Kenyans listen to East Africans: Ruto and Raila have graduated into nuisance EAC should dump

Kenyans listen to East Africans: Ruto and Raila have graduated into nuisance EAC should dump


To East Africans, the wider Africa and friends of Kenya outside Africa, the stand off between President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga has acquired the character of nuisance. Outside Kenya, there is a growing feeling that they are two politicians the region can do without.

For more than two months now, East Africans have been treated to a charade called maandamano or demonstrations. The demos began as a demand to work downwards the cost of living, especially the price of staples like maize flour, sugar and bread. They mutated into demand for opening Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) servers to determine who won the 2022 presidential election. Then it became a quest to oust Ruto from power. Somewhere along the way, it became an obfuscation, hence the lack of structure and content!

This is the kind of nuisance the East African Community does not need.

The street demonstrations have paralysed businesses in Kenyans and farther afield in landlocked countries like Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The paralysis has had an impact on basic needs and services.

While Raila’s push for political pluralism in Kenya in the past hoisted him to African statesman, his post-election lamentations cast him as a petulant politician who approaches every election without strategy or plan. Observers of Kenyan politics get the impression that Raila Odinga designs his own losses, which gives him a platform to remain relevant politically.

President Ruto has been in office for barely a year. During this period, he has demonstrated strong signs of impudence that takes Kenya back to the eras of Jomo Kenyatta and Daneil arap Moi or Milton Obote and Idi Amin in Uganda. It may too soon to make any predictions, but there are indications that Kenya has brutal tyrant in the making and Raila Odinga is – through maandamano – egging on the tin-god-in-the-making to soar higher.

 As an outsider, I am inclined to ask these questions – and they are not stupid questions:

1. What is it that Odinga wants to change in Kenya that guides his politics, and unless changed, cannot allow his nemesis to complete his presidential corruption?

2. What strategies has Odinga designed to conquer political corruption, which is the mother of all evils in Kenya, making the country the fourth most corrupt in the world after Uganda? Odinga’s own political formation – the Orange Democratic Movement – is replete with stories of deep-seated corruption, where the highest bidder gets nominated during party primaries.

3. Which Kenyan politician has acquired wealth without stealing from the poor or government (primitive accumulation)? Raila’s own wealth has been contested as proceeds of corruption.

I think Odinga and Ruto should become less egoistic and more nationalistic (if Kenya is already a nation) and resolve to negotiate power sharing so that all shades of political association are reflected in the governance of the country. Ruto should not adopt Uganda President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s political strategy of co-opting alternative leaders from the Opposition while clandestinely working to destroy political parties that organise differently from his National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Similarity or sameness in political thought and association is not a virtue but a vice. Naturally the world is pluralistic and diverse in structure and function. Reducing it to a simple structure of one party, one leadership, one governance is tragic and prepares it for decay and collapse in the long term. It sows seeds of fear and silence which are no good, since in the long-term social and political explosion may occur washing out any development, transformation and progress that may have been registered.

No. Odinga and Ruto should put Kenya first, not their individual political and economic interests. That should be the case for all African countries whose rulers stream to Washington, Beijing or Moscow as if the wicked problems of their countries and the solutions to them reside there. It is in the interest of rulers and those aspire to become rulers to respect the public interests and collective aspirations of their people and society. That is the way to go. Any other way is ultimately catastrophic, however long the catastrophe takes to occur.

Ruto and Odinga should have in their minds the truism that if wrong political thoughts lead to the destruction of Kenya there will be a chain reaction leading to violence and chaos in Uganda and the rest of the Great Lakes region. Therefore, in their political manifestation they should think and act beyond the confines of Kenya. That is what will make them Great Statesmen in Kenya and the region.

My thoughts are my thoughts and are not meant to be binding. They may or may not be ignored. But ignoring them can be catastrophic.

  • A Tell report / By Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula, a former professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Makerere University, Uganda
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