Little did Kenyans know then that a pattern had been established. For we were later to witness the fate of the late George Saitoti who served President Daniel Moi as VP for about 15 years. He was once considered to be Moi’s natural successor. But he was to see his chances of ever being president end in the dustbin, as he was shoved aside to make way for a younger candidate in the person of Uhuru Kenyatta back in 2002.
I could go on.
But what I really want to delve into is that the successful blocking of a leading candidate for the presidency, has often had the unintended consequence of provoking instability.
The schism between Jaramogi and Jomo was to be followed by the assassination of Tom Mboya; and epic violence in Kisumu when Kenyatta went there for the opening ceremony of a new hospital, leading to and the first ever broad daylight massacre of civilians in the nation’s history.
But worse was to come three decades later.
Even more dramatically, Kibaki’s victory in 2002, paved the way to the disintegration of the joint opposition that had enabled his rise to the presidency; and by 2007 Kibaki was faced with a new group of opposition leaders consisting mostly of his former supporters.
This is what gave us the post-election violence of 2008.
My basic thesis then, is that pushing aside a presidential front runner – by one means or another – is actually the easier part of Kenyan succession politics. Far more difficult is the task of keeping the group that defeated or outmanoeuvred him, intact. And somehow this splintering of the successful political coalition which pulled this off, is what tends to get us into trouble.
This brings us to the Deputy President, Dr William Ruto.
Up to about a year ago, he seemed almost invincible as he went around the country handing over astonishing sums of money to “development projects” and building a network of diehard supporters.
Now all that has changed, and his political opponents openly celebrate his humiliation as all his loudest supporters are stripped of the political sinecures which they had obtained through his patronage.
But sidelining Ruto was actually the easier part. What remains to be seen – and what is potentially far more dangerous to all of us – is whether those who crushed him politically will remain united.