At just the point in his life that the son of the Founding President and his strategists calculated he would be basking in the glory of a unified Central Kenya vote bloc solidly behind him, inherited from the outgoing Third President of Kenya, the DPM and his backers are looking on in consternation as both the GEMA bloc and its last single most influential leader, Mwai Kibaki, appear to seek other players and, or options for the Presidential succession . . .
It was the week that Deputy Prime Minister and The National Alliance leader Uhuru Kenyatta saw a whole raft of fellow politicians abandon his cause, mumbling all manner of excuses as they beat one of the fastest retreats from a political arrangement of this or any other era of Kenyan politics.
Suddenly, it was clear that Uhuru has not been so lonely, politically speaking, since he became Daniel arap Moi's exit-strategy presidential succession project in mid-to-late 2002.
Indeed, as they back-pedaled or simply failed to turn up at a key meeting of Central, Eastern and Western political kingpins he had called soon after the dramatic signing of a so-called "Unity Agreement", to take an apparently swiftly evolving major political alliance forward, it was almost as if a signal had been given, somewhere off-stage and significant, to leave Uhuru to his own devices.
Suddenly, personalities who barely a fortnight ago were jostling for the mere privilege of rubbing shoulders with him and even offering to put both individual and entire party-political ambitions on hold and line up behind his second Presidential, bid were otherwise engaged, busy elsewhere.
None of the four Mt Kenya region-based political parties that earlier this month formed a loose coalition of intent dedicated to fielding the DPM as their 2013 Presidential candidate want anything to do with the arrangement anymore. Leaders of the Party of National Unity, the Alliance Party of Kenya, the Grand National Union and TNA had come up with the "Unity Agreement" after more than two hours of talks at the Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi.
But Presidential candidates Martha Karua of Narc Kenya and Peter Kenneth of the Kenya National Congress refused to endorse Uhuru's candidacy and were not party to the talks and clearly sneer at arrangements like the Norfolk Declaration.
The pact, signed by Uhuru (TNA), Kiraitu Murungi (APK), Amos Kimunya (PNU) and Mwangi Kiunjuri (GNU) was presented as taking effect immediately, with the four parties pledging to deposit the necessary papers with the Registrar of Political Parties in accordance with Part IV, 13, of the Political Parties' Act on Formation, Registration and Regulation of Political Parties.
The "Unity Agreement" was also endorsed by APK chairman Titus Imbue, Finance minister Njeru Githae and Dr Stephen Karau of GEMA. On top of this, last month, Uhuru and Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa proposed that their TNA and New Ford Kenya parties work together. What's more, fellow Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi of United Democratic Forum has in recent weeks expressed interest in working with Uhuru and Eldoret North MP William Ruto of United Republican Party in a yet-to-be-defined arrangement.
But there was no word during the mooting of the "Unity Agreement" of what would happen to other alliances earlier announced by Uhuru, Kiraitu and others during months of public rallies. Also unaccounted for was the so-called G7 Alliance that linked Ruto and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Democratic Movement (simply abbreviated as Wiper) to Uhuru.
Ruto recently toured the Mount Kenya region, where he announced he was looking at Kiraitu as his running mate but received as pointed a snub as Uhuru did this week. The G7 Alliance signaled its displeasure at the "Unity Agreement" when Ruto snubbed a meeting of Presidential candidates called by Uhuru hot on the heels of the "Unity Agreement" for reasons that can now only be guessed at, especially considering the fact that Mudavadi had also been invited to this meeting and also boycotted it.
The Standard newspaper reported Mudavadi's aides as remarking that he had no intention of attending a meeting called to endorse a rival Presidential bid. Mudavadi is the UDF Presidential flag-bearer.
Kalonzo, the Wiper Presidential candidate and a pillar of the G7 Alliance, sent a representative and continued with his busy campaign schedule. With the signatory parties to the "Unity Agreement" now signaling that they will each have a Presidential candidate, including, interestingly, the late Prof George Saitoti's PNU Alliance, Uhuru stands alone and his loneliness is of a very special kind indeed.
Being Jomo Kenyatta's son Uhuru has always known it is lonely at the top, and he has indeed lived all his five decades thus far at the top, where real friends are few and the majority of those who transact with you are out to get something out of you one way or another, whether in business or politics.
