Kenya

The blitzkrieg that threatens Ruto's UDA

The blitzkrieg that threatens Ruto's UDA

Deputy President William Ruto (second right) during a UDA rally at Eldoret Sports Club in Uasin Gishu County on January 08, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

The scene was Sagana State Lodge, towards the end of January last year. President Uhuru Kenyatta had summoned Mt Kenya grassroots leaders in the build-up to the vote on the Building Bridges Initiative report by the county assemblies.

Forget for now the effusive tributes State House issued upon the death of Charles Njonjo last week. At Sagana, this is what Uhuru had to say about the Njonjo who emerged when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978 and the Presidency was transferred to Daniel arap Moi:

"We all saw what happened to Charles Njonjo and G.G. Kariuki. They used to take rides in the presidential limousine and even smoke inside there....bragging that they were in power. We all know how it ended. In a few years their careers faced eternal ruin. They were put before Commissions of Inquiry."

He went on: "They suffered because they chose to be led by personal interests rather than communal interests. Their only legacy was to plant disaffection, dissent and finally revolt that led Kiraitu (now Governor of Meru) and others to pick up placards and fight for multi-party democracy."

It was no secret who the Njonjo of 1978 was being referenced to. It was to the Mt Kenya Tangatanga team of MPs who currently follow DP William Ruto everywhere and act as his attack dogs. Notably, they kept off the Sagana meeting where the presidential security guards were under orders not to let them in.

Mountain Tangatangas

By introducing his father's succession and then deliberately juxtaposing it with his own, Uhuru was signalling what would be the eventual fate of these Mountain Tangatangas if they get their way.

At the same time he was subtly saying something I doubted his guests quite grasped: that his own succession would be done very differently from his dad's.

On a number of occasions Uhuru has let slip that he won't allow power to go to his DP. He intimated the same at Sagana. Whether it's the likes of Maina Kamanda echoing Uhuru's words that the President won't leave power to "a thief", or trade union chieftain Francis Atwoli insinuating as he did on New Year's day that such a transfer of power was an invitation for the "entire looting of the Central Bank", the die is cast.

Context is key. Mzee Kenyatta was an old man who in his last days got senile. Uhuru is younger and alert. He was too young in 1978 to fully comprehend – much less participate in – the political intrigues that took place. It is a different story today. He has stated frequently that he will fully participate in managing the transition this year from his administration to the next. That is telling.

Moi was extremely lucky that there was a Njonjo in Jomo's circle to direct matters in his favour. Ruto has nobody like that. He surrounds himself with young novices, many of them excitable first-term MPs, who probably can't pick out somebody like the National Intelligence Service director in a crowd.

Tangatangas like to say they have "God and the people" and so are invincible. It's wonderful to have God on your side, what better than to push wheelbarrows together. However, the men of power like Njonjo prefer to rely on real-world networks they have created.

I have heard it said in Establishment-linked circles that, when the rubber hits the road, Ruto will be a very easy target to deconstruct. His hubris alone is breathtaking. The DP will surely come to rue the day in Nyahururu during that fateful roadside rally on October 9 last year when he pronounced himself 'king' and gatekeeper of the Mt Kenya region. Wah!

Moi, the DP's presumed mentor, would have been horrified to the core by such conceit. In all his years as vice-president, he never, ever dreamed of behaving this way. His loyalty and subservience to Jomo was always absolute and unconditional.

Uhuru is hands-on as far as government matters go. Put aside the occasional setbacks the Executive suffers in Parliament, and the messier ones in the courts, plus Uhuru's strange self-removal from everyday politics.

Where it matters most, the security establishment and intelligence services and the military brass – the so-called 'Deep State' – Uhuru runs a far tighter ship than his father ever did. And instead of an agrarian gang of wazees like the Gema of Jomo's days, now we see an updated, savvier version of plutocrats called the Mt Kenya Foundation.

This time there's no Njonjo anywhere near the horizon to stop them from endorsing their choice of Uhuru's successor, which they have.

Democratic process

There has been no official suggestion – spoken or implied – that the succession will be anything other than through the democratic process.

There will certainly be a presidential election in August. It will be carried out as normal. The winner will then take power as per the Constitution. The crucial factor is the sort of campaign to block the DP that will be unleashed in the coming months to the election.

I don't know if the DP realises what is being cooked against him as he zig-zags everywhere in the country in his campaigns.

Reportedly, the coming onslaught is going to be a "blitzkrieg. Short but very intense."

For the time being, the question being asked is when the 'dead' Jubilee party will be revived. What is this shell Raila Odinga is supposedly negotiating with to create the Azimio coalition? Word is that the machinery to reorganise it will be unlocked next month. Aren't the timelines late?

Meanwhile, the clock ticks, ominously.

* * * * *

Instant cremation. No memorial service. No laudatory memoirs. In death, not even the international accolades from the Whites who Charles Njonjo worshipped were forthcoming. Those were reserved for Richard Leakey and his work. Karma.