Every political culture has them, even eminently democratic America's; prominent families that produce political dynasties in democratic, non-hereditary systems where power only changes hands at the ballot box. In the US the Kennedys have produced a President, an Attorney-General, a presidential candidate and a number of senators.
The father-and-son tag team of George H.W and George W. Bush has occupied the White House for a total of a dozen years since 1988, or across one generation. In India, it used to be the mother-and-son team of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, who both became Prime Minister. In Pakistan, is was the father-and-daughter pair of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. In Kenya, the names Kenyatta and Odinga are going to writ large indeed next year, in the presidential contest of the eleventh general election.
Battle for Fourth President
With Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta's spectacular launch of The National Alliance (TNA), all Three Princes of Kenya Politics now have their hats in the ring of the Kibaki Succession and the battle to become Fourth President of Kenya. Interestingly, all three occupy the premiership in the Grand Coalition regime. The Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Amolo Odinga, 67, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru, 51, and DPM Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, 52, are among the top contenders in what will be only the second presidential transition in this country based on an election result in 50 years of Independence.
Raila fronts the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Uhuru the brand-new TNA and Musalia the United Democratic Forum (UDF). All three are the scions of prominent Kenyans who served in the Cabinet, with Uhuru and Raila being respectively the sons of Kenya's first Prime Minister/President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and first Vice President, the Jaramogi (an honorific) Oginga Odinga. Musalia is the son of one-time Minister for Local Government Moses Budamba Substone Mudavadi.
Under the National Accord that established the Grand Coalition Government following the post-election violence of 2007-08, Uhuru and Musalia are DPMs understudying the PM, but now lack ministerial portfolio for a variety of reasons. Uhuru abandoned his prestigious Finance portfolio following the confirmation of crimes-against-humanity charges in the four Kenyan cases currently before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague arising from the post-election violence of 2007-08. Musalia shed his Local Government portfolio upon storming out of ODM and into UDF.
Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, also a presidential hopeful, is the son of the late Senator William Wamalwa and younger brother of the late Vice President Kijana Wamalwa, but is not widely regarded as being a political dynast in the mould of these "Three Princes" of Kenya politics. Former Baringo Central MP Gideon Moi, youngest and favourite son of retired President Daniel arap Moi, could well qualify to be referred to as a Prince of Politics, but has never served in government and is no one's idea of an actual contender in the presidential race outside the most diehard ranks of one-time ruling party Kanu, now a pale shadow of its former self.
Outgoing President Kibaki's eldest son Jimmy Kibaki, an age-mate of Uhuru, Mudavadi and Gideon, is still too deep in his father's long shadow and has yet to make his political agenda, if any, known, particularly after his father leaves State House in about a year's time. He has yet to earn his "Prince of Politics" feathers. As President Kibaki's generation, now in its nonagenarian and octogenarian phases, exits the scene, the three virtually hereditary Princes of Kenyan politics are jostling to become Fourth President of Kenya with independent, largely self-made candidates whose parents were ordinary Kenyans with no household-name status whatsoever.
The 'no-name' candidates
Foremost among the no-name candidates are Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper Democratic Movement), Eldoret North MP William Ruto (United Republican Party), Gichugu MP Martha Karua (NARC), Planning Assistant Minister Peter Kenneth (Kenya National Congress), and former presidential special adviser Raphael Tuju (Party of Action). The Three Princes bring diverse forces into play in the presidential contest - the Odinga and Kenyatta political brand names and historical baggage and the Mudavadi factor.
On the day Uhuru launched TNA at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in the capital city's CBD, the other members of the premiership presided over parallel rallies at the Coast - with the PM in Likoni and Musalia in the Tononoka grounds. All three attracted very large crowds indeed, with Uhuru's launch, which was choreographed by an overseas PR firm and paid for in hard currency, being described by one media group as "an event unparalleled in scope and organization for a party launch or announcement of a presidential candidacy in Kenya".
Indeed, no political brand has been so completely and unapologetically owned by an individual player and his family in Kenyan party launch history than TNA, not even Tuju's PoA. Like PoA, Uhuru's TNA does not yet have a single MP, not even its leader, but that it will have scores of people wanting to stand on its ticket is not in doubt. Three rows of MPs from the G7 Alliance and elsewhere were on hand to see TNA launched.
A three-horse race?
The previous two presidential election contests in Kenya - 2002 and 2007 - have been two-horse races, Kibaki vs Uhuru and Kibaki vs Raila, but at this early stage the Three Princes and the no-name contestants are giving every impression that the 2013 contest will go all the way to a runoff, Kenya's first. Not since the first multiparty poll in 1992 have there been so many substantial presidential candidates - that year Matiba, Kibaki, and the Jaramogi were all ranged against Moi.
A decade later, Kibaki trounced Uhuru in a landslide result, where the winner garnered double the tally of the loser, and the younger man quickly and comprehensively conceded. The Kibaki-Raila race looked like a dead-heat and the younger man fiercely disputed the result. On both occasions the safety valve of a runoff did not exist. The new Constitution underwrites not only a runoff option but also a decent-interval transfer-of-power process.
