The Presidential Race in Kenya’s 4th of March 2013 Election

The race to succeed President Kibaki promises to be an interesting one. All the pointers indicate that it will be a close race between the Raila-Kalonzo-Wetangula and co. faction vs. the Uhuru-Ruto-Mudavadi and co. faction. Prime Minister Raila is expected to be at the top of the ticket under an umbrella special purpose vehicle called CORD (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy). Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta leads his own SPV called the Jubilee Alliance. Below I give a little background information before delving into the state of the race.

Institutions Matter:

The 2011 Kenyan constitution mandates that the winning presidential candidate garner 50% + 1 of the votes cast and at least 25% of the votes in at least half of Kenya’s 47 counties. In addition, presidential candidates and their veep candidates must run on a joint ticket. Previously, the presidential candidate could promise the veep slot to any number of ethnic chiefs. The constitution also limits the president’s ability to buy support by limiting the number of cabinet slots to 22 (necessitating the creation of minimum winning coalitions).

This situation has forced Kenya’s politicians to form alliances that cross ethnic lines, a change from the past when nearly all the major ethnic groups produced their own presidential candidates. The logic of minimum winning coalitions has set in, with two main camps forming ahead of the polls – Mr. Odinga has insisted all year on the stump that this is a two horse race between him and a straw man non-reformer, and that any other candidates are mere donkeys.

In this cycle the big five (Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kamba and Kalenjin, together making over 70%) are all in either CORD or the Jubilee Alliance. Continuing the Luo-Kikuyu feud that has characterized Kenya’s political history since 1966, this election will pit the son of Kenya’s first president (Kenyatta) vs. that of the first vice president (Odinga). CORD’s formateur is Odinga (a Luo) who leads the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Jubilee’s is Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) who is leader of The National Alliance (TNA).

It is likely that CORD will field Odinga as the presidential candidate and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (a Kamba) as his running mate. Jubilee is likely to field Kenyatta as the the presidential candidate and William Ruto (a Kalenjin) as his running mate. This would leave the Luhya as a big five swing group. Such a scenario favors Odinga, who is already widely popular in Western Province (Luhya-land) and sections of Rift Valley Province (Kalenjin-land). This scenario is likely, but not set in stone.

The ICC Question:

Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are facing charges at the ICC over the post election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007-08. Back then they were in opposing parties – Mr. Ruto with Odinga in ODM and Mr. Kenyatta with Kibaki in PNU. They are both suspected to have funded gangs of rival ethnic groups (Kalenjin and Kikuyu) that committed heinous crimes including murder, rape, and arson. The international community has sent a strong signal – through Kofi Annan’s statements, threats of sanctions and the EU’s travel ban on the duo – that the two should not run for office.

The Kikuyu business elite (including cash crop farmers and horticulturalists who would be hardest hit by international sanctions) have thus been trying to prevail on Mr. Kenyatta to forgo his presidential run in favor of Mr. Musalia Mudavadi (a Luhya) – evidence suggests that this was the carrot that Uhuru and Ruto used to lure Mr. Mudavadi into their coalition. If Uhuru steps down for Mudavadi then a good chunk of the Luhya vote would depart CORD for Jubilee. But it may create room for the lesser presidential candidates from Kenyatta’s region – Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth – to get a sizable chunk of the Kikuyu vote. Plus it is unclear if Mudavadi can weather the accusations of being Kenyatta’s project on top of campaigning against the formidable Mr. Odinga. Kenyatta’s last presidential bid faltered partly because he was seen as Moi’s project.

The State of the Race:

Ipsos Synovate, a local polling company, just released a poll of adults 18+ on their preferred candidates for president. Mr. Odinga leads the pack with 34% of the respondents saying he is their preferred candidate. Mr. Kenyatta is second with 27%. Mudavadi, the other likely Jubilee candidate polls at 5%. Musyoka and Ruto poll at 3% and 2% respectively. It is important to note that it is only Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta who are presently outperforming their ethnic group size in the polls (by 21% and 2% respectively). 22% of Kenyans remain undecided. Notice that the number of undecideds is highest in provinces that lack a presidential front-runner, i.e. all except Central (Kenyatta) and Nyanza (Odinga).

click on image to enlarge.

opinion polls

If Odinga eventually faces off with Kenyatta the key swing region that will determine the outcome of the election will be the Rift Valley Province. Mr. Odinga will have Nyanza, North Eastern, Western, Coast and half of Nairobi in the bag. Mr. Kenyatta will have Central, (possibly) the Rift Valley and half of Nairobi locked in. In this scenario (let’s call it scenario 1), for Mr. Kenyatta to win he would have to run the numbers in both the Mt. Kenya region (which as a whole has about 24% of voters, according to the 2009 census) and the Rift Valley Province (with 25% of voters) and get a good showing in Nairobi.  For Mr. Odinga to stop him he would need to have a respectable showing in the Rift Valley – something that he can given the fact that he has managed to keep key leaders from the region in his party, ODM. In Scenario 1 Odinga will be the favorite to win.

