I haven’t blogged in a while now. I have been busy but that’s no excuse as my good friend, Jesse keeps telling me…Anyway, I plan to make a come back through a shortcut. Last week to be specific Thursday June 21, I was called for an interview at one of the local dailies that has a tradition of taking its recruits through an aptitude test and so I prepared well for one.
However, getting to the interview room, I was asked to write an 800-word essay on who will occupy State House in 2008 in an hour. Well I don’t have a problem with doing a good analysis but the time factor was an issue. And as I have always made it known here and elsewhere, I will declare my presidential candidate in October if not November. Anyway, I did write the 925-word essay below (I have edited it though) and managed to be short listed for the second interview, which I did on Wednesday.
Sorry for taking the shortcut but it may help me keep away some of those single line emails asking where I am.
In a matter unrelated (may be it is), I met Ron Tschetter, the director of US peace Corps. I didn’t manage to get an exclusive interview with him (he is a Bush appointee…so u may guess his schedule was made a month ago) but attended a press conference where I saw our press making us look bad…more on that and some of his comments on Education in Kenya soon.
My Interview Essay
The race for the occupancy of State House after President Mwai Kibaki’s first term is now in top gear as we head into the last five months before the General election. Made up of a formidable force of key opposition leaders, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) looks like a likely next government if the leaders stay united. But with only a few days until the party announces its candidate, mistrust in the party continues to carry the day.
The party’s aspirants Mr. Raila Odinga, Mr. William Ruto, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr. Najib Balala have all separately set up early campaigns way ahead of the announcement. Meanwhile, the KANU Chair, Mr. Kenyattta who refused to submit his nomination papers to ODM continues to threaten of a KANU pull-out from the opposition outfit.
President Kibaki who owes his 2002 landslide victory to most of the ODM luminaries, is yet to make it known his party of choice despite the Democratic Party (DP) and NARC-K claim he is their candidate.
Despite these early election campaigns, the question in most analysts’ minds and in deed majority of Kenyans is who will occupy State House in 2008.
President Kibaki’s re-election remains the most likely outcome of the December election. Various opinion polls have continued to show the incumbent’s re-election strength despite the failure by his government to honour some of the 2002 election pledges. The growth of the economy, the constituency development fund, the youth fund and recently the women fund seem to be Mwai Kibaki’s greatest strengths.
However, Kibaki’s re-election may be hampered by the inherited ghosts of the Goldenberg scandal and the Anglo Leasing scandal. Another weak point facing Kibaki is disloyalty from his cabinet ministers some of whom have openly declared support for other aspirants.
Kibaki seems to be aware of this fact and has in the recent past been meeting various leaders from different parties. His recent meetings with all the councillors where he hiked their pay by KShs. 5,000 and with Ford Kenya MPs on Wednesday, June 20 are clear indications that he is ready to do what it takes to win support.
Kalonzo Musyoka is another likely occupant of State House in 2008 but only if he can have the support of the other ODM candidates. One of Kalonzo’s strengths is that he is youthful and the ‘Vijana Gutuka’ campaign may swing the youth’s votes to him. Kalonzo is also known by many as ‘Mr. Clean’ because his name has not prominently appeared in any of the country’s scandals. This is a great strength for him given that the current government has been on the spot severally over laxity in the fight against corruption.
Despite publicly disparaging his perceived ‘softness’, Kalonzo is still viewed as a weak leader who cannot firmly put his foot down. He may thus need to find a strategy to assert to Kenyans that he is not as ‘soft’ as they think.
Raila Odinga follows Kalonzo closely despite a leaked report that indicated that he comes in third as the ODM-K candidate who can easily beat Kibaki.
Raila’s strength is that he is a populist and can easily carry the day if Kenyans voted on a populist ground. This is the reason why he easily garnered support for Kibaki when he acclaimed ‘Kibaki Tosha’ in 2002. Mr. Odinga also has the resources and the machinery that any presidential candidate would need to make it to State House.
His greatest weakness is that many Kenyans especially the vast Kikuyu community do not trust him as a president. Many speculate that a Raila presidency could turn into a revenge machinery against the former president Daniel arap Moi and the incumbent.
This makes Mr. Odinga a less likely candidate to beat President Kibaki especially if ODM-K collapses or Mr. Uhuru makes a total exit. Raila’s other weaknesses include the various political ‘walk-out’ he has made in the past. These are the LDP-KANU merger and the National Rainbow coalition exits.
Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta could also get to State House in 2008 only if he remains in ODM and becomes the flag bearer. Mr. Kenyatta can carry the day if he wins support from the other ODM aspirants and can help split the Kikuyu vote. His greatest huddle is that most in ODM do not see why there should be another Kikuyu president.
Mr. William Ruto is young and can also benefit from the ‘Vijana Tugutuke’ campaign. However, his weaknesses seem to outweigh his strengths. Mr. Ruto cannot promise to deliver the great Rift vote given that the former president is against the ODM outfit. This may render him ‘useless’ to the ODM fraternity making him an unlikely flag bearer. His fate would even be worse if Uhuru leads KANU out of ODM completely.
Najib Balala has little grassroots support in his Mvita constituency and he is therefore not likely to be equally considered by ODM as a candidate. Even if he gains another party’s candidature, Mr. Balala is not even likely to get a third of the votes in the greater coastal region.
Support declaration by Western province Ministers and MPs may have boosted Musalia Mudavadi’s presidential bid though ODM is not likely to pick him as their candidate. Opposition in the province by government allied MPs may however work negatively for the former Vice-President.
The occupancy of State House will be determined greatly by the ODM-K unity. If ODM can pick a strong candidate and have the rest of the aspirants support him, then the party can give Kibaki a run for the State House Key. Otherwise Kibaki remains the most likely occupant of State House and should not be in a hurry to start packing.