Connect with us

Politics

Cain and Abel Politics: What Killed the Bromance Between Uhuru and Ruto?

11 min read.

As Kenyans head towards a tumultuous election in 2022, many are wondering what role the Kenyatta family empire played in sidelining Deputy President William Ruto and whether the new love affair between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga – which plays out in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) – is more about retaining power than about peace and justice.

Published

on

Cain and Abel Politics: What Killed the Bromance Between Uhuru and Ruto?
Download PDFPrint Article

On October 17, 2019, while speaking at the unveiling of the plaque for the expressway linking the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the Westlands area in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “Wanasema ati BBI ni ya kutafutia Uhuru kazi. Mimi sitaki kazi, nimechoka. Eeeh, BBI ni ya kuhakikisha ya kwamba hakuna Mkenya hatamwaga damu tena katika nchi yetu kwa sababu ya siasa. Tuko pamoja?” People are saying BBI is an excuse for getting Uhuru a job. I don’t want a job, I’m tired. BBI is for ensuring that no Kenyan will ever shed blood again because of politics. Are we together?

Exactly a month later, on November 16, the president met a 3,000-strong delegation of MPs, senators, former MPs and other leaders from the Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge in Kiganjo, Nyeri County, for an eyeball-to-eyeball face-off meeting. This meeting had been overdue because, as the president himself acknowledged, there had been simmering disapproval of his leadership in his backyard that had led to loud murmurs of discontent and grievances.

At the meeting, to which he came late, delegates had been asked to assemble as early as 8 am, (Uhuru himself arrived in the afternoon). President Uhuru conducted the business of the day in the Gikuyu language. “Ati Uhuru niigutuika Prime Minister? Ndingethura kuneneha ringi…” You mean, Uhuru can be the Prime Minister? Huh, I wouldn’t mind being at the helm once more…” expressed the president, while claiming that he did not know the contents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

In 30 short days, President Uhuru had forgotten his vow to Kenyans that he would give up presidential powers in 2022. At Sagana, he had the effrontery to allow himself to be enticed with an (executive) job offer that of a prime minister, which was purportedly contained in a document whose contents he allegedly knew nothing about.

In the seven years that he has been president, Uhuru has become the master of doublespeak: he will wax lyrical about one thing, and then will do the exact opposite. And when put to task about his sudden change of position, he will blame overwhelming demons or will become overtly angry and hot-tempered.

Restricting ourselves to his promise of “going home” once his term is over, because apparently he is “tired”, the “sudden surprise” posture of interest in the prime minister’s position is very telling. “The BBI is all about creating the position of an executive prime minister for Uhuru Kenyatta,” said a Jubilee MP who counts the president and his deputy as his personal friends and has known them since the time they were all in KANU. Dubbing it BBI (II), the MP said, “This is the real BBI, forget about BBI I and the shenanigans that took place at Bomas of Kenya.”

After the BBI team rounded off its town hall-like meetings across the country sometime in early August last year, it launched its report at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27, 2019, where it publicly handed over the report to the “handshake” duo: President Uhuru and ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the former 2017 presidential contender under the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition outfit. “What we saw on that day was a charade, a farcical display of political tomfoolery of a people whose intentions were to test the waters, even as they tested the patience of Deputy President William Ruto,” said the Jubilee MP.

“The BBI is all about creating the position of an executive prime minister for Uhuru Kenyatta,” said a Jubilee MP who counts the president and his deputy as his personal friends and has known them since the time they were all in KANU. Dubbing it BBI (II), the MP said, “This is the real BBI, forget about BBI I and the shenanigans that took place at Bomas of Kenya.”

That charade was witnessed by scores of Kenyans across the country – the function was beamed live on radio and television stations. Seventy-year-old Wandia Kimaita, who watched the proceedings from Iriani village in Mathira constituency in Nyeri, was later to observe how she was appalled by how President Uhuru treated his deputy. “I really sympathised with Deputy President Ruto for all the humiliation he underwent that day. Why would Uhuru behave like this; seemingly gleeful and laughing recklessly? This was unbecoming of the President. Even if they humiliate him [Ruto], my vote is still with him.”

A matter of trust

The 156-page BBI (I) document that was hailed at the Bomas jamboree as a “peace document” included a non-executive position of prime minister, with its attendant deputies. The prime minister in the BBI (I) report is an appointee of the president who wields executive powers.

“The BBI (II) is about expanding the executive,” said the influential Jubilee MP. “It is about creating a powerful position for the ‘tired’ president. It is true, the president doesn’t intend to extend his presidential term, but it is not true that once his terms expires, he wants to fade into oblivion. He wants to stick around in a powerful position within the government because – I’ll be very forthright with you – the Kenyatta family doesn’t trust one William Ruto.”

This trust issue is something that has consistently cropped up in my interviews with Jubilee Party politicians, most of whom are past or present MPs from Central Kenya and the greater Rift Valley regions who have remained close to the two powerful men. I have also spoken to Jubilee Party mandarins and aficionados who have worked around and with President Uhuru and his deputy and who, therefore, can, with a fair amount of surety, authoritatively comment on the two. The verdict I always get on why the bromance between the president and his deputy has been waning since January 2018 (when Uhuru and Raila shook hands) is that trust between the two has been broken.

