Enduring political dynasties By Barrack Muluka | Updated Sun, January 1st 2017 at 09:50
CORD leader Raila Odinga (left) with President Uhuru Kenyatta
When he announced his intent to run for President in this year‘s General Election, Nyamira Senator Okong‘o Mong‘are said he wanted to end “the disruptive dynastic politics“ of the Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga families. Like Senator Mong‘are, many other Kenyans – those who support either of the two families and those who don‘t – see the forthcoming elections as a continuation of political competition between the Kenyatta and Odinga families. Currently starring in this five-decade drama are the leading scions of the families.
There is President Uhuru Kenyatta starring for the Kenyatta dynasty and CORD leader, Raila Odinga, for the Jaramogi dynasty. Also starring is a host of friends and relatives on both sides of the duel. Their Kikuyu and Luo tribesmen and women also come in tow, as do affiliated franchise holding tribes. It is an atrocious dynastic duel that has taken many guises and permutations over time, with now this dynasty or its proxy on top and then the other family, or its alternate. Their “frenemic” relationship that has seen them work together for a while, only to acrimoniously part company again.
At the dawn of independence, the elder Kenyatta and Jaramogi were the best of friends. They even donned the same trademark beaded Luo cap and carried identical Gikuyu fly whisks. Then, one day, they parted in a huff. President Uhuru, too, has had his crony moments with the younger Odinga and separated just as swiftly, amid mutual exchanges of angry words. In March 2002, they were enjoined in what was then touted as the New Kanu. Uhuru was one of the four deputy vice chairs of the party, while Raila was the secretary general. All looked rosy and cozy, until the poisoned chalice that was the Uhuru for President Project threw them apart, later that year. They would come together again in 2005 to campaign against President Kibaki‘s Kilifi Draft Constitution in a caustic referendum that profiled the country across ethnic divides.
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Bolted out Uhuru was the odd man out in what was seen as an anti-Mt Kenya conglomerate against what was called the (Amos) Wako Constitution. Uhuru and Raila hung together in triumph against President Kibaki for a while. They even formed and registered a new political outfit, the Orange Democratic Movement. Then ominous clouds began gathering above them and their party. They could not agree on whether they should dissolve their old parties or make them corporate members of the new party. Uhuru bolted – once again amidst angry exchanges between him and Raila, with William Ruto as Raila‘s most able deputy combatant against Uhuru. Uhuru‘s departure from ODM in 2006 was, however, only continuation of old dynastic business by a new generation of players. At the start of it all, Jaramogi laid the stage for the ascendancy of the Kenyatta Dynasty.
The departing British colonial authorities and their principals, back in Westminster, were uneasy about Mzee Kenyatta, following his forays into Russia and his meddling with Prof Bronislaw Malinowski; a dalliance that culminated in the publishing of the anthropological portrait of the Kikuyu cosmology in the volume titled Facing Mt Kenya. It was feared that Kenyatta‘s links with Eastern Europe might open the door to socialism in Kenya and East Africa. This would set back the American global campaign against socialism. The Cold War (1945 – 1990) spared nobody. NATO closely watched leaders in newly independent African states in the 1950s to the 1970s.
There was need to determine their ideological leaning. Those thought to be pro socialism were destabilised. Some were removed. Others were killed. Leftists who had not yet ascended to power should be locked out altogether. It was under this philosophy that Britain was keen that Kenya should go to independence without Kenyatta, who was then in detention. They asked Jaramogi to form the Madaraka Government. However, romantic idealist that he was, Odinga refused. He called, instead, for Kenyatta‘s release. You hear his shrill voice on archival tape recordings saying, “Kenyatta is our second god. There will be no independence without Kenyatta.”