During Kenya’s darkest hour in 2007/2008 when Kenyans lived through the most devastating bout of post-election violence, William Ruto and Raila Odinga were on the same political side.
With them was the third-in-command in Ruto’s government, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. Ruto and Mudavadi represented Odinga during the Koffi Annan-led Serena Peace Talks, with Uhuru Kenyatta and Martha Karua, who represented the Mwai Kibaki side, being their interlocutors. It so happens, as it tends to happen in Kenya’s incestuous body politic, that Kenyatta was the chairman of Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja One Kenya and Karua Odinga’s running mate in the recent presidential election. No permanent enemies. Just interests.
It therefore goes without saying that the top leadership of the two antagonizing sides in Kenya today as represented by Odinga, Ruto, Mudavadi, Kenyatta, Karua – and others who were pivotal in resolving the 2007/2008 crisis – all know that a country can burn to ashes, just like a piece of paper. All that’s needed is a political matchstick thrown in the dried savannah of desperate political supporters, fuelled by a little gasoline in the form of political rhetoric and a police apparatus that abandons its obligations and morphs into the state’s own vigilante.
No one needs a lecture on this.
And yet today Odinga, Ruto, Mudavadi, Kenyatta, Karua and others are watching as Kenya is hurtling, with eyes wide open, towards a danger zone that might result in the country burning, again. Ruto and Kenyatta ought to be even more cautious considering they previously faced crimes against humanity charges at The Hague post the Serena Talks, carrying the crosses for criminal acts supposedly committed on behalf of their political networks. And yet today, Ruto is proclaiming his tigritude as the Commander-in-Chief, threatening to pounce, while Uhuru Kenyatta is coming out of retirement to physically defend his Jubilee Party against the police.
In fact, the other person that ought to know and do better, and who we’ve beseeched as much through this medium, is Inspector General of Police Eng. Japheth Koome, whose predecessor (Retired) Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali escaped crimes against humanity charges for police culpability at The Hague by a whisker.
And yet today, Tuesday 2 May 2023 represents a crossing of the rubicon of sorts.
Raila Odinga and his Azimio coalition have vowed to go back to the streets, intending to deliver petitions to a number of government installations to register a plethora of demands and complaints against the state, ranging from their contestation of the presidential election results to asks for the lowering of the cost of living. On the other hand, William Ruto is promising to unleash an equal and opposing force against protestors, if not something stronger, accusing Odinga of instigating economic sabotage guised as street protests.
Taking cue from the state, the police have declared the Odinga-led protests illegal, much as the right to protest is a constitutional guarantee. Caught in-between Odinga and Ruto are merchants of political gasoline, some going as far as forming and advertising groups which pass for vigilantes by any standards, a premeditated recipe for violent confrontation.
And yet we are walking into this as a country, eyes wide open.
Even more scary is the loose talk of political assassinations, a dangerous seed that is being thrown around recklessly. It will be Kenya’s worst nightmare were such a seed to find fertile ground to sprout. And if Kenya starts to burn today, or from today, let there be no doubt that those in positions of responsibility knew where the country was headed to, and played along.
Let nobody say they weren’t warned.
We have urged for the civil society to step up
We have urged for Kenyan statesmen and women to assume their rightful role
We have urged the police to err on the side of caution
We have urged for genuine bipartisan talks
We have urged for Ruto and Odinga to fellowship
But is anyone listening?