The year 2020 ended as a mixed bag fortune for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
While the government faced unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it helped unite the country somewhat. It also halted heightened partisan politics that had threatened to be divisive and explosive.
The BBI train and the Big Four agenda legacy projects suffered setbacks.
The political lull provided by the Covid-19 gave the President the opportunity to stealthily pluck rebellious Jubilee honchos from the ranks of parliamentary and party leadership. However, the rumbling of the Jubilee river never quite ceased. The Rift Valley bastion remained largely restless and the renegade Deputy President William Ruto continued to attract more converts into his hustler movement.
The country received substantial international support to cushion it from the vagaries of the pandemic. However, the cancer of corruption reemerged in the most unlikely of places, the Covid-19 response medical supplies.
The strategies to pull back the swathes of Uhuru’s Mt Kenya political bedrock support yielded insignificant results. The Tangatanga brigade dug in and maintained their hold around DP William Ruto.
The Kieleweke team lost steam and seemed settled with the changes in parliamentary leadership. In the by-elections that occurred, the President tried to expand his support base by endorsing candidates allied to his new ally, Raila Odinga. These efforts turned counterproductive as Ruto ended up being the inadvertent beneficiary.
The relationship with the Judiciary never improved and remained at best tolerable. David Maraga, who has since retired as Chief Justice, made very uncomfortable decisions and rulings in the sunset days of his tenure at Taifa Road. The economy slumped under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic and massive unemployment set in with the closure of many enterprises.
On New Year’s eve, Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata penned a terse letter to the President. He chose to send it through long winding channels, including social and mainstream media. Being a senior government and Jubilee Party official, this was uncharacteristically impolite and smacked of gross misconduct.
As the President’s eye in the Senate, Kang’ata should have sought and easily secured an audience with Uhuru, if he so wished. His choice of communication medium with his party leader was, therefore, deliberate and meant to achieve other objectives. His officially stated intention to help the President salvage the BBI project in the Mt Kenya region was a cover up.
It is clear Kang’ata had become a lone ranger in Murang’a for President Kenyatta’s legacy projects. His desire to replace Governor Mwangi wa Iria in 2022 was facing an uphill task. He was staring political oblivion since even his Senate seat was no longer assured. It has emerged that the senator was ring-fencing his personal political fortunes using the BBI criticism. However, his actions served to demonstrate a shaky political backyard for the President.
Murang’a has been the hotbed of Central Kenya politics since the reintroduction of multiparty democracy. The President seems to have lost control of the county and the effects are spreading to the other counties.
The fact that Uhuru is serving his last term makes him bear no future for the region. Politicians in the region, therefore, feel no obligation to heed his calls. They instead feel free to chart their future and place their political bets where they consider safe. Without a solid political stronghold, Uhuru cannot push his agenda in 2021 with authority.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created lasting negative effects on the economy. While the country received support from international partners to cushion it, the impact has been devastating.