THE STAR 03/9/2021
Confusion has rocked President Uhuru Kenyatta's succession with influential individuals close to State House pulling in different directions.
The multiple and competing interests exposed this week by bitter protests from ODM could ruin Uhuru's succession plan and easily hand power to his adversaries, analysts say.
At least five political bigwigs are being backed by various allies of the President, triggering a vicious war about who should be anointed by the head of state next year.
The big guns include ODM leader Raila Odinga, ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi, Interior CS Fred Matiang'i, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and ex-Unctad secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi.
The entry of Speaker Justin Muturi, who is being backed by some State House operatives has further complicated the plan, though its nature is not clear.
Uhuru has fallen out with Deputy President William Ruto.
In the President's Mt Kenya backyard, a ferocious scramble has erupted among politicians jostling to succeed him, further compounding Uhuru's succession matrix.
Muturi was over the weekend installed by the Njuri-Ncheke Council of Elders as the Mt Kenya spokesman.
But he was swiftly dismissed by close allies of the President including nominated MP Maina Kamanda and National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore.
Others also seeking to take over as Mt Kenya kingpins are Agriculture CS Peter Munya, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Murang'a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria and Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
A source aware of the intrigues told the Star there are serious competing interests among Uhuru's power-wielding men.
"It might soon get nasty and implode because everyone is pushing for one of their own through elaborate manoeuvres," the official said.
On Monday, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna accused the state of aiding Mudavadi's presidential bid in the Matungu by-election.
"ODM had no expectation at all that we would be supported by the government in these by-elections or that Uhuru will say Raila tosha in 2022. Our biggest complaint in Matungu is that state machinery was used to prop up Musalia Mudavadi," Sifuna said.
However, Raila's supporters have long believed the President would anoint him as his successor.
Some of Uhuru's allies had backed Raila for president in 2022. They include Murathe, Kenneth and Kamanda.
However, the emergence of the so-called sacred alliance of ANC boss Musalia, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula is said to be part of a strategy to dump Raila.
The machinations — some being executed without the President's knowledge — are said to be behind the push to wreck the handshake and ruin Raila's State House march.
On Monday, former Cabinet minister Franklin Bett admitted there could be persons keen on influencing Uhuru's succession as the country hurtles to next year's general election.
The ex-State House comptroller — who by virtue of his position was privy to the deep state manoeuvres to influence the presidency — said such political machinations are nothing new.
“The deep state is the real monster when it comes to who becomes president,” Bett said, adding that it can manifest itself in many ways.
“The deep state can deal with anyone in a manner that one would lose. It is clear that the system is gravitating towards Gideon Moi at the moment,” the former Kanu insider said.
The deep state or the system refers to a secret network of especially non-elected government officials operating extralegally to influence and enact government policy or strategic political directions.
National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said the handshake was not about 2022.
"If you talk to the two [Uhuru and Raila], they will tell you they have never discussed 2022 elections. Both of them have come out clearly, so how do you get shortchanged when he is not part of the equation?" Kimunya asked.
"There are people who want to create that impression so that Raila’s followers lose direction and then they don’t give us much support to the BBI the way they should."
Tangatanga is trying to mitigate the overwhelming loss they got at the county assemblies. It is all a Tangatanga effort. It is not an ODM affair.
The details of the turmoil roiling the president's succession race has apparently been kept under wraps for months as the powerful individuals battled to manage the power transition.
There are fears the succession battle could soon take on a life of its own if the handshake deal between Uhuru and Raila collapses.
The intrigues reached boiling point when Raila's allies raised the red flag over what they claimed was a scheme by some OP mandarins to isolate him in Uhuru's 2022 succession.
The ODM boss' confidants also claimed that the same clique was hell-bent on blocking Raila from ascending to the presidency in 2022 through clandestine manoeuvres, including killing the handshake.
The statements by Siaya Senator James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo over the weekend exposed the jitters that have been roiling the ODM camp —but which have been bottled up for months.
Orengo, a close confidant of Raila, had claimed that some civil servants in the Office of the President were determined to block Raila from the presidency.
“There is a cabal inside government who are busy charting who will rule Kenya next year; this is just a warning shot because we are going to expose them. And I am telling them without Raila Odinga you could not be planning that issue of succession,” Orengo said on Saturday.
For a long time, there have been concerns among Raila's people that the final BBI report was doctored hours before it was launched in November last year.
For instance, while Raila was pushing to have the IEBC commissioners picked by political parties, the final BBI report had been edited to have them appointed by a selection panel.
However, not to antagonise others, Raila asked his troops to retreat, though it was also clear the distribution of constituencies had been doctored to favour Mt Kenya region.
“There are forces at the OP who want to influence the 2022 elections and part of their plan is to betray Raila once the BBI referendum is approved. The plan started a long time ago when they even doctored the report and denied Nyanza constituencies,” a senior ODM official said on condition of anonymity.
Some powerful forces within the corridors of power are reportedly uncomfortable with a Raila presidency and are determined to bungle the handshake to deflate his 2022 momentum.
“There are people at Harambee House who are uncomfortable with ODM,” Igembe North MP Maoka Maore told the Standard on Monday.
However, Kieni MP Kanini Kega warned the BBI process had nothing to do with 2022 promises or politics and that the battle lines will be clearer after BBI.
“There is no nexus between BBI and 2022. The 2022 race will be shaped by the outcome of the referendum. Those making wild claims that there is someone trying to block them are jumping the gun,” Kega told the Star.
With Interior PS Karanja Kicho having come under scrutiny over his role in influencing 2022 politics, Kega said the civil servant was only marketing BBI.
“There are those who may construe Kibicho's aggressiveness to market the BBI, but he was using vernacular to target Mt Kenya where people were said to be apprehensive of the document,” he said.
The ODM leader's camp has accused Kibicho of hijacking the BBI process and starving the secretariat of funds for operations, denying Raila an opportunity despite his immense input.
After Raila shook hands and signed a pact with Uhuru on March 8, 2018, it was seen that the former Prime Minister would be the heir apparent especially after the President's falling out with Ruto.
In what was seen as a gesture to cement the Uhuru-Raila ties, the Kikuyu Council of elders last October visited their Luo counterparts at the ODM leader's rural Bondo home in a meeting that was loaded with political undertones.
The Luo elders also visited the Kikuyu Council of Elders in Nyeri in what was seen to be bridging the historical divide between the Jaramogi Oginga and Jomo Kenyatta families to prepare Mt Kenya for Raila.
(Edited by V. Graham)