If Jubilee nominates Mudavadi to face Odinga, then things will get interesting (It would also potentially make for a de-ethnicized presidenital race). Key questions will be:

  1. Whether the Kikuyu would vote for Mudavadi, given that the ticket would not have a Kikuyu (with Ruto as running mate). Would they opt for other Kikuyu presidential aspirants in Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth?
  2. Whether Mudavadi would manage to unite the Luhya bloc behind him. Luhya leaders have traditionally had a hard time uniting the region to vote as a bloc. Can Mudavadi overcome the sub-ethnic divisions of the Luhya?
  3. Whether Mudavadi will be able to effectively fight the inevitable portrayal of his candidacy by the opposition as Uhuru Kenyatta’s (or Kibaki’s) project. Can Mudavadi be his own man?

If the Rift Valley, Mt. Kenya (Central and sections of Eastern) and Western vote go to Mudavadi en masse, it is hard to see how Odinga can make it to State House. In this scenario, turnout would be key. Jubilee would win by a landslide. But while this situation is likely, it’ll still be a huge gamble for Jubilee to nominate Mudavadi.

Mr. Odinga has more national appeal than his former ODM assistant Mudavadi. The latter lacks a strong political base in his home region of Western Province. Add to that the fact that he will leave the gates with the imprint of “project” on his forehead, not to mention the uncertainty over how Mt. Kenya region would vote and the election becomes a real tossup ex ante. Nominating Mudavadi to head the Jubilee ticket would be a high risk gamble for Uhuru and Ruto that would either pay off big come March 4th or hand Odinga victory on a silver platter.

The Jubilee Alliance will nominate its candidate (either Uhuru or Mudavadi) next week. CORD will name its presidential candidate (very likely to be Mr. Odinga) on the 22nd. I expect minor defections and realignments that will have a non-trivial impact on the race before then. All in all right now Odinga is a slight favorite to become the fourth president of Kenya.

 

general kianga should be a little bit embarrassed by this

The Kenyan army is one of the most professionalized on the Continent. When their counterparts across the region were going nuts with politics through most of the 60s, 70s and 80s they opted instead to stay in the barracks. The coup attempt of 1982 died before it began. Just to illustrate how disinterested they are in politics, many Kenyans, including yours truly, cannot name the top generals in the armed forces.

But I think they are taking their dormancy too far. Uganda illegally occupied the Kenyan island of Migingo a while back. Now they are trying to annex yet another Kenyan island.

Most recently the Daily Nation is reporting that a group of Ethiopian tribesmen who attacked and killed 20 Kenyans within Kenyan territory stopped Kenyan officials from visiting a Kenyan village on the Kenyan side of the border.

“Prime Minister Raila Odinga and five Cabinet ministers were barred from accessing a Kenyan village occupied forcibly by Ethiopian tribesmen for fear of being attacked.”

Really? Seriously?

Where is the Kenyan army?

Mwakwere seeks to retain seat in matuga by-election

Latest: The Daily Nation reports that former Kenyan Transport Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere has been re-elected as member of parliament for Matuga. Mr. Mwakwere will probably be reinstated as Transport Minister by President Kibaki. The Matuga by-election was occasioned by a court order that annulled Mwakwere’s initial election in the 2007 general election.

Update: Mwakwere leading the tally halfway through the counting.

Former Kenyan Transport Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere faces a tough challenge in his quest to retain his seat in the Matuga by-election being held today. Mr. Mwakwere lost his seat after a court ruling over constituency-wide irregularities in the 2007 general election. Mr. Mwakwere is contesting the seat on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket while his main challenger Mr. Hassan Mwanyoha is running on the Orange Democratic Ticket.

awkward…

Kenyan Premier, Raila Odinga, continued his call for the resignation of Education Minister Sam Ongeri – this time in the presence of the latter at a function in Nairobi’s Upper Hill district.

According to media reports, Prof. Ongeri’s ministry has been involved in a corruption scandal that robbed the country’s free primary education program of millions of Shillings. President Kibaki remains characteristically quiet on this matter, perhaps waiting for Prof. Ongeri to see the writing on the wall for himself.

celebrating kenyatta day

Macharia Gaitho has a rather hard hitting editorial piece in the Daily Nation today. His rather utopian idealization of the revolutionary Kenyan peasantry aside (they are very complicit in the creation of the mess that is Kenya today), I think he raises some serious questions that the country – and especially the ruling class – needs to revisit as it celebrates Kenyatta Day.

