Muthui Kariuki - VP Kalonzo is not a tribal chieftain - The Star

What a pity that Star Thursday columnist Wycliffe Muga persists in promoting the preposterous notion that the referendum on the new Constitution was a popularity contest for the various self-anointed ethnic vote bloc chieftains ("Dilemma Facing VP and Deputy PMs", September 9).

Instead of such totally misplaced criticism, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and his Ukambani "political backyard" deserve praise for demonstrating political maturity — the VP for completely eschewing the cultivation of a cult of personality (notwithstanding the fact that, placed alongside the PM and his DPMs, he is the most personable personality by far). The people of Ukambani deserve praise for having nothing to do with the herd mentality and voting their own conscience.

Praising the tribal chieftains and their mesmerised massed followers is nonsensical and ought to have no place in the post-referendum period.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga himself publicly recently acknowledged that the next President will need much more than his own tribal vote bloc, however numerous, to make it into office. So, what is this talk about Kalonzo not having the Ukambani vote sewn-up and in his coat pocket?

The Presidential election of 2012 will be dependent entirely on the strength and attraction of the various campaigns. These are dynamics that are not yet clear. For all he knows, sometime in 2013, Muga will be bemoaning the fact that Ukambani came out as one when it came to the Presidency, proving the point that the referendum is not necessarily the General Election.

It is regrettable that Muga should stoop to ascribing "foolishness" to the VP on account of the fact that Musyoka harbours Presidential ambitions.

Muga's strategy has one clear aim — rubbishing the prospects of all other leading presumed Presidential candidates and asserting, by way of subtext and rhetorical question, that the decks are clear for the PM's candidature.

The columnist is entitled to his opinions and wish-listing scenarios. What he is definitely not entitled to, however, is snake-oil salesmanship disguised as political analysis. The Raila Odinga political persona and the Luo community's loyalty to that brand are completely different from the Kalonzo Musyoka political persona and the Kamba community's independent-mindedness.

Neither combination has propelled a Presidential candidate to State House, but the 2012 campaign will provide an excellent opportunity to assess which candidate, given many other dynamics, formations and alliances than are clear today, will become the fourth President of Kenya.

Handing the Presidency to Raila on a platter 23 months ahead of what he himself has said will be the "mother of all [electoral] battles" is very paraplegic political analysis indeed.

Let the fact not be forgotten that the next Presidential elections campaign will be drastically different from the previous several campaigns.

The reconstruction of Kenya under the new Constitution will be almost two years old when the campaign really kicks in and the governance and administrative edifice will look and function very differently from the case today.

In all likelihood, the majority of Kenyans will want a Presidential candidate whose basic assumptions, personality, style, integrity and respect for the rule of law are as different from what has been the case under the old and now retired Constitution as night is from day.

All the other political personages that Muga has mentioned in his column, including Odinga, are political dynasties whose careers and those of their distinguished forbears are steeped in ethnic chieftaincy as a springboard to national preeminence. The VP has never aspired to Ukambani political kingship nor have the Wakamba ever engaged in cult-like political adoration of any one figure.

Like President Kibaki, Musyoka is a well-educated professional from a hardship background who rose to national pre-eminence through his own sheer efforts and determination, without a trust fund or a billion-shilling fortune giving him any wind assistance. He is precisely the kind of figure that the new Kenya is looking for as it seeks to sever its more backward-looking links to the past.

The VP does nor prescribe how you should vote; he does not whip his community into one point of view. This is not a person whose appeal and support can be said to be narrow. When Muga scoffs at the VP's showing at Election 2007 he omits to note that he did better than Raila on his own first stab at the Presidency in 1997.

The next President of Kenya will need to appeal to 50% + 1 of the electorate. None of the tribal chieftain candidates will make that threshold in Round One of Election 2012. But a candidate who can appeal across ethnic divisions could well find that his time has indeed come and that the primitive and atavistic voting patterns of the 2007 poll, has become a thing of the past.

In fact, that process has started, as a correct and much more realistic reading of the national referendum results (where Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba and a majority of many others voted as one) than Muga can give readily shows.

The author is Head, VPPS,

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