Kenya: the rise of the ‘Uhuruto’ – By Daniel Waweru

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have put past antagonism aside to form a strong electoral coalition for Kenya's 2013 polls.

Like the platypus, the Uhuruto — the newly-unveiled political alliance featuring Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto (with a supporting cast of Musalia Mudavadi and Najib Balala) — is a strange beast, consisting of two such different parts that had been thought to exist only in fantasy.

Uhuru Kenyatta was, until recently, Kenya’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. He is also the incumbent MP for Gatundu South; the son of Kenya’s first President; and the newly-minted leader of the Gikuyu, having triumphed in the succession struggle that kicked off in anticipation of the retirement of President Mwai Kibaki, the senior Gikuyu politician.

William Ruto is MP for Eldoret North; party leader of URP; and the widely-acknowledged leader of the Kalenjin. Both men found themselves on opposing sides at the last election; violence followed; they now find themselves charged, at the international criminal court, with, among other things, crimes against humanity.

Much of the violence before and after the general election of 2007–8 occurred in Kenya’s Rift Valley province: more than 65 percent of reported deaths (744 of 1133) and the vast majority of recorded injuries (2193 of 3561) and displacements. Since much of the worst violence in the Rift Valley took the form of Kalenjin versus Gikuyu ethnic combat, the Uhuru–Ruto alliance is not the most obvious ticket for the general elections in 2013.

Still, they begin the race for the presidency with some formidable advantages. Uhuru will probably have the full backing of Kenya’s largest ethnic community — the Gikuyu — and with them, the rest of the Mount Kenya peoples. These account for up to 25 percent of Kenya’s electorate, and, with a boost in turnout expected now that one of theirs is on the ballot, their share of the electorate might well be higher. Ruto is backed by the Kalenjin, and allied Rift Valley peoples: they account for between 10 and 15 percent of the electorate. While those numbers aren’t quite enough to win the election (which requires a margin of 50 percent +1 ) it’s clear that this is a coalition which satisfies the first requirement of pre-election coalitions: it looks likely to win.

Moreover, they have a compelling story to sell. They have argued that their electoral alliance offers a chance for peace and reconciliation between Gikuyu and Kalenjin. The claim isn’t entirely implausible: it has attracted reputable supporters and endorsers, among them Bishop Cornelius Korir, who did much to reconcile communities in the aftermath of 2007–8.

The alliance can plausibly claim at least four other advantages. The first is that their candidature would, if successful, represent the generational change in leadership that Kenya very urgently needs. The second is that Kenyans’ right to elect their leaders, and, in particular, their President ought not to be usurped by foreigners. To prevent them from running for the Presidency would, they argue, amount to a surrender of the right of self-government; the more so when neither of them has been tried or convicted of the crimes with which they’re charged.

The nationalist card has some resonance, and it plays well against their main opponent, Raila Odinga, who is (i) accused of being over-eager to accede to the wishes of the West, and (ii) charged with having arranged the predicament in which Uhuru and Ruto now find themselves.

Third, they’re set to take advantage of what seems to be an èlite mini-revolt against Raila Odinga’s candidacy: the coalition of ethnic barons he brought to the brink of victory in 2007–8 has shattered; and he’s seen several less substantial figures, whom he might have expected to line up with him this time, follow them out of his party. This has not hampered his opposition’s attempt to portray him as an overbearing and needlessly abrasive boss.

Fourth, the Uhuruto seems to have more money than the opposition: for example, a recent analysis by David Throup – a long-time observer of Kenyan politics – has it that Uhuru has been able to hire political consultants from the UK, at the cost of some 16 million pounds. It is unclear whether funding on that scale is available to ODM.

For all the interest in their candidacy, and their strengths in finance, numbers and messaging, the Uhuruto faces a tough contest. Even though his odds have seriously weakened, the ODM’s Raila Odinga remains the slight favourite. Almost all the recent polling (admittedly, of varying reliability) shows him ahead of Uhuru, who is set to be his alliance’s presidential candidate. Raila’s choice of the incumbent Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate is sound – polling suggests that ticket comes out just ahead of Uhuru and Ruto.

