African Press International (API)

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The presidency: Kibaki succession war is on

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.standard.ke

Kenya after Kibakis presidency

Story by Sunday Standard Team

Because President Kibaki is serving his second and final term, his legacy may be uniquely defined by the succession wars building up around him. Signs are out the combatants, some reluctantly crammed into the Grand Coalition by circumstances beyond their control, have staked out their claim. The portfolio and protocol wars are signs of the undercurrents in Kibakis backyard both within his Party of National Unity and Prime Minister Raila Odingas Orange Democratic Movement. Little is said about it but behind the mask, post-Kibaki era is on the lips.

The Grand Coalition as propped up by the National Accord is transient. The real battle is ahead and the leaders are buying time, while oiling their war-machines. It is probably the lull before the storm and that is why some ministers around the President who shouted the most, staking out their careers for him, have gone quiet. They are said to be keen on pulling away from his shadow to be judged on their own merit.

In ODM Raila, having come so close, and with the feeling his victory was stolen, will before then be remoulding his electoral machine, while ensuring he keeps on his side the Pentagon. With the executive powers he has, and the appointment of ministers the President cannot fire, including him, it will be a journey in self-reinvention.

That is why Kalonzo, who his party perceives as the presumed rather than heir apparent, given his dismal performance in the General Election last year, has to be dealt with first.

That is how Kilome MP John Harun Mwau could be coming in. Raila nominated him for an assistant ministerial position, though he is not an ODM member. Behind the scenes, he has been a strong supporter of the party and its leadership.

With Water Minister Charity Ngilu, Mwau can be trusted to keep Kalonzo busy in lower Eastern Province. It is a policy of containment and Raila knows he might be meeting Kalonzo in the ring again for what could be the final round and this time without Kibaki.

The protocol wars, on who is higher in the executive hierarchy, burst out of the Kibaki succession. Raila will obviously be fighting to keep the ODM brigade on his side while at the same time winning over some in PNU with the assurance he is neither vengeful nor bound to a particular group.

Kalonzo, on the other hand, will be counting on Kibakis anointment, to reciprocate his joining him in a coalition at the time the President was at his weakest, with the country going up in smoke.

But two things are unlikely; Central Province will traditionally field its own candidate; and Kibaki may in the sunset of his political career, choose to be neutral and so let the boys fight it out. This is reinforced by the perception he never fights anyones war, especially when things are going his way.

Central Kenya heir

Kibaki may want to bequeath the seat to a trusted ally and could be spoilt for choice among the four leading PNU politicians who have made it clear they want a higher profile and Cabinet posts are not enough.

They include frontrunner that is also a party leader Mr Uhuru Kenyatta. Kibaki gave Uhuru a head start by appointing him Deputy Prime Minister. Uhuru has been close, having come second to Kibaki in the 2002 presidential election. His youthfulness could be handy as Kenyans push for a generational change. The only handicap is that he is from central Kenya and it may not be easy for Kenyans to pick the fourth President from a region that has produced two of three since independence.

But as DPM he will be repositioning himself for the duel of his life, when the whistle is blown.

Next, is Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua, who last week declared her name would be on the ballot paper in the 2012 General Election.

For the moment her focus is improving Narc-Kenyas fortunes a party whose profile her backers say was lowered by alliance to PNU.

Sources around her say she is working on a strategy to change her image as a hardliner, a perception reinforced during her stint as one of Kibakis representatives at the Serena Peace talks.

She is also said to be keen on winning the image of a mother figure, with an equally improved image of a national leader.

There is also Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti, the mathematics from the University of Nairobi, and a former Vice-President. Last year he said he was going to support Kibaki but in 2012 he would be in the ring.

Saitoti has deep pockets; has almost outgrown the Goldenberg stigma; and has his roots in the Rift Valley and Central provinces. His friends, too, are well spread out. Though he was not appointed DPM, he has the Presidents ear.

There are those who argue the President could have set off the protocol war, especially by refusing to intervene even as it played itself out before him, to appear to be above the fray. Some observers, however, see peril for both the President and his principal assistant, should they escalate the protocol wars.

For the VP, it will be a journey down a trodden path, littered by ambitions of predecessors who saw themselves as heart beats away from the presidency only to realise how far they were, abandoned or dropped at the convenient time.

Kalonzo, unlike the ODM brigade in the Cabinet, can be replaced at the convenience of the President.

For the President, the peril is that, by presiding over the attempt to undermine the Prime Minister, who gave him a run for his money and has almost equal following across the country, he could spark off a succession battle that would derail the national agenda.

The battle could also render Kibaki a lame duck President too early in his second term, with politicians and their supporters planning for government without him.

Uhuru could be lying low now but he is seen to be the leading contender for the presidency from Central Province. A leadership style that leaves these politicians fighting for space could bury Kibaki early and bog down his agenda and his attempt to salvage his battered legacy.

Fight for supremacy

It is a delicate balance because even if they work together and deliver on the national agenda, credit would most likely go to the President as Head of State and the PM, who is the supervisor and co-ordinator of functions of the Government.

That scenario could also spark battles for supremacy in the coalition, each would-be contender for the presidency angling to be seen to be the one driving that national agenda.

The national agenda, as laid out in the peace accord, focuses on resettlement of the displaced, investigating past abuses through the Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, investigating the Electoral Commission, and atoning for historical injustices.

“If the leaders concentrate on these, the succession battle may wait until, say, three years into the Kibaki presidency, then the fighting for supremacy may begin. If that does not happen, the succession battle may begin soon, as each fights for himself or herself,” a PNU supporter said.

But even those close to the President say it is highly likely that he supports the line up that puts Raila below Kalonzo, although the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura has been seen to be the one pushing it.

For the VP, the odds are greater. That struggle, which some politicians and legal experts see as unnecessary and instigated, has refocused attention on the explosive number two office, and where it will leave Kalonzo in 2012.

From independence in 1963, the Vice-President has been touted as the Presidents principal assistant, making it look like the holder is president-in- waiting. But the reality is different: Only one holder of the office has become President, and in 2002 Saitoti and Mudavadi who were VPs in the dying months of Kanu, were sidestepped.

The assumption in ODM is that it should remain united for the unfinished business the Presidency. To their advantage they have a solid political movement, not a cluster of parties like PNU. Its leadership line-up is set and its support blocs mapped out.

Over in Kibakis camp, without him in the race it is a scramble. For both parties, and barring the emergence of a third force with the capacity thrice as ODM-Kenya, and however far the election is, the drumbeats of another PNU-ODM war is in the air. The Grand Coalition could just be the changing room players occupy before the next round.

In what they do as members of one government, the eye is on the next election, and it can never be far. It is the war for control of Kenya after Kibaki.

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African Press International – api

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