answer to that question lies in the exclusion of all other nationalities from power by the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. 

My fear is that it will be too much for the country to bear should the Kikuyu-Kalenjin diarchy continue in power in 2022. That may be a breaking point. 


That’s why I believe how Mr Kenyatta deals Mr Odinga — and how both of them approach 2022 — may make or break Kenya. God save us all.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.​