The DPM's game-plan had been to unite the massive Central Kenya vote bloc behind him and to convince other blocs considered to be like-minded, for instance Eastern Kenya's Kamba and Meru, to support his bid. But VP Kalonzo, who is making his own second stab at the Presidency, is clearly in no mood to play along.
Also neatly side-stepping Uhuru in this evaporation of the "Unity Agreement" was Transport minister Amos Kimunya, the PNU secretary general. After committing to support Uhuru's controversial quest to succeed President Kibaki by signing an informal but most likely illegal pledge not to field their own Presidential candidate, PNU, through Kimunya and party spokesman Maina Kamanda, a former Cabinet minister, and both of them diehard Kibaki supporters, made a 360° turn. Kimunya maintained a complete silence, leaving it up to Kamanda to make it clear that PNU wanted a Presidential candidate other than Uhuru.
And then, on Monday, Kimunya, broke his silence to announce that those interested in the Presidency and other seats will be hosted at the PNU HQ next week. "Those who wish to contest are expected at the party headquarters on September 7 for a meeting," he said in a press advertisement.
A Kimemia Bid for President?
This was not the first time that the electorate has witnessed strange enthusiasms make grown men set aside entire weekends, or even weekdays, to travel to meeting venues where they actually sign documents and make declarations only to disown them later. The difference with the "Unity Agreement" was the speed and the comprehensiveness with which it was discarded.
All those personal assistants and media advisers who were so swiftly dispatched to ensure the "Unity Agreement" got priority treatment on prime time news channels on radio, TV, in the newspapers and online, including the social networks are now as amazed as ordinary Kenyans at the evaporation of Kenya's most short-lived political pact.
What went wrong? It was a whole combination of factors, including the fact that the times really are changing and it is no longer business as usual even in the political arena. It could also well be the case that Kimunya is about to launch a Presidential bid of his own based on the Rift Valley Kikuyu vote bloc, the population and bloc that bore the brunt of the horror and displacement of the post-election violence of 2007-08.
The Norfolk declaration did not make the intended impact. The Third Schedule of the Political Parties' Act 2011 is explicit on the issue of coalitions, mergers and alliances. It specifies that they must be endorsed and approved by the highest decision-making bodies of all the parties involved.
How times change. None of the participants of the Norfolk meeting had their parties' blessings to endorse Uhuru in the manner they did, not even Dr Karau and GEMA. The new constitution deliberately protects the Kenyan political process from pitfalls such as the 2003 MoU between Kibaki and Raila that resulted in disagreement in Parliament and a divided Cabinet. The new law requires formal, publicly accessible and registered documents.
Whatever the combination of factors that has stripped Uhuru of a unified vote bloc formation, these latest developments smack of a shifting of Presidential succession strategy somewhere very high up in the Central Kenya political totem pole. This may come as a surprise to Uhuru and his handlers, but it is not unexpected. It was always bound to happen.
The real surprise would be if an outgoing Presidential power elite of the political smarts and caliber of Mwai Kibaki and his innermost inner circle failed to hedge their bets and have more than one exit strategy. And this strategy must include options that guarantee to preserve their dignity, power, privilege, patronage and, above all, wealth, deep into the first decade of their letting go of the levers of power.
There has been a creeping perception in recent months and weeks that despite Uhuru's frenetic activity in organizing all manner of alliances and unity pacts, the President and the elite around him long ago begun looking elsewhere for whom to support as the Fourth President.
Political pundit Mutahi Ngunyi has repeated twice on live television across a three-month period that Musalia Mudavadi will be the next President in a strategy that has Kibaki's and his handlers' full backing and major input. Talk of Mudavadi and his UDF making inroads in Central Kenya is gathering momentum.
It is also not inconceivable that the President and his circle have also made overtures to the Prime Minister in the event that he becomes the Fourth President, reaching all manner of back-channel diplomacy accommodations that will not become clear until long after the deals are done.
All this strategising, plotting, double- and even quadruple-crossing is par for the course on the way to the first general election in Kenya to be held under a new constitution since May 1963 and only the second Presidential succession in this country's history.
