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.


No ICC hearings in Kenya

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova on Wednesday decided that the trial of suspects of the 2007-08 election violence in Kenya will not be held in the country.

Great move.

I am of the view that holding the hearings in Kenya would have created an unnecessary distraction from the important task of implementing Kenya’s new constitution. Already, the bigwigs accused of masterminding the violence that killed 1300 and displaced over 300,000 Kenyans have ethnicized their predicament. Holding the hearings in Kenya would have handed them an opportunity for a circus of ethnicity-charged rallies and demonstrations in Nairobi.

The ICC continues to be a source of debate in Kenya and across Africa. Many have faulted the court’s apparent bias against African leaders. Some have even called it a form of neocolonialism. While admitting that the court could use a little bit more tact [principally by acknowledging that it cannot be apolitical BECAUSE it is an international court SANS a world government] I still think that it is the best hope of ending impunity on the African continent – at least until African leaders internalize the fact that it is not cool to kill your own people.

Among the cases that should have been handled with a sensitivity to political realities include Sudan and Libya [and may be the LRA in Uganda]. Kenya’s Ocampo Six, the DRC’s Jean-Pierre Bemba and Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, on the other hand, should not raise questions of national sovereignty. Murderous dictators and their henchmen do not have internal affairs. In any case sovereignty for many an African country means nothing more than sovereignty for the president and his cronies.

Related posts here and here.

ocampo names six

Former Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali, Ambassador Muthaura (head of civil service), William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, Joshua Sang and Uhuru Kenyatta among the six.

Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto plan to run for president in 2012. Dues to Kenya’s highly charged ethnic politics, the two leaders’ respective ethnic voting blocks will be crucial in deciding who moves into State House come 2013. Mr. Ruto is the de facto political leader of the Kalenjin community while Mr. Kenyatta claims to represent the biggest chunk of the central Kenyan vote.

Messrs Muthaura, Kenyatta and Kosgey may find themselves forced to resign. None of them has commented yet.

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.

the waki report, political expediency and the denial of justice

The Kenyan Premier, Raila Odinga, has bowed to pressure from within his party and made a hasty retreat with regard to the implementation of the Waki Report. (This report was compiled by a commission set up to investigate the post-election violence that nearly plunged Kenya into civil war early this year). This is a huge disappointment and a blow to the pursuit of justice in Kenya. About 1500 died. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, many of whom still live in IDP camps. Don’t we owe these people a public acknowledgment that they were wronged?

Members of both the ODM and PNU have been implicated in the report. Predictably, a cohort of PNU parliamentarians already roundly rejected the report. Now ODM, for the sake of unity (its members from the Rift Valley province threatened a mutiny), has decided to do the same. This means that the Waki Commission will probably join the list of the myriad useless commissions the country has set up since independence to investigate all manner of wrongs and provide recommendations – recommendations which were then rubbished and never implemented. What a waste of time and money!

But there is still hope. And it lies within the Kenyan civil society. The law society of Kenya, among other such civic organisations, should pressure the international court in the Hague, through Kofi Annan, to prosecute those named in the report, unless the government agrees to set up a Kenyan tribunal. The culture of impunity has to be stopped. This report could have been used as a tool for national reconciliation and regeneration. It is sad that political expediency has once again come before justice. It is doubly sad that ODM, a party that has claimed to be for the people, is the same party denying justice to the people.

Kenyan negotiations enter critical stage

The Annan led team trying to reestablish sanity in Kenya will from tomorrow start looking at the most contentious issues thus far – the issues of the alleged election fraud, land, economic disparity and constitutional reform to limit the powers of the president. This is expected to be the most critical stage of the negotiations because most of the violence that has visited Kenya over the last month was caused either directly or indirectly by one or a combination of the above factors.

The government side has indicated that it will not compromise on the matter of Kibaki having been elected even as the ODM continues to insist that the election was stolen by the Kibaki camp. Today (Wednesday, 5th) both sets of negotiators held meetings with their respective principals to brief them on the goings on in Serena. Annan, who has been joined by former Tanzanian president Mkapa and Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, expressed optimism over the talks. His sentiments were echoed by both Ruto and Kilonzo of ODM and PNU-ODM-Kenya respectively.

Meanwhile the central bank governor issued a statement saying that the Kenyan economy is expected to fail to meet the projected annual growth of 5% for the year 2008. This he attributed to the adverse effect the recent violence has had on production, consumption and investor confidence. The private sector estimates that more than 400,000 Kenyans will lose their jobs if the situation does not improve soon. This would be bad for a country with unemployment rate that is approaching the high forties.

Kenyan leaders ought to know that the last thing they need is even more angry, hungry and jobless young people in the streets.