Kenya’s political scene is set on Kenyatta succession

Saturday January 11 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), his deputy William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report this past week. PHOTO | DPPS


The region’s attention may be turned to this year’s elections in Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi and Ethiopia, but Kenya has been politicking since the conclusion of the 2017 general election, with jostling in full gear for the 2022 elections.

The beginning of 2020 has seen a rise in political temperatures with major players creating new alliances against the backdrop of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report released last year. The BBI is said to be setting the ground for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.

So far, the president is keeping everybody guessing on his preferred successor.

While it is still not yet clear whether the country will hold a referendum to amend the Constitution as per the BBI report, the ruling Jubilee Party is likely to split during the party’s grassroots elections in March, between those supporting President Kenyatta and supporters of his deputy William Ruto.

“In Kenya, like many African countries, there is always divergence and convergence over vested interests by major players because we are yet to form strong ideological commitments or party loyalties,” said Ben Sihanya, a Constitutional Law lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

President Kenyatta is currently balancing managing his succession through his two-year working relations with former opposition leader Raila Odinga, and his legacy through the Big Four Agenda public projects for creation of job opportunities for the youth through the expansion of manufacturing sector, affordable housing, universal healthcare and food security.


For the March elections, Mr Ruto is already wooing President Kenyatta’s central Kenya region to forge ahead of his would-be opponents.

John Waiganjo, a former MP for Ol Joro Orok, said Mr Ruto is aware that he needs the support of other regions outside his stronghold of Rift Valley to project the look of a national leader.

Mr Waiganjo said that after the Jubilee elections and the possible referendum, a de facto opposition could emerge to fill the vacuum left by Mr Odinga when he opted to work with President Kenyatta.

Mr Ruto’s camp is pushing for any Constitutional amendments to be done through parliament, on the grounds that a referendum will be expensive and divisive.

Kenya still lacks a substantive referendum law, but the parliamentary Constitutional Implementation and Oversight Committee last year drafted the Referendum Bill, 2019, which is yet to be presented before parliament.

The BBI is a product of a March 2018 truce between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.