For somebody who sits behind a computer in Nairobi or somewhere on California reading Kumekucha and other political sites, the win by Chirau Mwakwere in Matuga was a shocker. To yours truly who is always in touch with Kenyans on the ground, the only thing that was surprising and called for further investigation was the huge margin of victory.
But I still do get shocked all the time by Kenyan politics and I will tell you what staggers me so much at the moment. It is the speed at which our politics is changing.
Let me illustrate this by focusing on one politician in particular.
William Ruto and with Prime Minister Raila Odinga: Sulking?
William Ruto, the Higher education minister. Make no mistake about it, Kenyan voters greatly admire survivors and politicians who emerge victorious against great odds. Older Kenyans will remember one Paul Ngei whow as said to have more lives than that of the proverbial cat. President Moi decided that he was gpoing to finish him politically and propped up former chief of general staf Jackson Mulinge to stand against him in the Kangundo constituency. In those greatly discredited queue voting elections, Muling got more than 70% in the first round and was supposed to be declared winner unopposed. Many Kenyan journalists had even started writing Ngei’s political orbituary. But against all odds the man (using threats and every dirty trick in the book) forced Moi to cancel those elections and when the two candidates went into the secret ballot, Ngei somehow won narrowly. Now after those elections ministers were sworn in at Uhuru Park and the huge crowd wildly cheered the political survivor when he came to take his oath of office as a cabinet minister.
William Ruto had a very similar image in the eyes of Kenyans barely a few weeks ago. The man was greatly admired for being a thorn in the flesh of such political heavyweights as ODM leader Raila Odinga and also for being a survivor when such powerful people wanted him out.
Now incase you are not aware, ordinary Kenyans at the grassroots level have taken the draft constitution very seriously indeed and a huge number of them have actually read right through the bulky document. Things are actually very different from what they were in 2005 when one Raila Odinga led opposition against the Bomas draft and used it to lift himself politically. Fast forward to 2010 and William Ruto is trying to use the same strategy to position himself for 2012. And so he has been using some of the tactics Raila Odinga used in 2005. Like telling the people blatant lies about the draft constitution. It worked well for Raila in 2005 because people swallowed everything hook line and sinker. A poor excuse of a Kenyan interviewed on TV then even admitted that as long as Raila had read the document and decided it was bad, he had no business reading it for himself.
But 2010 is a different ball game. Apart from it being a lot more difficult to cheat Kenyans, there are things like the Ukweli (truth) meter (in the committee of experts’ brilliant campaign to create awareness on the constitution). Then we also have Citizen TV moving from village to village across the country entertaining Kenyans as they educate them about the draft. Newspapers too have been occasionally telling Kenyans what politicians are saying and comparing it to what is in the draft constitution. The result is that Ruto has been challenged several times during his rallies by ordinary people in the crowd who have screamed back “uwongo” (lies).
What has actually happened in a few short weeks is that Ruto is now viewed by most Kenyans as a very devious character who will not hesitate to tell lies to achieve his agenda. This is exactly the character of the man since his days at the Hilton Hotel jobless corner as a job seeker to his meteoric overnight rise to the top as a very wealthy man. Naturally this is the kind of image that would make it very difficult for him to successfully seek a national political seat. In fact he may even ran into serious problems retaining his parliamentary seat at this rate.
On the other end of the scale the image of Mwai Kibaki has been tremendously transformed mainly because of his steadfast support of the new constitution and his countrywide campaigns. If the constitution passes chances are history will treat Mwai Kibaki much more kindly, he may even emerge as a hero of sorts. That my friends is the nature of politics and a man’s image. Very fickle stuff I assure you.
But the man whose image has reached the greatest heights of all is Prime Minister Raila Odinga. I dare add that his recent hospitalization has helped (sympathy really counts for a lot in politics). There is no doubt that if presidential elections were to be held today the son of Jaramogi would have no competition. Now don’t get me wrong!!! I am NOT making any predictions for 2012 because a week is a long time in politics and 6 months can be a century (the way things are going right now).
The lesson politicians must take from what has happened to Ruto is that in the coming days political reputations will be made and destroyed in a flash. Guys, the ball game has changed dramatically and yet most politicians have been caught napping and are still holding the ball and standing still when play has long moved on (with another ball).
Property prices at the Coast have hit the roof and are still rising. But Kenyans are still not wasting time seeking property next to the proposed Port in Lamu (see property Number 6).