ODM is likely to make every effort to turn the campaign into a referendum on the fitness for office of Uhuru and Ruto. Even setting aside the trials at The Hague (which the duo face in the New Year), there’s plenty of material to make a campaign on these issues worthwhile. Ruto, for example, has been involved in a dizzying array of litigation; whereas Kenyatta has been accused of profiting from land allegedly improperly acquired by his family. Both were prominent in the previous ruling party, KANU, on whose ticket Uhuru ran for the Presidency in 2002, with Ruto closely behind, and Mudavadi as Uhuru’s running mate.

Where Uhuru and Ruto will attempt to present themselves as a new generation of leadership, ODM will counter that they are connected to the worst practices of the ancien régime, and that to elect them would be to ensure its survival. This attack has bite when it comes to the constitution: it has been a refrain of ODM’s that no one should be elected who cannot credibly promise to protect it; and Ruto campaigned against the ratification of the new constitution in 2010.

Finally, the mere fact that Uhuru and Ruto are indictees at the ICC is a powerful issue which, on balance, can be expected to play in favour of the ODM coalition: they can reasonably argue that to elect either Uhuru or Ruto to high office would be to deal a serious blow to the country’s reputation, with consequences for its international relations, and hence its solvency. (In this, they will be helped and hindered by Kofi Annan’s increasingly unsubtle attempts to influence the election.) The alliance’s expected counter — that they come in peace, and that ODM itself was at the centre of the violence — will get an airing, but it amounts to little more than a tu quoque.

But perhaps the most serious issue facing the Uhuruto is the possibility of disqualification on the grounds of integrity. A recent court case, whose movers had sought a ruling determining whether the pair were eligible under the integrity provisions, has been withdrawn. Its movers claim that the withdrawal is tactical: they intend to pursue similar cases against all the major presidential aspirants, requiring all of them to defend their personal integrity.

The emphasis on personal integrity, while understandable, is misplaced; a little-noticed provision in the constitution regarding institutional integrity is the real barrier. In the most recent ruling on the integrity provisions for candidates, a three-judge bench of the High Court distinguished personal and institutional integrity; it then appeared to find that even if no serious allegations against a candidate’s integrity could be sustained, it would nonetheless be necessary to prevent them taking up the public position if their doing so would impair the institutional integrity of the office to which they hoped to ascend.

Recent discussion regarding the eligibility of both Uhuru and Ruto has turned on the question whether they satisfy the integrity provisions of the constitution, where the integrity provisions were broadly understood as related to personal integrity. However, the legal distinction (as defined by the recent ruling on the case of Mumo Matemu) is between personal and institutional integrity, and makes them independent: even if there is insufficient evidence to arrive at a finding that the candidate lacks integrity, the courts will still bar the appointment if they determine that the candidate’s occupation of the office would weaken the integrity of the office they hope to occupy.

It shouldn’t escape notice that in this case the judges defined institutional integrity (or rather, threats to it) very broadly: the court appears to have held that if the consequence of an individual gaining a public office were that Kenyans would be led to question the impartiality of the institution or its institutional integrity, then this questioning of itself would suffice to impair the institutional integrity of the office, and so suffice to disqualify the candidate who aroused it.

One doesn’t have to agree with the decision to see that the if the precedent is upheld, then the Uhuru-Ruto bid is in serious trouble. While they would not directly oversee the institutions which will try them, the police and security services are responsible for cooperation with foreign and domestic courts in regard of the crimes committed during the post-election violence of 2007–8, and all report to the President. Should their bids succeed, Uhuru and Ruto would then have control over bodies which would be expected to investigate allegations concerning their conduct. Given the Matemu precedent, the courts would be bound to find that the candidatures present a threat to the institutional integrity of those bodies.

