The Kibaki succession is about to claim its next victims. Kenya is suddenly too small to hide anywhere.
After a week of exciting political shadow boxing, the two principals are due to square-off face to face this Sunday.
Interesting political times lie ahead and I can already forecast that the cabinet tenures of William Ruto and Sam Ongeri are no longer tenable. Will they wait till Sunday or will they resign to pre-empt the inevitable?
The Prime Minister's unprecedented action to suspend two ministers accused of corruption over the weekend has produced the desired political effect.
First, the normally laid back and timid president was compelled to swiftly react to the suspensions and three days later, he is still issuing statements from State House to reassure the public and others that all is well in the coalition. Secondly, the suspension also triggered a flurry of political upheavals locally, seeing that both PNU and ODM National Executive Committees calling meetings. Religious leaders have not been left behind. Thirdly, the international and local media have become very excited and the story has been headline news for four days running. Fifthly, and perhaps most importantly, it has raised the profile of Raila Odinga among Kenyans and international development partners that he is indeed committed to fighting against grand corruption in Africa. Even the US State Department issued a statement urging the two partners to work together in order not to derail constitutional reforms or the fight against corruption. Powerful people may have made diplomatic phone calls between Nairobi and Tokyo.
Having said that, and speaking as a one with their ear on the ground, and unless a miracle happens, I do not think William Ruto will still be Agriculture minister by this time next week. Neither will Ongeri be Education minister by then. If they do not step aside for three months (which is what ODM wanted), then they most certainly will be reshuffled to other ministries (PNU’s preference). Whichever way it ends up, something must move, will it be the collapse of the coalition? I do not think so.
But what happens to Rift Valley’s self-proclaimed and proud Kingpin William Ruto? Will he take a transfer or a suspension or a sacking lying down? Unlikely. I do not think Ongeri has the political legs to resist anything but for William Ruto, it is a different story. Rather than step aside, William Ruto may step down as Minister, and follow that up with resigning from ODM.
Ruto is certain to want to show his political muscle and he may even resign his seat in ODM and quit the party before the president and the prime minister square off on Sunday. There are no official secrets in the GCG and it may even be that William Ruto has already been told to prepare for an exit and prepare himself for a soft landing. No other landing can be softer than dealing the ODM a body blow.
Ruto’s departure from ODM will mark the end of a very eventful marriage, but that is a story for next week. In case he defects, Ruto will necessitate a by-election in Eldoret North and he will most certainly be re-elected on UDM ticket. (Remember it is only the PM who has done this before, when he quit FORD-K for NDP in 1997). Ruto may want to shatter this record.
This will also mark the official launch of Ruto's presidential campaign, modeled along the lines of a similar campaign by Kalonzo Musyoka three years ago. Howerver, the big question remains: Is PNU honest with Ruto? Is PNU willing to nominate him back to the GCG cabinet? Who will be sacrificed for Ruto from among the PNU ministers? Perhaps Ali Mwakwere's loss of petition is god-sent for PNU. But then again, will Coast accept their docket to be given away? Will Ruto's political constituency, meaning supporters, local councillors, MPs want to defect en-mass with him, or will they bid their time until the parliament is dissolved?
In replacing William Ruto, ODM may choose to test the resolve of the William Ruto group by offering the Agriculture docket to someone like Isaac Ruto or Joshua Kutuny. Politics is a game of chess and a cabinet post in Kenya's government carries huge fringe benefits more so if it is the Agricultural docket which is the largest docket of those that ODM got in the power sharing arrangement. If a Ruto supporter accepts to be reappointed as Agriculture minister, and they are put on the campaign trail in Rift Valley, this will seriously complicate Ruto’s presidential campaign that has been largely hinged on galvanising ethnic support. ODM may even choose to move Ruto’s friend and comrade Najib Balala to the Agriculture docket and give Balala’s tourism docket to a Rift Valley politician like Musa Sirma. Semeni n’gweee?
To be continued............
Meanwhile, why is everyone talking about three months suspension. Why not two months or four months? Has this got anything to do with an earth shaking announcement from the ICC, expected to be made in the coming weeks?
Post written by Phil and posted by Chris for technical reasons.