The Mudavadi Factor
The Mudavadi factor appears to be based on the demographic fact that the Luhya are now Kenya's second most numerous community after the Kikuyu, as confirmed by the results of Census 2009. But the Luhya, unlike the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, and Luo are Kenya's most profligate voters, stretching their huge numbers so thin in so many different directions that no Luhya presidential candidate has ever registered beyond the 500,000-vote mark. Both Kibaki and Raila garnered upwards of 5 million votes each at the disputed 2007 contest.
Uhuru garnered 1.8 million votes against Kibaki's 3.6 million at the 2002 presidential election, quite a feat considering that then, unlike now, he had no Kikuyu goodwill whatever behind him. Raila's biggest challenge in Kibaki's wake is, win or lose, to remain a 5-million-vote man. Uhuru's biggest challenge is not unlike Ruto's - he is seeking to succeed Kibaki in an election to be held in the 50th year of Independence, at the end of an entire half-century when only two regions, Central and Rift Valley, have produced Presidents of Kenya. Both will have to contend with the likelihood that the majority of Kenya's 42 communities might want to source a national CEO from a region other than the Mountain and the Valley.
Money matters, but not all the time
Uhuru's wealth is said to be a game changer by some, with some of his supporters convinced that, given the community's total support, the Kenyatta fortune can do the rest of the necessary. But the truth of the matter is that no personal fortune can propel a General Election. Ask Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba, then a shilling-billionaire businessman, who was at the centre of the massively euphoric 1992 presidential polls, Kenya's first multiparty poll in a generation. Matiba deployed his own resources and threw away a financial empire.
Paradoxically, it is said neither Daniel Moi nor Mwai Kibaki - and certainly not Jomo Kenyatta - ever spent a shilling of their own on their way to the House on the Hill. There is another truth that is also well-known to Uhuru - there are times that the mood of the country on the eve of a State House transition is not amenable to either tribal or financial considerations. Few people would have believed that Moi's 24-year-long marathon run at State House would end with a presidential transition poll in which the choice was between two Kikuyu candidates.
To their credit, faced with the choice of Kibaki and Uhuru, Kenyans voted as Kenyans in 2002, with nary a tribal sentiment expressed at any campaign rally. The biggest unfinished business in 2002 was that of ensuring that Moi and all his works were removed from the centre of power. This is a lesson that the foremost of the Three Princes of Kenya politics should share with the other two as Kenyans brace themselves to make another extraordinarily enlightened choice at the end of another presidential administration and usher in the Fourth President of Kenya.
Raila was instrumental in turning the tide against Uhuru in 2002 with his "Kibaki Tosha" declaration. Any of three other candidates could have beaten Kibaki to the Moi succession with Raila's endorsement - Kalonzo, then Nyaribari Chache MP and former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae and then immediate former VP George Saitoti.
Indeed, it is now reliably said that all three were individually convinced that the "Tosha" would be theirs, until the very last moment, whereupon both Nyachae and Kalonzo blew a gasket. Saitoti knew his bid was lost the moment Moi named Uhuru as his preferred successor and, thereafter, when Kanu imploded. If the political house known as Kanu had never become so divided, Saitoti would have succeeded Moi. Uhuru's second attempt at a return to State House, where he grew up, is therefore viewed adversely by not only Raila, who has never been more determined to thwart the Son of Jomo, but also by Saitoti, Kibaki's Minister for Internal Security, who bears a long-range grudge against this particular Prince of Politics.
What next for the Three Princes?
Uhuru is the only presidential son in the race, hoping to become what his father once was. But he faces steep odds, including the crimes against humanity confirmed charges against him at the ICC. Barely three weeks after TNA's launch, Uhuru and his co-accused Ruto and two others will know the timetable for their trials. It could either make or break their best-laid plans for the presidential race.
Unlike Uhuru and Ruto, Raila and Musalia come from communities that have yet to provide Kenya with a Head of State and Government, a status their political backyards share with 37 other communities. If the Kikuyu card is again played as the presidential campaign gathers momentum and heads straight to Election Day, March 4, 2013, as it almost certainly will be, in one form or another, Uhuru will find that, once again, his best efforts, calculations and enormous resources are insufficient to clinch the presidency.
But who will the ultimate prize go to, then? Much will depend on whether the Fourth President of Kenya emerges in the first round of voting or the second, the runoff. If the Kikuyu factor resurfaces on a negative chord, then the biggest and most insular community in Kenya could well still invest in Uhuru in the first round but end up firing a massive blank with its lemming-like voting behaviour. Or the Prince of the Mountain could sit out this contest, for reasons of The Hague or in combination with other strategic motives, and fashion his massive bloc into a precision electoral instrument - the biggest and most decisive swing vote in the history of Kenyan electioneering so far. But this can only result in the Fourth President being neither a Kikuyu nor a Kalenjin.
The $64 million question then becomes: Will that be one of the Princes - or a no-name factor?