By KIPCHUMBA SOME email@example.com
Posted Saturday, March 3 2012 at 22:30
Posted Saturday, March 3 2012 at 22:30
- Although the two have vowed to work together, questions are being raised as to who will agree to be running mate
This is the loaded question that the two presidential aspirants, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, are yet to answer: who will deputise who?
On the other hand, Mr Kenyatta’s men contend that their man is senior by virtue of having ran and lost in 2002 and has a bigger support base hence should be given the first priority. Failure to agree, it was imagined that the two leaders would marshal their supporters to support a candidate from a neutral community which has not produced a President.
But it seems that this support is rapidly growing beyond Rift Valley. Kiambu Town Mayor Joseph Ndung’u reckons that Mr Mudavadi is one of the few “outsiders” who could easily clinch the Central Kenya vote.
Assuming that the cases of crimes against humanity facing them at the International Criminal Court do not stop them from running, they will have to contend with the tricky question that could easily unravel their unity.
The two are perceived to be de facto political leaders of their respective communities. However, political observers say it might prove difficult for the two former Kanu lieutenants to deliver their regional voting blocs to either side.
The issue is pertinent in two ways: firstly, the communities they lead were at the heart of the 2007 post-election violence in which members of the Kikuyu community were evicted in parts of Rift Valley by the Kalenjin.
Hard feelings on both sides still linger especially in the villages where the violence was most felt. It remains to be seen whether sufficient healing has taken place to permit an enduring political union between members of both communities.
Besides, their personalities might be the biggest obstacle to this unity, notes Prof Macharia Munene, a lecturer of International Relations at the United States International University, Nairobi.
Using the metaphor “two bulls cannot stay in the same kraal” to explain the reason why Mr Ruto quickly fell out with Mr Odinga in ODM, Mr Macharia contends that a lasting political union between the two might prove rather difficult than imagined.
“They are very forceful in their own right with huge and highly demanding support bases. It will take some delicate balancing and sacrifice on both sides for them to work together,” he said.
It was not possible for the Sunday Nation to get the two to comment directly on the matter, but close aides maintain that that is a small issue that will be amicably sorted out in time.
“Competitive nominations will settle the question,” said Director of Communications at the Deputy Prime Minister’s office Munyori Buku, adding quite rightly that, given Kenya’s fickle politics, it is probably too early to predict how the matter will pan out.
So far the two have not betrayed a hint of friction over the matter. They have strived to project a united image throughout their countrywide political rallies and have promised their supporters to stick together to the very end.
However, past comments from their foot soldiers indicate subtle divergence of views on the matter. MPs in Ruto’s camp, especially from Rift Valley, have been insisting that Mr Kenyatta throws his weight behind the Eldoret North MP.
They argue that having another President from Central Kenya won’t be prudent for Kenya’s delicate ethnic-based politics and secondly, that since the Kalenjin backed him in the 2002 General Election it is time Mr Kenyatta returned the favour by backing their man.
A recent report by International Crisis Group on the impact of the ICC cases on local politics also mentions the perceptions that the Kikuyu only vote for their own could further complicate the process of choosing who becomes the flag bearer and who will be the deputy.
“There is a growing sentiment, however, that the Kikuyus have had their fair share of presidents, and it is another community’s turn. This could make it hard for [Mr] Ruto to back [Mr] Kenyatta. Also part of Ruto’s dilemma is that Kikuyus generally do not support a presidential candidate from another community,” the ICG report states.
This option has gained currency after the ICC confirmed the charges of crimes against humanity against them. Although the cases do not bar them from seeking office, political and legal observers note that it might not be practically possible for them to do so.
A number of politicians have been named as possible beneficiaries of this scenario among them Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa. But it is the entry of Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi that has stirred the presidential field greatly.
To the surprise of many observers who had written off the Local Government minister as a “coward” who could not possibly challenge Mr Odinga for the top seat in ODM, Mr Mudavadi is now waging a spirited battle to be the party’s flag bearer.
Many theories have been advanced to explain Mr Mudavadi’s rather dramatic turn around, one of them being that he is simply looking for a reason to bolt out of ODM and become the alternative candidate Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto could be looking for.
Mr Mudavadi denies this, saying he is his own man. But Kapsabet Town Mayor Micahel Rono says his decision to take on Mr Odinga has greatly complicated political matters in Kalenjin land.
“There is a great deal of confusion now. Mr Mudavadi is coming strongly and people on the ground, at least here, are not opposed to him. If all else fails then there are good chances that they will support him,” he said.
Support is growing
It is instructive to note that it was in the North Rift, where Mr Odinga’s greatest opposition seems to be coming from, that Mr Mudavadi chose to break the news of his intention to run for the party’s top post.
“People down here speak well of him,” he told the Sunday Nation. “If he clinches the ODM nomination or if he stands on a different party, he could easily marshal good support as an alternative candidate,” he said.
As to whether Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto and their support bases will remain solid to the ballot box, the fact of the matter as witnessed in 2007 is that no candidate should be judged unelectable until people decide at the vote.
During the last election, Mr Odinga received overwhelming support from the Kalenjin contrary to popular belief.