Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wait and See

Ever since Raila Odinga's Liberal Democratic Party merged with KANU, Hon. Raila Odinga has set the tone of political debate in Kenya. Since 2005, when he went against Collective Cabinet Responsibility, and led a sizable chunk of Cabinet Ministers into the Orange Democratic Movement and opposed the Wako Draft, he has set the political temperature. Since April 2008 when he signed an accord with President Kibaki to end the stalemate in government after the disputed elections of 2007, he has become the bogeyman that all other politicians see in their nightmares whenever the question of the 2012 presidential election arises.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, leading lights of the Orange Democratic Movement in 2005, have since parted ways with Hon. Odinga, each pursuing an ambition to become president of Kenya. William Ruto, the suspended Higher Education Minister has also recently broken ranks with Hon. Odinga, pursuing his ambitions at the expense of the party that was formed in the aftermath of the 2005 referendum. In the beginning, he was a loyal supporter of Hon. Odinga's presidential ambitions, one of the loudest protesters at what has come to be seen as the naked power-grab of the Kibaki coterie, fondly known as the Mount Kenya Mafia. However, when it emerged that in the ODM there is only one undisputed, indispensable leader, he set out to mould a political constituency for himself, separate from the party or the party leader. Much as we would like to think otherwise, Hon. Ruto has succeeded in carving for himself a political constituency that does not owe allegiance to the party or Raila Odinga, and this makes him a dangerous man to underestimate.

A loose alliance has been formed between Kalonzo, Ruto and Uhuru, pejoratively known as the KKK alliance. It is facing challenges now that Hon. Ruto and Hon. Kenyatta have been named by Luis Moreno-Ocampo as among the six who bear greatest responsibility for the PEV. In his submissions to the Pre-Trial Chamber II, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo is asking for summonses against the six, including Hons. Ruto and Kenyatta, to answer for the violence that plagued Kenya after the disastrous 2007 general election. Given his dismal showing at the last referendum (where he barely managed to choose a side, or deliver votes), the Vice-President has been criss-crossing the nation in attempt to shore up his popularity, making statements in defense of Hon. Ruto, sometimes spewing such vitriol that the national Cohesion and Integration Commission has launched an investigation of his statements. It remains to be seen if his two allies will face trial at the Hague. If they do, his position as a consensus candidate remains precarious, especially if the constituencies loyal to Uhuru or Ruto decide that he is too untrustworthy to be be their candidate.

2012 still remains a contest between Raila Odinga and someone yet to be determined. With an ICC trial hanging over the heads of William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, it is unclear whether Kalonzo Musyoka has an open field in the contest. Even if he does, it is unclear whether Prof. Georg Saitoti, Martha Karua or Peter Kenneth are wiling to allow his name to be on the presidential ballot unchallenged, or some outside candidate may inspire the support of everyone else in a contests against the Prime Minister. All calculations are suspended until the ICC scenario is dealt with. If Mr. Ruto and Mr. Kenyatta are indeed indicted by the ICC, their position will be greatly weakened for it is clear that the indictment may inspire individual Kenyans to sue them here in civil court to recover damages for injuries suffered during the PEV. For the Prime Minister, Henry Kosgey's indictment may also prove a political risk for him too. How he handles the possible indictment of his party's chairman may define whether he emerges unscathed once the ICC process is over. Given the close nature of their alliance, there may arise a situation where Raila Odinga is also sued as a co-conspirator in Kenya for losses and injury suffered by innocent Kenyans during the PEV. If all top presidential contenders are busy fighting civil and criminal suits, it may leave the field open for the Vice-President or any of the other presidential contenders. It may take time for the situation to solidify significantly for anyone to declare with confidence that 2012 will be Raila versus someone-else.

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