Happy Kenyatta Day!!

kenyan ethnic groups arming ahead of 2012

I just read this on the BBC and can’t stop wishing that it is all hype. The report quotes a number of Kenyans – mostly from the Rift Valley – who seem to be acknowledging that segments of the Kenyan population are arming ahead of the 2012 elections. And this time round instead of machetes and bows and arrows they are getting guns, machine guns. A Kenyan working for an NGO in Eldoret confirmed the BBC report.

I am assuming, or rather hoping that the Kenyan intelligence community is not sleeping on the job like they did in the run-up to the 2007 elections. If people are buying machine guns it can only mean one thing. If Kenya is ever to have a civil war it will be fought in the Rift Valley. Other political conflicts in Kenya have always been over the sharing of divisible goods – mainly payoffs in terms of good jobs and chances for sleaze among the many ethnic entrepreneurs that populate the Kenyan political landscape. But the conflict in the Rift Valley will be about a somewhat indivisible good – LAND. Those that own the land will not let go or share it easily, more so if they have machine guns. And those that think that the land was taken from them wrongly will perhaps  also be willing to fight for the land, more so if they also have machine guns.

The contest in 2012 just seems to get messier and messier. Kibaki should consider calling a snap election and then stepping down. That may catch the plotters unawares and bring a decisive victory to one party or the other. May be then the government will be able to deal with all these issues – land, judicial reforms, security etc – without the many distractions that the current government faces.

And in other news, Jaindi Kisero (one of my favorite columnists) has a piece on the slightly positive signs the Kenyan economy has shown so far. If only the nation’s political class would get its act togehter…

I also found this discussion on the IMF and WB interesting.

One, more thing.  Last week I attended a talk by Paul Romer on Charter cities. The idea is as exciting as it is provocative. I still don’t know what to make of it though. Read more about it here.

Ali’s exit was long overdue

In an ideal world the ranking of an institution as the most corrupt in a country is enough reason for the head of that institution to resign or initiate radical reforms to mitigate the situation. But this has never been true for the Kenya Police Force. Every year,  the Kenya Police Force has emerged as the most corrupt institution in the country without serious repercussions at Vigilance House. It therefore came as welcome news when the president announced today the replacement of Major General Ali with Mathew Iteere as Police Commissioner.

Ali tried to rein in organized crime and to tame the proscribed Mungiki sect. The executive lacked the political will to let him finish the job and Ali lacked the spine to take the fight to those who stood in his way. He was also anti-reform, which must be the main reason why the president has chosen to show him the door. His legacy will forever be tarnished by the force’s extra-judicial killings that took place on his watch. But he will also be remembered as the no-nonsense commissioner who moved the force from the backward days of the Nyayo era police state towards a force befitting a quasi-democracy. Many would agree that for a reformer he lasted for too long at the helm and therefore failed  (kind of like what will become the fate of his former boss, President Kibaki).

Mr. Iteere, from the paramilitary GSU, comes in at a time when the force needs urgent structural and operational reforms (as recommended by the Ransley report). I know nothing about the man but I hope he is strong enough to stand up to the president’s  men (and increasingly the Premier’s men too) who might stand in his way. We wish him well.

kenyan cabinet remains deadlocked over violence

For the second straight week the Kenyan cabinet remains deadlocked on the way forward in the effort to bring to book those who planned the post-election violence that killed over 1300 people early last year. Several cabinet ministers are opposed to the creation of a local tribunal – which is the official position of the government – and want the suspects be investigated and tried by the ICC’s chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo at the Hague. Their position, they argue, is informed by the sorry state of Kenya’s judiciary which for all practical purposes is usually in the pocket of whoever occupies state house.

It is widely believed that a number of cabinet ministers were significantly involved in the planning of violence after the disputed election. Indeed the government funded Kenya Human Rights Commission last week released a list of suspects that was populated by cabinet ministers and members of parliament. Ministers and MPs from both sides of the political divide criticised the move and vowed to take the human rights body to court for defamation.

My two cents on this is that those that plotted the violence at the very top should go to the Hague. The middle level and small fry should be tried by a special court within Kenyan law. And as this goes on we should have a truth and reconciliation process. That way, the people at the top will know that Kenyan lives are not the expendable commodities they imagine them to be and thugs who killed innocent women and children will be punished. And above all, the truth and reconciliation process will start the process of healing among Kenyans.