It seems, then, that the Uhuruto must find a way either to keep the matter out of court, or to ensure that the precedent is distinguished or overturned. Game on.

Daniel Waweru is a Kenyan academic living in the UK.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

19 thoughts on “Kenya: the rise of the ‘Uhuruto’ – By Daniel Waweru

  1. Pingback: Kenya – the uhuruto beast and the elections | Africa – News and Analysis

  2. Generational change, urgently needed? Why?

    A third, important reason why Uhuru and Ruto’s sentiments anti-Odinga sentiments have influence is the ICC’s exemption of a very clearly culpable Odinga. This completely invalidates the moral challenge that could be brought against Uhuru and Ruto.

    Uhuru and Ruto’s massive economic crimes (and their chum Musalia’s), their employment of their political privilege for personal gain is trully problematic. But it is unlikely to become a definitive differentiator at the election when Raila Odinga is their major opponent as he also has his great, great scandals which brought together with the deep pockets he can tap into internationally suggest he may be able to compete financially against Uhuruto.

    Mumo Matemu isn’t a judge. He was proposed for the position of Chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and was going through a vetting process.

    It is important to pay attention to the possibility of Musalia as a proxy of Uhuru’s and to ask whether this will be accepted by Ruto and the Kalenjin. It will also be important to think about what happens should the Ruto and Uhuru pact be broken up by the ICC case, i.e. that they have different outcomes at the court.

    Another important factor to consider with the Uhuruto pact is that it benefits froma disproportionate allocation of seats in the Senate and the Lower House.

  3. ” Odinga, who is … (ii) charged with having arranged the predicament in which Uhuru and Ruto now find themselves [at the ICC].” Interesting analysis, unusually balanced compared to many previous posts by this author. But the statement cited above cannot pass as serious analysis. It is the kind of statement believed by those who would vote against Raila Odinga under whatever circumstances. For this reason, it cannot constitute an advantage. Assessed for its veracity, it makes no sense to anyone versed with ICC processes and would be laughable if it did not touch on a tragic moment in Kenya’s history.

  4. Uhuruto is bound to fail, just as the original Orange movement did and this is simply because of the egos involved. Also, Honourable Kenyatta and Ruto’s verdicts at the Hague are not intertwined. One could be found guilty and the other innocent. If this were the case, do you honestly believe Uhuru would continue to defend an ICC indicted Ruto? A schoolchild could tell you that Uhuru would go on his merry way. The same would go for Ruto if the roles were reversed. This is politics, it is not til death do us part. The one part that you could give Uhuruto great credit was how they stole the thunder from CORD by bringing in Mudavadi. Some may argue that Mudavadi brings nothing to the table or that he has no standing, but it could have been worse for them if he had joined CORD.
    Uhuruto’s flaws lie in that they are running a campaign whose theme is that they are victims. The truth is they are not victims. They have a case to answer and they should best answer it by showing confidence in their innocence and addressing issues that matter. Stop whining and tell us why we should vote for you. Even the smallest parties have blueprints that we can relate to. Uhuruto need to focus on this. There is one truth about this election and it is that it is going to be the most important one in Kenya’s young history, but the electorate is smarter. They are looking at people’s politics and not tribe. I know Kikuyus who will vote ODM and Luos who will vote TNA. You present an argument that lacks facts. Also a side note, the largest voting tribe are the Kalenjin, not Kikuyu. You are taking us to tribal voting patterns of the past and with such a diaspora vibe. Get here, analyze the ground game and vote. You can make a difference, but not with this sordid attempt at tribalistic journalism. Kenya is bigger than any tribe.

  5. Hi Godwin,

    Good to see you again. Your claim, however, is complete nonsense, not least because you give no relevant reason for it; the irrelevant reason you give fails to support it; and it is anyway false.

