Many were awed when Deputy President William Ruto said “NASA leaders are nepotists”. The DP is the face, and indeed underwriter, of the description of the Jubilee regime as an exclusive ethnic duopoly of elites from two communities.
In the nascent Jubilee regime of 2013, the tag of ethnic duopoly had Ruto as the poster boy with the clandestine support of his partners who were happy to let him carry the tribalism baton. His 50 per cent share of government appointments lacked diversity. URP became indelibly identified as a Kalenjin party, while President Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA escaped the tag, it was argued, by sharing his 50 per cent across the country.
TNA spin doctors were happy to let the DP’s image remain that of an irredeemable tribalist disparaging other communities. Ruto didn’t disappoint. His appointees in public service are increasingly mono-ethnic. Ruto may not have appointed family, but he deliberately, unabashedly went for ethnic cronyism.
As if to justify ethnic exclusion in government, he would on his innumerable politicking in Luhyaland chide the community that “you’re now begging to join us in government but next time we must form government together”. This toxic putdown was a backhanded compliment to the rustic community’s deep feeling of being isolated by the Jubilee regime. In local dialect, Ruto’s acerbic tongue-in-cheek means the Luhya didn’t vote Jubilee so they are not qualified for state appointments.
Thus Jubilee remained paralysed by its exclusionist illusion in the early days until the duo tried to connect the dots with token appointments to other communities.
This came in the form of the discredited Charity Ngilu and Kazungu Kambi, and Najib Balala. Token appointments for lowly positions would last year be doled out to nondescript politicians in panic mode to stem ethnic exclusion from being a campaign issue. Unfortunately, it was glaring how these slots where skewed in favour of the duo’s ethnicities.
Ruto was well aware of this, hence his attempt to deflect attention with the lurch at an inordinate straw such as the proposed nomination of NASA running mate Kalonzo Musyoka’s son to the East African Legislative Assembly. It’s a desperate heave because Ruto opened the door to public debate on political leaders’ proclivity to populate the public wage bill with undeserving relatives and ethnic cronies.
Ruto may not have a bevy of immediate family members in government, but who says he doesn’t have distant uncles, cousins and aunties in lucrative public appointments?
Questions abound on the alleged meteoric rise of his daughter in the diplomatic service. Intoxicated with power, he paid little attention to the grapevine second-guessing him on who’s at the helm of Kenya Power and who’s delivering on the expensive switch from wood to concrete poles, a scheme that is inflating electricity bills.
He’s also inadvertently drawn attention to Uhuru’s cavorting with a crowd of cousins in plum public appointments and ‘winning’ equally lucrative tenders.
Among senior political figures, few can afford to throw stones from their family glass houses. They commit a bigger fraud in apportioning electoral positions to filial relations. The rejection of Uhuru and NASA flagbearer Raila Odinga’s relatives in the primaries is telling on how pervasive this practice is. The voters’ audacity exposed an insidious dynastic political system operating beneath the façade of democracy.
The larger public did not know Uhuru had a cousin for Kiambu county woman rep until she was walloped in the nominations. We all knew Oburu Oginga and the voluble Jakoyo Midiwo as brother and cousin of Raila respectively, but they became valueless when whitewashed in the primaries. It’s to the credit of the two leaders that they didn’t intervene on behalf of their kin.
Are there lessons to glean from the rejection of Uhuru and Raila’s relatives during the nominations? It’s an open secret that many more dynastic members sneaked through the primaries to remain sequestered in the system. However, it could be a glimmer of hope that Kenyans are beginning a weary journey against dynastic politics.
Communications, publications and conflict management Specialist, University of Nairobi