Vendetta and Payback
What happened to Uhuru this past week also had all the hallmarks of vendetta and payback. Although he is such an enthusiastic builder of alliances and pacts that put him in centre-stage, Uhuru remained in one party, Kanu, for decades, only abandoning it when he launched his own custom-made vehicle, TNA.
In 2010 at the White Sands Hotel, Mombasa, Uhuru joined Kalonzo and others in signing a joint protocol about a unified nominations process. On December 22, 2011, Uhuru joined Kiraitu and Kalonzo to launch the Bus symbol of the PNU Alliance and joint nomination rules. Before the end of December 2011, having signed on to the Bus symbolism, Uhuru called Kanu to Naivasha, saying he would re-launch the Grand Old Party. Instead, barely five months later, he launched TNA and left that other Presidential son, Gideon Moi, flapping in the wind at the head of a party that was a husk of its former self.
This is the political formation that Uhuru abandoned somewhere on the way to TNA. It now looks determined to lock him out of any meaningful contention for the Presidency. For their part, Uhuru and his allies have tripped up the PNU Alliance at every opportunity, even when, in 2010, it used to style itself the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), complete with a launch at Naivasha.
When Uhuru showed no interest in leading the PNU Alliance, it found a leader in the late Saitoti ably supported by Kiraitu. The PNU Alliance grew into a powerful force, winning a series of far-flung by-elections and attracting a formidable array of leaders, some of them from far beyond Central Kenya, among them Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Kiraitu, Saitoti, Johnstone Muthama, David Musila, Kalonzo, Prof Sam Ongeri, Yusuf Haji and, before he bolted to go and try to revive Kanu one more time, Uhuru himself.
The PNU Alliance had some of the highest political capital in the land, outside of ODM, and the commensurate network and cash. Compared to Uhuru's new-fangled TNA, it was a truly Face-of-Kenya party, able to win by-elections in places as far afield as Juja, Matuga, Ikolomani, Kamukunji and South Mugirango. In Kamukunji, a Kikuyu majority vote bloc area of Nairobi, the PNU Alliance was able to pull off the feat of having a candidate of Somali heritage elected.
TNA, being a brand-new party, has no elected MP and is extremely jittery about its prospects of winning two key elections - the Kangema seat left vacant by John Michuki's death and Narok North left vacant by Saitoti. Little wonder then that Uhuru saw it fit to forget his own break with PNU when Saitoti was alive and reach out to it again with the extremely dubious device of the Norfolk Declaration. PNU appeared to go along with the arrangement until someone, somewhere raised the alarm.
In Meru county, Kiraitu has never forgiven Uhuru his choice of Makadara MP Gideon Mbuvi and Nithi MP Kareke Mbiuki as allies to work with to Kiraitu's exclusion. It is now being made abundantly clear to Uhuru that he can only negotiate with new players inside PNU or face the prospect of being bereft of a unified vote bloc in his own political backyard, unlike Raila and Ruto.
If push comes to shove, it might well be the case that Uhuru may ultimately not offer himself as prospective Fourth President of the Republic of Kenya in quick succession to the outgoing Kibaki. However, the implications for Uhuru finally bowing to the intense pressures of his forthcoming prosecution at the International Criminal Court at The Hague on crimes against humanity charges arising from the post-election violence of 2007-08; the negative ethnic factor of not being seen to replace Kibaki, a Kikuyu, at State House; and a Mt Kenya region that suddenly appears to be hesitant about putting all its post-Kibaki political eggs in the DPM's basket, are vast.
In fact, Uhuru might well even discover that he exercises a much greater clout and influence throughout Central Kenya by not gunning for the Kibaki succession and instead assuming the role of the region's kingmaker. A Kenyatta, particularly this Kenyatta, playing kingmaker in the Mt Kenya region can exert a remarkable but different influence.
Like Raila Odinga until now, Uhuru might well discover that he does not necessarily need the ultimate office in order to exercise an influence over regional and national affairs. This would be one of Kenya's keenest political ironies: That the son of the first President discovers he can still be relevant even without the Presidency while the son of the first Vice President has reached the point where his goose is well and truly cooked if he does not in fact become President.