Kenyan politics is currently in flux. Two key presidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto may be barred from running for public office next year on constitutional grounds. The key beneficiaries of such an eventuality will most probably be Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, the Premier and Vice President respectively.
But what would such an eventuality mean for Kenya?
I’d say not much.
Over the last few weeks Uhuru and Ruto have been crisscrossing the country and holding chest-thumping rallies to prove to someone – either the ICC or the Kenyan political and economic elite – that they have the support of the grassroots. They have also issued thinly veiled threats that violence may erupt in the country if they are whisked to the Hague and barred from running for president in next year’s general election. Why does Uhuru and Ruto feel the need to do this?
In my view, and according to the rules of power politics, a tiger need not shout about its tigritude [I believe it is the great son of Nigeria, Wole Soyinka who coined this phrase].
That Ruto and Uhuru have felt compelled to shout about their support-base and issue threats tells me that they are feeling the heat. The fact of the matter is that the key backers of the duo are the ones who would lose the most in case of a resurgence of violence – think of Kenyan retail, banking, insurance, media and transport barons. These are the people that will lose the most when the Mombasa-Kampala Highway is impassable and Equity Bank closes everywhere. They know this and Uhuru and Ruto also know this. Furthermore, igniting further violence would most certainly attract sterner reaction from international watchdogs like the ICC and the UN Security Council.
There is also the [small] matter that now ordinary Kenyans will also know where exactly the violence is coming from.
Violence is therefore not an option. Not for Ruto and Uhuru. Not for their backers. And most certainly not for the rest of Kenya.
I suggest that the rest of Kenya call their (Uhuru and Ruto’s) bluff about violence next year.
Their battles with justice should not derail the much needed institutional reforms that will take the country out of the miasma of mediocrity that continues to engulf most of the Continent.
In the final analysis, the words of former VP George Saitoti will ring true: There comes a time when Kenya gets bigger than any single individual. Ruto, Uhuru and the wider political class are about to be schooled on this maxim the harsh way.