Friday, January 6, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
January 4, 2012

2012 will definitely be a year for shocks and surprises for those in politics who have no respect for history. It is also the year when Kenyans and Americans will be holding their general elections almost at the same time- in the last quarter of the year.

Looking at the jostling for the presidency in the two countries, one can be excused for thinking that Kenya is a twin sister state of the USA. Evidence of this comes clearer when one looks at the number of Republican presidential aspirants dying to stop Barack Obama’s presidency after his first term. That number compares ominously with the number of presidential aspirants in Kenya under the umbrella of the PNU Alliance dying to stop Raila Odinga’s presidency in this part of the world.

If the USA was Kenya and their constitution was not as established as ours, all these Republican candidates would have formed  an alliance  of candidates to scuttle Barry’s presidency because to put it mildly; Republicans loathe Barry as much as the PNU Alliance loathes  the enigma of Kenyan politics.

Looking at the wrangles that have dominated Obama’s presidency in both the Senate and Congress, one gets the impression that the Republicans have merely tolerated Obama these past three years. They cannot wait to see him out of the White House. Has the PNU Alliance similarly tolerated Raila Odinga over the same period?

Another coincidence that oozes passionate dislike for both presidential candidates is that whereas Obama is an American president with his roots in Alego Siaya of Nyanza, Raila Odinga, his distant kinsman is also a Luo whose ethnicity is merely tolerated by other bigger tribes especially the power barons. In this scenario, American Republicans have found their bed fellows in the PNU Alliance.

However, save for the American constitution that prohibits presidential candidates from ganging up against a particular candidate, only one lucky winner at the primaries will face Barack Obama at the November polls. That constitution also has no provision for political alliances or coalition government of any nature. The winner indeed takes it all.

So who will win Kenya’s 2012 elections considering that village elders who double up as soothsayers have entered the fray anointing presidential candidates left and right? And with Smart Octopus of Nakuru finally giving Kalonzo Musyoka the much needed thumps up after long years of trailing the polls, who will indeed emerge in the PNU Alliance to face Raila Odinga of ODM? Or, will the rest of the Alliance ignore the Smart Octopus results and go it individually come August or December?

Going by our recent history, all elections since 1963 have been won by a landslide when Luos and Kikuyus are in one camp. This was the scenario when they voted together in 1963 and 2002.  Whenever Luos and Kikuyus campaign in different camps, they both loose to the third community candidate like they lost to Moi in 1992 and 1997 and drew in 2007. It is also the reason we had ethnic violence in 1992, 1997 and 2007 yet we had peaceful and a most successful election in 2002.

The reason this happens is because Luos and Kikuyus control two important ingredients of election campaigns. Luos enjoy political capital, having been in the opposition for the better part of independent history. They have really never enjoyed the comforts of being in the system.

They have been the orphans of Kenyan politics who must struggle from the outside to get into the tent. That is why Raila Odinga keeps on repeating the analogy of the man and the camel. Because of this experience, they have perfected the art of political campaigns nationally, sometimes with little finances. They have acquired the power of speech to deliver their message. That is why Raila Odinga led a most successful NARC campaign in 2002 on behalf of President Kibaki with colour and pomp everywhere in the Republic. And for the first time in decades, Luos, Kikuyus, Kambas, Maasais, Luhyas, Merus, Embus and Mijikendas shared the stage and danced to Gidi Gidi Maji Maji’s Unbwogable hip hop beat that set the country aflame. In the end, NARC beat KANU in a landslide and Kenyans became the happiest and most hopeful people in the world.

The Kikuyus on the other hand are undoubtedly the most successful businessmen with vast financial empires across the country. They have for five decades perfected the art of business and financial management. For this reason, they dominate the financial and business side of Kenya’s economy. Because of this success, they come in handy during election time when resources to run the elections are badly needed. This was evident when Uhuru Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki split Kikuyu financiers during the 2002 elections with some sponsoring Kibaki while others sponsored Uhuru Kenyatta

When Kikuyus and Luos vote together, chances of other tribes joining them are very high because these other tribes have never known political orphanage like the Luos have known or faced state persecution like the Kikuyus and Luos have faced in Kenya’s independent history. They will therefore make sure they are included in the next dispensation to continue enjoying the benefits of the ruling party.
This analogy notwithstanding, the new constitution has changed the political arithmetic of Kenya even though political and financial capital still rank highly during national elections.

Now that the country has been devolved into 47 counties, the campaign will prove more expensive and taxing for presidential aspirants. It will no longer be possible merely to hold rallies in the eight provincial capitals. One will have to campaign repeatedly in the 47 counties and garner at least majority votes in at least 24 of them to be declared the winner. To do this, the candidate will have to have the courage, stamina and charisma to hold successful rallies in the counties. He will have to appeal to the youth in every corner of the republic.

 It will not be enough to be endorsed by the council of Luo, Nandi, Meru or Kaya elders who have nothing in common with the youth- the bulk of Kenyan voters.
May the best man or woman win!