NewsEast & Horn AfricaBriefing/Signposts: Kenya - Three's a crowd


Posted on Monday, 02 July 2018 11:14

Briefing/Signposts: Kenya - Three's a crowd

By Ulysse Osmont

The StarOn 9 March, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta shook hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga, half a year after  the troubled Kenyan general elections.

Odinga had boycotted  the second round after the Supreme Court threw out the results of the first round due to problems in the vote’s organisation. Odinga and his allies  in the National Super Alliance launched a civil disobedience campaign that was quickly abandoned. The handshake has now redefined the political landscape, with Odinga trying to stymie the rise of deputy president William Ruto.
Odinga’s gambit is that he could back a series of constitutional reforms that would allow him to cut off Ruto  at the pass. The reforms, based on  a nine-point agenda agreed between Kenyatta and Odinga, includes a “three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional  or provincial governments and retains the national government with a very clear formula for revenue sharing,” says Odinga. He says his major goal  is greater devolution that would address the weaknesses of the constitutional reforms of 2010. The agenda for reform also includes reintroducing  the role of prime minister so  as to have a dual-executive system.
Not keen on reforms
Ruto is not at all keen on the reforms. “If there is going to  be a suggestion on arranging or rearranging of devolution, it cannot  be creating another layer of government”, he declared at the fifth annual devolution conference  on 26 April. “Those supporting  the change are only interested  in positions at the expense of improving lives of Kenyans,” he argued, as Odinga tried to manoeuvre into the role  of future prime minister. President Kenyatta is showing that the road  to reform will be a rocky one. On  19 May, he said that Odinga’s proposals “won’t solve the problems we have”. 
Ruto has his eyes firmly set on the next round of presidential elections in 2022 and is busy making new friends. Kilifi governor Amason Kingi, an ally of Odinga’s, is building bridges with Ruto. Kingi is finishing his  second and last term as governor and does not see much room for promotion on Odinga’s side. In May, Kingi was photographed distributing food with Ruto. Capitalising on the situation, Kingi is now trying to set up a party with members of parliament from  the Coast. That could hurt Odinga’s electoral chances and shift the political chessboard in the years to come. 
This article first appeared in the June 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine

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