    Let’s go slowly. You claim that the only people who believe that Raila Odinga is charged with having had a hand in the predicament in which Uhuru and Ruto find themselves are those who would not vote for Raila Odinga under any circumstances. This is laughably false: supporters of Raila believe that the Uhuruto has unfairly blamed Raila for having had a hand in their indictments. (Even if the claim were that Raila had had a hand in the predicament that Uhuru and Ruto find themselves, your claim would still be laughable false: see, for example, the discussion by Courtenay Griffiths QC in the Telegraph of 3.vii.2012, in which he points out that key witnesses against Uhuru were sourced by known associates of Raila. Unless you know something I don’t, Courtenay Griffiths is not registered to vote; still less to vote against Raila.)

    Further, the claim you make is wholly irrelevant to your conclusion. The truth value of ‘Odinga is charged with having arranged the predicament in which Ruto and Uhuru now find themselves at the ICC’ is independent of *who* believes it. Even if it were believed by no one,or everyone, or only those who intend to vote for him, or against, him, the identity of the believers in the proposes iron makes no odds for its truth. So, pointing out the supposed identity of those who believe in it does nothing whatever to show that it is true or false. Hence the irrelevance of your point.

    It is also worth refuting your subsidiary claim that the belief could not constitute an advantage if it were held only by those who intended to vote against Mr. Odinga. Twenty seconds of thought will show that turnout and mobilization matter. If the belief, whatever its truth motivated votes who already intended to vote to turn out, or to intensifies their desire to mobilize others, then it is an advantage, even if all those who held it were already determined to vote against Mr. Odinga.

    As I say, it’s a pleasure to see you up and about, but this really is one of your weaker contributions to recent discussion.

  6. Godwin,

    Not to get in the way of your squabble, but isn’t it sufficient that this belief is popularly held for it to be significant? I think your disagreement stems from the fact that you don’t think this belief is rational, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have traction, and this beyond the ethnic factions that Ruto and Uhuru dominate.

    For what it’s worth, it is a FACT that PNU and ODM arranged each other’s woes at the ICC. Uhuru was shopped to the ICC by ODM (with Ruto and Raila as important players) and Ruto was shopped by PNU (with Martha Karua and Uhuru Kenyatta playing significant roles).

    I’m not persuaded that this is important either way. Voters seem capable of both believing Raila arranged Uhuru and Ruto’s predicament and voting for the Prime Minister, even in the Rift Valley. The whole idea of a nationalist card wielded by Uhuruto is arrant nonsense in any case, and carries little weight in Kenya. For all the dissembling, there’s a solid number of Kenyans who desire foreign intervention in this case. They did after all

    a) report each other to the ICC
    b) insist on an external rather than local tribunal to try the suspects

  7. Should’ve said, the idea of a category ‘wouldn’t vote for Odinga’ doesn’t rest on particularly solid ground. I mangled the code somewhat.

    From the Kenyan papers,

    “If it is not Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto then all roads would lead to Bondo,” said Agriculture Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki. Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ancestral home is Bondo hundreds of kilometres away from the lake side town of Kisumu.

  8. I’m not entirely sure how it follows, from the fact that 40 MPs are unwilling to accept a Mudavadi candidacy on a TNA ticket,that the category ‘would not vote for Raila’ is invalid. As the most recent Infotrak survey shows, Raila is easily the most polarizing of the candidates, with at least 30% of voters dead set against him.

  9. Ibrahim,
    This is not and will not become a squabble; I can easily grant Daniel his verdict that mine is ‘complete nonsense’ and ‘laughbaly false’. I can also grant him that this is my ‘weaker contribution’ to recent discussion. He is a good judge of these things and I respect that. For someone who makes sporadic contributions to such discussion, i am always aware that some will be strong, others weak and that is just how things work. And on the issue of terms of debate, I learned long time ago to engage in debate not to show off or embarrass my protagonists, but to seek space to learn, respectfully engage and expand knowledge. That is why i know that i could not be as profound in my contribution to meet Daniel’s very high standards in just one paragraph.

