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Kenya: Can Kenyatta control his final 9 months in power?

By Son Gatitu, in Nairobi
Posted on Friday, 5 November 2021 18:57

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday Nov. 1, 2021. The U.N. climate summit in Glasgow gathers leaders from around the world, in Scotland's biggest city, to lay out their vision for addressing the common challenge of global warming. (Yves Herman/Pool via AP)/LBJ478/21305617751818/82397292/2111011815

On 9 November, Kenya will be nine months away from its presidential elections. Can President Uhuru Kenyatta shape the legacy he wants, or will he be dragged into bitter succession politics?

A foreigner visiting Kenya on 20 October 2021, who happened to switch on a TV set featuring the ‘Mashujaa Day’ celebrations, would be forgiven for thinking that Kenya is a model democracy with political leaders who treat each other with decorum, despite differences of opinion.

Mashujaa is a Swahili word meaning ‘heroes’ and every year, Kenyans celebrate independence- and modern-day heroes. This year’s fete was held at the new Wang’uru Stadium in Kirinyaga County within the Mount Kenya region.

On that day, President Kenyatta sat next to his deputy William Ruto, smiling and nodding, as though the last 18 months have not been wracked by increasingly tense relations.