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Monday, January 30, 2012
Uhuru, Ruto newfound unity after indictment
By Peter Opiyo
A groundswell beneath Kenya’s political arena is determining the drift of debate on the Kibaki succession, and it is firmly linked to the indictment by the International Criminal Court of four Kenyans, and specifically, two former political rivals who are now united in adversity.
It has brought forth what The Economist described as the ‘Coalition for the Accused’’, whose kingpins are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret MP William Ruto. They were friends under retired President Moi, parted ways in 2007 as one went to President Kibaki and the other to Deputy Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Now they have reunited to fight for Kibaki’s shoes and stop Raila.
To do this, they are marshaling the Rift Valley and Central Kenya votes, and hope to spice them with others they can harvest across the country to make it to State House.
Questions may be asked about how far their unity will go, who will be subordinate to who, and how will ICC affect their chances, but one thing is clear — they are determined to ride on both the ICC and Kibaki succession waves, and not be buried by either.
The two have raised political temperatures in the country by drawing large crowds and making heavy political statements, notwithstanding calls that they opt out of the presidential race until cleared of the ICC charges, which they plan to appeal. Their justification is that ICC has clarified the cases do not bar them from doing so and neither do they take away their liberties.
"Those saying that Ruto and me cannot run for Presidency are undemocratic because the holder of that office can only be determined by Kenyans," argued Uhuru in Ruiru on Saturday.
But despite their denials Uhuru and Ruto are treating the court case filed by civil society groups to stop their bids with caution, and sources reveal a committee will be selected to propose two popular leaders to be on standby should the courts decide to ban them. This means they could compromise on a joint candidate if locked out.
So far Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa, former Speaker Francis Ole Kaparo and Cabinet Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere have been reported to be on their probable shortlist. There are also those who claim Mr Musalia Mudavadi, who is Raila’s deputy in ODM, could also have been quietly consulted on whether he could accept to walk out and be the alternative candidate should Ruto and Uhuru not be able to run.
An Assistant minister familiar with the alternative plan, and who would not want to be named because it is a matter that is still under wraps, explained nothing had been decided although a five-man committee had been mooted. But he promised more would be coming soon.
"We are looking at all options. Some of us are not getting very favourable coverage in the media, but this team will surprise many as we are capable of helping anyone to win by a landslide," he said.
"The names of either Mr Eugene Wamalwa or Mr Musalia Mudavadi have been floated, but such a thing can only come after a countrywide tour which now takes us to Meru, Kitale and Machakos," added the MP.
It also emerged that a group led by Transport Minister Amos Kimunya had been tasked to court Mudavadi since last October. Wamalwa is said to have been the only MP who spent the whole evening with Uhuru at his home after the ruling.
What has catapulted Ruto and Uhuru to the top of political debate is how the ICC ruling seems to have brought them together, a fact demonstrated by their joint rallies in Eldoret and Thika on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Before they went to The Hague last year, they were prayed for jointly at a service addressed by Uhuru’s mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, in Gatundu.
They also have become close to the extent that Uhuru now is among those donning a cap decorated with the colours of the national flag, which Ruto came up with. To cap the friendship, they hug in political rallies, just to drive the message of solidarity home.
Sources explained they would push their luck to the very end lest they anger their followers, despite the simmering talk of a compromise candidate.
There is also the possibility they may decide to share out the positions of President, Vice President, Parliamentary Majority Leader and Senate Majority Leader to appease their followers and to ensure everyone has a piece of the political pie.
After their initial appearance at The Hague in April last year the unity between Uhuru and Ruto appeared to have slowed only to resurrect after ICC judges dropped the bombshell on Monday.
Political scientist Mr Mutahi Ngunyi argues the two would mount a fierce tussle for the PM if they stick together.
"If they come together they will beat Raila in the first round of voting," he said in a recent interview with a local TV station.
He said the two are the biggest winners in the ICC ruling pointing out, "they would fight to their last energies because they are wounded."
Another political analyst Prof Macharia Munene argues the two are driven by the common issue of answering to the charges at The Hague and the choice of their backyards is to gauge the public mood and seek moral reinforcement ahead of the elections.
"It is only natural that they go to their homes to get moral reinforcement, but whether this translates into a national reinforcement is another matter," says Munene, who lectures at United States International University.
But he points out that their unity does not pose a threat to Raila so long as the orange party strengthens itself ahead of the polls.
"The claims against ODM and the PM do not help much, so it is upon ODM to strengthen itself," said Munene.
Another analyst Mr Adams Oloo agrees with Munene that the ‘unity’ poses little threat to ODM, but warns the Orange party against sitting pretty. "ODM has to remain focused and be prepared for one scenario: either of unity or of disunity," says Oloo.
Both Uhuru and Ruto have one common denominator: their claim that Raila is behind their tribulations at The Hague. But the PM and his allies have dismissed them, pointing out that it was the same MPs following them who ganged up in Febraury 2009 to defeat the attempt by Parliament to set up a local tribunal for post-election violence cases.
Kibaki and Raila led the bid, but in February 2009, MPs ganged against them and rejected the establishment of a local special tribunal, during a vote in Parliament, arguing the political class would manipulate it.
While Uhuru is Kanu Chairman, Ruto is the party leader of the new United Republican Party.
"The two can work together. The issue is how long can they work together after the objective has been achieved? For now they can work together," argued Munene.
Oloo agrees pointing out that though it is possible they could work together, they can’t stick together.
"It is most unlikely they can stick together, but it is possible they can work together," says Oloo.
Lack of structures to unite the two, he argues, would be their undoing, pointing out that Ruto has portrayed no intention to form any alliance given that he moved from ODM to form his political party.
"Apart from the rhetoric, there is no structural effort to unite the two. They are just making political capital out of the ICC ruling," says Oloo, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.