    Daniel’s logic is always tight, his facts less so and selectively deployed. For me, in determining Uhuru’s and Ruto’s culpability at the ICC, I am less concerned about who set who up (ODM or PNU, Raila or Kibaki). Every court process on issues that are as contentious as the PEV has both sides setting each other up. The PEV issue is therefore not new in terms of people employing this strategy. after all, these are political rivals with unfinished business. This is why Courtenay Griffiths QC citation is useful information but not really new. I am more interested in what evidence these ‘biased’ witnesses provided. I am interested in the verdict of the bench which found the accused liable. if Raila influenced the bench, we can have a discussion about how he influenced them and why he is therefore responsible for the duos predicament. Anything short of this is disrespectful to our intelligence and ability to differentiate a kangaroo court from a serious court.

    On whether these claims of Raila’s responsibility for the duos predicament are enjoying traction, I will avoid speculation. I do not have the comparable numbers to make an informed conclusion.

  10. Hi Ibrahim,

    Very briefly, and in reverse order. I haven’t seen any evidence that the TNA/URP coalition is favored by an inequitable allocation of seats. Would be good to see your evidence for the claim.

    Mudavadi is perfectly sellable in the Rift Valley. He has Kalenjin ancestry; and the Rift Valley voted ODM he was Raila’s running mate. At the very least, it’s hard to see how he could fail to win votes if he had a Rift Valley running mate.

    You’re quite right about Mumo Matemu.. It was a mistake that crept in during the editing process, and which has already been noted by the relevant editors. We can hope that they will make the necessary changes.

    It’s not a sensible assumption to make, to assume that the funding for the campaigns will come only from the proceeds of economic crime, or foreign money. But even if one assumes that the funding comes from the proceeds of economic crime, your claim of parity would still be lacking, given that the opportunities for those crimes have sharply declined in the last decade — the corruption perceptions index is a crude measure, but it actually improved over the last decade, and that more or less coincides with Raila’s opportunity for these crimes. At any rate, your claim of parity remains unproven.

    Generational change is necessary since politics has lost touch not just with youth, but even with those in early middle age: the age structure of the political class is radically unrepresentative not just of the country at large, but even of those with influence. Especially in African politics, that sort of narrow base is a recipe for disaster; Kenya, in the shape of Mau Mau, has already seen one catastrophic generational revolt.

  11. Daniel Waweru at 1759

    The MPs suggested that they would be voting Raila if Uhuru wasn’t on the ticket. The PM has enjoyed massive welcoming crowds in those parts of the country your analyses would not vote for Raila. There’s preferences, but I don’t know about voters being completely closed off from certain candidates.

    Godwin Murunga

    Thank you. I think that fork of the discussion isn’t very promising. I’m not persuaded that any one of these three is less murderous, violent or abusive of public power than the other, so I think discussions tending towards moral judgment are only going to pit your ethnic and other biases against each other.

    Daniel Waweru at 1934

    Come on. So how many Kalenjin counties are there? How many Luhya or Luo counties are there? That’s why Ruto was the biggest catch, and that’s why Moi could build a coalition to dominate parliament, even when the larger ethnic factions were anti-Moi.

    The evidence coming out suggests that Mudavadi was imposed on the Jubilee coalition. His entry complicates Ruto’s sales pitch in the Rift Valley, and diminishes the largesse Ruto can distribute to the political elite there.

    Part Kalenjin? Shocking argument, but goes with the territory, I suppose. These are political, not biological formations.

    I don’t aim to prove the claims of parity. We cannot tell either way, but Raila didn’t do too badly at the last election. On corruption, I think what we’ve seen now is a transformation, less outright pilferage, more Western-style access to grand deals and opportunities to make money from selling to the state/ being granted monopolies by the state.

    There isn’t going to be a generational revolt. There’s no youth constituency that looks at politics and imagines itself unrepresented. Moi was proved very wrong about this in 2002. However this election goes, it isn’t clear that this sentiment, or a moral force around the ICC, is driving it.

  12. Hi Ibrahim,

    It’s unclear what you consider Kalenjin counties, or what you consider Luo counties, or how the imbalance, if there is one, demonstrates that there’s an unfair advantage for Ruto.

