Today, just like in 2001, Uhuru’s top asset is his name and dynasty

Saturday August 31 2019

The President says he is in politics to serve, to do good and to make a difference... and not because he belongs to some dynasty. Let us investigate.

Rewind to 2001. The clamour for President Moi to name his successor has reached a crescendo. The word on the street is that Kenyans are stricken by Moi fatigue.

But no rat would bell the cat. By demanding a successor, Kenyans were urging their President of 23 years to retire and usher in the change they craved.


President Moi had planned his exit, but mischievously played deaf to the clamour. Then, abruptly in 2002, came the thunderbolt that shook politics and stood prevailing wisdom on its head.

The President named a 40-year-old greenhorn and failed 1997 parliamentary candidate his chosen successor. He had no proven managerial experience in politics or business.


His sole asset was his name: Uhuru Kenyatta. Dad Jomo Kenyatta was Kenya's founding president and founder of the Kenyatta (business) dynasty. Now the son would lead Kanu into Kenya's ninth General Election.

Humiliated, heavyweight presidential hopefuls quit Kanu. Kenyans in turn voted against Mr Kenyatta, persuaded he was Moi Mark II and his rise a pointer to upcoming Kabarak and Gatundu political dynasties.

Fast-forward to 2007. Mr Mwai Kibaki is President. Mr Raila Odinga, son of founding Vice President Oginga Odinga and founder of a (political) dynasty, is running to unseat him despite backing him in 2002. Mr Odinga dragged Mr Kenyatta into the fight.

He alleged that Mr Kibaki was plotting to hand over power to Mr Kenyatta, who would in turn pass the baton to Mr Gideon Moi, son of Kenya's second president and patriarch of the (political and business) Moi dynasty.

State House was furious. Terse and tetchy, Spokesman Isaya Kabira called the Standard:

"That story is not true."


"It is not true?", the editor ventured. Mr Kabira shot back acidly: "No. But it is hurting us."

That was exactly what Mr Odinga aimed for: Arouse the ire of the electorate against the incumbent. Kenyans, he had calculated, don't like dynasties.

Enter 2013. President Kibaki is retiring and Mr Kenyatta is desperate to be president. Mr Odinga could be president if he plays two cards right: The crimes-against-humanity charges against Mr Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto, and the dynasty tag against Mr Kenyatta.

His timing for both is disastrous. Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto skilfully milk their arraignment at The Hague. The colonialists jailed Jomo and now have come for the son, went the propaganda mill. Kenyatta's son was elected, Odinga's thwarted.

Forward to 2019. Mr Kenyatta is President and Mr Odinga is desperate to succeed him. Standing in his way is Deputy President Ruto, the self-declared poor man's son come good.

In Mr Odinga's corner is President Kenyatta! He has reneged on a pact to support Dr Ruto for the presidency in 2022. Also against Dr Ruto is Moi the younger.

Dr Ruto's corner could not miss such a wondrous opportunity for a powerful message. They have cast the 2022 presidential election as featuring three dynasties ganging up against a peasant's son.


Mr Kenyatta is angered by the jibe that he is President because his father was president; that his newfound ally Odinga wants to be president because his father was veep; and that Mr Moi is in on the deal because dad was president.

The suggestion that the troika have conspired to stop a Ruto presidency because he is unworthy of entry into the club of the rich, rankles with the President. Hence his robust riposte that he is driven by a desire to serve, do good and make a difference. That means President Moi read it right five years before the constituents of Gatundu South.

But in 2002 Kenyans saw Mr Kibaki as qualified for the top job, not Project UK. Mr Odinga in 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2017 did not think UK presidential timber, but has since seen the light.

My take? Leaders are not chosen by God or electorates persuaded by one’s qualifications and character.

Manipulative and exploitative characters, malleable circumstances, sleek messaging and money, have propelled motley figures into leadership in Brazil, the Philippines, USA, DR Congo, Saudi Arabia, UK...

Mr Kenyatta is President because Presidents Kenyatta and Moi were his blood and political father respectively; then there was political 2007; and over and above all, the dynasty. Politics is about power, not doing good.

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