Familiar political rivalry shaping up as Kenyans gear up for 2017 presidential poll

President Uhuru Kenyatta announcing his new cabinet nominations November last year, Deputy President William Ruto looks on

President Uhuru Kenyatta announcing his new cabinet nominations November last year, Deputy President William Ruto looks on

The political arena in Kenya is getting eventful as politicians get ready for the highly anticipated 2017 presidential election. The ruling party, Jubilee, is on the verge of forming a new outfit with allies in an effort to increase their chances of maintaining the state house.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance has already shown signs of coming together with his deputy William Ruto under the Jubilee Party banner. On the other hand, the chief opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the Coalition for the Restoration of Democracy (CORD) is traversing the country drumming up support for an impending run for president. Mr. Odinga, the former premier posted second in the 2013 presidential contest.

To say that the political temperature in the East African nation is heating would be an understatement, while at a gathering in Central Kenya on Saturday, Meru Governor Peter Munya caused a stir when he stormed out after members of the ruling coalition asked those who seemingly lacked interest in the Jubilee to declare their parties.

The event, which was presided over by Deputy President Ruto, saw the firebrand governor maintain his hardline stance against the president’s coalition. To the deputy president’s chagrin, Mr. Munya openly refused to be coerced into getting onboard the Jubilee ‘bandwagon.’

“I have the right to join any political party I want. No one will force me to join a particular political party. In 2017, Iwill vie on another party and not the Jubilee Party,” the governor said.

Another hint of what to expect in the run up to next year’s polls happened recently in Mombasa, when local governor Ali Hassan Joho exchanged some barbs with Nairobi senator Sonko. Sonko was part of the president’s entourage to the coastal city, a trip that many in the opposition considered political as opposed to it being development oriented.

Mr. Sonko publicly declared war on anyone who would demean the presidency after the governor and local politicians were not so welcoming to the head of state as he visited the area.

So how exactly did it all start? The Mombasa governor triggered it when he claimed ignorance of the president’s trip. Analysts say the governor’s move was well calculated to endear himself to his coastal folk and to his counterparts in the council of governors.

The president tried as much as he could to stay above the fray in his speech focusing on other issues in but it did not take long before his visit would be questioned by another governor in the vicinity. When President Kenyatta toured Kilifi County, Governor Amason Kingi minced no words when he said he would not entertain any political guests in his county unless they supported national projects. Kingi was quoted as saying “I will be very happy to work with the government if Uhuru Kenyatta visits as the head of state. However, I will not be part of it if he visits this county as the leader of a political party.”

Lines have been drawn with regards to who wants to run for what. In a surprising turn of events, and to what would shift popular belief, a number of senators in the country have declared their interest in gubernatorial seats and so have members of parliament. In the capital Nairobi, incumbent Evans Kidero’s seat has attracted all and sundry, among them current senator Gideon Mbuvi alias Mike Sonko. Kidero is affiliated with Raila Odinga’s CORD while Senator Sonko is with President Kenyatta’s Jubilee.

With the aforementioned flare ups, Kenyans should brace for more of the same or even worse. As the polls inch closer day by day, gloves are bound to come off our politicians’ hands as each embark on the political fight of their lives.

It’s a foregone conclusion that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga will duke it out for the highest office in the land. But will there be new faces throwing their hats in the ring? Only time will tell.

Twitter: @teddyeugene