    The claim that Moi owed his advantage to gerrymandering in the Rift doesn’t stand up: as Throup and Hornsby properly suggest, his ability to divide Luo and Gikuyu; to gain votes in Western, Coast, and Eastern; and the genuine national preference for him over a candidate from a larger ethnicity were all at least as potent. (And this is to say nothing about the opposition’s inability to get its act in the decade after 1992.)

    It’s true that KANU almost certainly rigged its way to a parliamentary majority in 1997 (see e.g. Brown, ‘Authoritarian Leaders and Multiparty Elections in Africa’ for detail.) But even this doesn’t help your case: if Moi’s tenure was secured by a gerrymandered coalition, with constituency boundaries drawn to maximize his support, there would have been no need to simply change the results in at least eight constituencies in 1997. That is, if gerrymandering Rift Valley seats were enough to secure a dominant coalition, then the rigging was unnecessary, and so ought not to have been observed. But it was observed, so may be assumed necessary; then the gerrymandering can’t have been the cause of the dominant coalition he assembled.

    I’m not sure what evidence you’re looking at for the conclusion that Mudavadi was imposed on the Uhuruto. Three daily papers have all reported that they went looking for him, even visiting him at his house, where they turned up with an agreement which awaited only his signature. If anything, the reports show that he was less enthusiastic about the deal than his partners.

    Your further claim doesn’t fly. His entry doesn’t significantly complicate Ruto’s pitch, since that pitch rested, in significant part, on amassing the numbers necessary to defeat what we must now call CORD. The approach to Mudavadi is consistent with that, and not obviously inconsistent with other parts of the pitch.

    Your other chosen variable — potential largesse — can’t do the trick, since everyone has, potentially, 100% of the largesse to distribute before the elections. If coalition-joining decisions were driven by potential largesse, then you’d expect every politician running for the same position to capture roughly the same quantity of support as his opponents. In fact, candidates differ in their odds of victory, so what matters for decisions about coalition is something like potential largesse by odds of victory: if a candidate who has no chance of winning offers you 100% of the goodies should they win, you probably want to sign a deal with someone who has 50% chance of winning, even if they offer you only 20% of the sweeties. Since Mudavadi significantly improves their odds, a diminution in the potential largesse on offer to each coalition beneficiary is no biggie.

    Yes, part Kalenjin. The point is not to endorse voting on that basis, but rather to note that selling Mudavadi is nowhere near the insurmountable task you proclaim it. No claim about the moral soundness of voting for him base on his ancestry was made or implied, and none was necessary to refute your claim of unsellablity.

    You say that there is no youth constituency that there is no youth constituency that feels itself unrepresented, and so here won’t be a revolt. We needn’t worry whether your second claim follows from the first, since the first has the advantage of being blatantly false: Mungiki, for one obvious example, is a significant youth constituency that feels itself unrepresented.

  13. Daniel Waweru,

    You’re so dishonest in your claims about what I’m claiming that I don’t think this is a fruitful discussion at all. Almost everything you attribute to me I do not claim at all.

    Be well.

  14. Hey Magnus,

    I definately belieave that, this Uhuruto alliance will be of great impact to not only the March 2013 Kenya polls but to the future of the Country. In the same paradox however, for the case Uganda, i don’t think either an alliance between the Banyankole and Baganda for 2016 UG polls can exist. That was a by-the-way Magnus. I still think based on the politics of the region that Raila will win slimly and ascend to the hot seat. It won’t mark a new begining for Kenya because the clerics in the East African politics as well as maintainance of a political statusquo will continue.

    Raila, i geuss will face a challenge of the youthful politicians in the land. This time Musalia is on the wrong card. Raila-Kalonzo, which is also East and West will defeat the Uhuruto parraton, come the March battlefied.

  15. Pingback: Political violence flares up in Kenya | BLOUIN BEAT: Politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


eight − 7 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>