Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Agriculture Minister William Ruto are arguably the biggest casualties of the ICC process. Mr. Kenyatta has been angling for the title of de facto leader of central Kenya while Mr. Ruto is the de facto leader of the Rift Valley Province.
Already within central Kenya cracks abound in the political mold. Ms Martha Karua and Mr. Peter Kenneth are rival contenders, with Mr. Kenyatta, in the Kibaki-succession game. Also in contention are the acephalous “Kikuyu underclass” which has felt sidelined and maligned by the wealthy ruling class from the region since independence. The Mungiki movement is a potential channel for this group to articulate their demands. The election of the likes of “Sonko” and Waititu in Nairobi may be a signal of things to come in 2012. The fight between the country club elite and the matatu generation appears almost inevitable. Should Mr. Kenyatta go down with the ICC process there will certainly be someone on the wings to take his position.
The situation in the Rift Valley is different. Mr. Ruto, like Mr. Odinga in Nyanza, hogs all the political power without any clear contenders on the wings. Should the Eldoret North MP go down with the ICC process, the Rift Valley caucus may end up divided and politically weakened, just like happened in Western Kenya after the death of Kijana Wamalwa. Possible unifiers in a post-Ruto era include Dr. Sally Kosgey and Mr. Samuel Poghisio.
What does all this mean for Kenyan politics?
Firstly, Kenya’s emboldened parliament will have to make the right calls as it continues in its march to become the sovereign in the land. If MPs choose to settle their differences over the ICC’s indictment of their men in the august house it will become a lose-lose situation. The new constitution will not be implemented as intended. Kenya may have to go through a snap election. And in the worst case scenario ethnic tension may explode into full out violence, again.
Secondly, president Kibaki must take charge. Even as he allows his lieutenants room to craft their means of political survival he must make sure that the impression that someone is in charge remains unshaken. The last thing the country needs is a feeling of a free for all situation.
And lastly, Mr. Odinga must not play petty politics with the ICC process. It is obvious that if everything works for Ocampo Mr. Odinga will be the biggest winner. But he must show restraint and calmness. The ICC process must not be made to appear to be a political witch hunt. In any case 2012 is still eons away in political terms. Plus he must consider the impression he will create if he is seen as completely throwing Ruto and Kosgey under the bus, two men who worked hard and delivered him the Rift Valley vote in the 2007 general election.
My take on the latest developments is mixed. On the one hand I like the move to end impunity. 1333 Kenyans died. Those who planned their murder should face justice. On the other hand I know that justice is political. And politics is messy. Perhaps the two principals (Kibaki and Odinga) could cut a deal with Ocampo to rescue their lieutenants in exchange for the latter staying out of politics (and perhaps serving a suspended sentence in Kenya) and contributing some of their wealth to the resettlement of displaced persons from the PEV chaos.
How I wish the whole nation wasn’t so fixated on this but on what Prof. Ndung’u of the CBK has to say about the state of the Kenyan economy or the latest projections on the state of the country’s financial, agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
I hope that Kenya’s captains of industry will not play politics but instead fund the right guys: guys who want macroeconomic and political stability so that more and more equities, access Kenyas and safaricoms can bloom in Kenya.