Have ODM and TNA run their course in Kenya?

UhuRuto 2013 sign downtown
The great puzzle for those of us who have worked on “democracy promotion” or “democracy support” in Kenya has been whether there is something that can be done to assist Kenyans in building meaningful, coherent political parties that are more than amorphous vehicles for individual ambitions and a “tribal” spoils system.  The record in this regard has been discouraging.  When I was with IRI in 2007-08, one of my European counterparts of long experience explained that his organization had concluded that the effort was simply not fruitful and resources were better spent in other areas.

At this point I am afraid that we see some history repeating itself.  TNA is having difficulties with the inattention of its titular leader, President Kenyatta.  It is not hard to see TNA now as simply a vessel for Uhuru’s campaign, a means that he created to line up his core Kikuyu support when, supposedly, there was significant sentiment among the elites to find alternatives due to the difficulties of the ICC charges, and even the notion that it might be safer to chose Mudavadi or someone else who was an amenable insider but a member of another tribe.  Certainly Uhuru’s record as a party builder is not encouraging.  After being tapped as KANU leader by Moi in 2002 and losing to Kibaki he kept leadership of the party (with Ruto as a Secretary General) and was one of the leading figures in the formation of the Orange Democratic Movement as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, campaigning against the “Wako Draft” constitution in Central Province during the November 2005 referendum.

Nonetheless, as things were shaking out to nominate a presidential candidate for the ODM side in the second half of 2007, Uhuru made the unprecedented move as leader of the parliamentary opposition to cross over to support Kibaki’s re-election.  Moi also announced his support for Kibaki in this time frame.  Uhuru kept formal control of KANU but the party was gutted as most of the potential KANU voters in the Rift Valley went with Raila, along with Ruto who formally joined ODM, contested for the nomination there and served as a key figure in the “Pentagon”.  Then Uhuru himself struck out to form TNA for the 2012-13 race.

Continue reading

“The Devil Made Him Do It”; Why I am going to boycott writing about Kenya’s presidential race

Reflecting on the state of the Kenyan presidential race in its closing weeks, I had come to the conclusion that there was very little I should say, because it seemed that there was just too much “backstory” and intrigue behind the scenes that was not in the media and I was not privy to.  It becomes misleading to pretend that what is apparent on the surface counts for more than it really does.  Certainly a crucial lesson from the 2007 election.

Today, as voter registration is wrapping up, Musalia Mudavdi has revealed and Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted that the two signed in the presence of their lawyers an agreement two weeks ago, on the “coalition” deadline, for Kenyatta to step aside in favor of Mudavadi for the TNA/URP/UDF–“Jubilee Alliance” nomination.  Facing a revolt within his TNA party, Uhuru now wants out of the deal on the basis that he signed under the pressure of powerful forces who claimed that such a move would be in the national interest of Kenya.

The Standard: “Uhuru rescinds decision to back Mudavadi”

Uhuru rescinded his support for Mudavadi as Jubilee presidential candidate and said the decision on who will carry the alliance mantle rests with delegates.
He confirmed authoring the document and signed it but claimed that he was coerced by ‘the devil’.
He said on Tuesday that powerful forces convinced him that his presidential bid was bad for the nation as Kenya would face international sanctions if he wins the elections and that Kenyans were not ready for another president from Mt Kenya.
He confirmed that MPs forced him to rescind his decision and said only delegates will sign.

In the meantime, the IEBC voter registration effort is wrapping up.  It appears that the final totals will be well short of the announced goal of 18 million voters, but in excess of the new fallback target the IEBC announced of 12 million (or 1/3 less).  The 2007 figure was 14,294,739 per the IRI/UCSD/USAID Exit Poll.

Political ‘wedding day’ in Nairobi

Ballot for President with the Nine Nominees
PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT FROM 2007

Today was the deadline for filing of pre-election agreements between and among Kenya’s political parties. No big surprises in terms of the basic shape of the Odinga-led versus the Kenyatta-led groupings. As this is a non-partisan blog, and I don’t vote in Kenya as an American, I will not be suggesting how Kenyans should vote or endorsing anyone, but I’ll share a few quick thoughts “from where I sit”.

The agreement of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to be Raila’s running mate seems to have come down to the wire, although it is a bit hard for me to see how this would be too much of a surprise to people paying close attention.

Ostensible ODM Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Raila’s running mate last time, joined Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA grouping at the last minute, but he has been out of ODM and on to UDF for a long time and has long been seen as the potential “compromise” candidate to substitute for Uhuru and/or Ruto in the event the Kenyan courts were to ultimately disqualify either or both of them due to the ICC cases or some related complication. It would be risky for Uhuru and Ruto not to have someone suitable in that role.

On the Odinga side, the new CORD grouping has picked up Charity Ngilu and NARC along with Kalonzo which means he has picked up both sides of a division within “Eastern” politics and added a woman of longstanding political stature. With both Kalonzo and Moses Wetangula, CORD has two former Foreign Ministers, with Kalonzo in particular having been around a long time in diplomatic circles. He is someone with whom those in foreign capitals who are concerned with Kenya’s stability as a perceived regional anchor will be used to and comfortable with.

Absent the ICC situation, Uhuru and Ruto would be potentially attractive to some in the West as representing the notion of a mini “grand coalition” appeasing the elite of the combatants in the violence related to land and political boundaries in the Rift Valley that has normally coincided with Kenyan elections post-Cold War and they will be well funded to try to sell that pitch irrespective of the pending charges. I have a hard time seeing them get any traction, but I have been wrong before.

No disrespect intended to the other candidates–another post for later. The whole thing will be fascinating to watch, but scary due to the real dangers.

Good piece in today’s Financial Times from Katrina Manson in Nairobi.