But in seeking to understand precisely why, after fighting so hard to retain their power as incumbents in 2017, their bromance “suddenly” died, I sought the views of two senior politicians, one from Central Kenya and the other from Rift Valley, who are knowledgeable in Kenya’s presidential and succession politics. Both have been witnesses to Kenya’s tumultuous presidential successions at their critical junctures.

“The now emerging problems between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are not about the presumed governance style, the apparent contestations and greed for power, state theft, or even ethnic affiliations. They are just about one thing – trust,” said a senior veteran Central Kenya politician, who requested anonymity. “The Kenyatta family simply doesn’t trust Ruto. Trust is not something you feed someone like porridge – if the trust is not there, it’s not there; you cannot force yourself to trust someone.”

The Kenyatta family is not convinced that Ruto, once he assumes the reins of the presidency, will not destroy their business empire – they know it, said the politician. “They are persuaded that this is what he will do when he becomes president.” The politician claimed that the Kenyatta family (here he referred specifically to Mama Ngina, Uhuru’s mother, and Muhoho, his younger brother) categorically asked Uhuru to stick around because he was too young to exit the political scene, least of all, to even contemplate going home. They advised him to work to create the position of an executive prime minister purely in order to protect and safeguard the family’s wealth.

Why the position of the prime minister? I asked. “Because it doesn’t interfere with the constitutionally-mandated two-term presidential limit. The idea of changing the constitution to sneak in a third term clause was going to be messy and Kenyans were going to reject it outright,” said the senior politician. “Hence, no one can accuse him of abrogating the law. Still, he would have to change the constitution to accommodate the new position and its deputies”.

“The now emerging problems between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are not about the presumed governance style, the apparent contestations and greed for power, state theft, or even ethnic affiliations. They are just about one thing – trust,” said a senior veteran Central Kenya politician, who requested anonymity.

Recently, President Uhuru spoke about being betrayed by people he had entrusted to work for him: he was referring to his deputy after the narrative of corruption failed to fly. He now seems to have stumbled on a new idea: the trust narrative, which he hopes Kenyans this time will buy, pointed out the veteran politician. “William Ruto was being used as a ladder by the Kenyatta family to capture power; after that he was going to be dumped like a used rag”.

“Uhuru telling us that he has been betrayed is really stale news,” said a mzee from Limuru. “Who tells Uhuru he’s the only one who can be betrayed? We entrusted him with the presidency, and he has betrayed us big time. That’s why we don’t want him anywhere near the executive – he should just go quietly and leave us alone. They want to create the position of the executive prime minister with this BBI (II) for him, we know, and we will defeat the referendum when it comes.”

The mzee said that the BBI project has one linear argument: “Don’t vote for Ruto because he’s bad, he’s untrustworthy. What I object to, is the moral highhandedness of the purveyors of BBI to think that we Kikuyus don’t know Ruto is bad. We know he is very bad. Has Uhuru and all the others been good? Ruto is corrupt, a thief, will bring down the country…we know. They have numerously hinted to us that the country will be worse off…where is it now? Is it any better? Who has amassed more wealth and money in this country than the Kenyatta family? Who has brought down the country? Who did we elect as president? Is it Ruto? If Ruto has been the president, please let us know.

“To paint Ruto as the most wicked politician will not change our resolve: we [Kikuyus] will still vote for him in 2022. Those talking about Ruto have nothing else to talk about, or offer any alternative. It’s best they keep quiet and go away. Agikorwo Gikuyu matigothoma na giki kia Uhuru…gutiri hindi magathoma, megutura me ngombo cia mbari ya Kenyatta”. If Kikuyus this time will not learn from the travails that Uhuru has made them go through…they will never learn, they will remain slaves to the Kenyatta family.”

The senior politician from Central Kenya said the president has been telling Kenyans – and specifically Kikuyus – that the sole aim of BBI is to sue for peace and that this country should never go to war again, which the Kikuyus totally agree with. “But they part company when then he tells them, by his words and deeds, that they should shun William Ruto…”

The senior politician from Central Kenya said the president has been telling Kenyans – and specifically Kikuyus – that the sole aim of BBI is to sue for peace and that this country should never go to war again, which the Kikuyus totally agree with. “But they part company when then he tells them, by his words and deeds, that they should shun William Ruto. How? ‘If we don’t want Rift Valley Kikuyus to ever shed blood again because of politics, it is prudent then we vote for one William Ruto’ say the Kikuyus. But the president doesn’t seem to get it, or does he?”

“The Kenyatta family’s property”

The politician said President Uhuru cannot believe the Kikuyus have turned their back on him. “Because since 1963, it has always worked: The Kenyatta family has always beckoned on the Kikuyus to do their bidding without fail and without opposition. The Kikuyus have been the Kenyatta family’s property – they do with them as they wish. Now the family is facing open rebellion and the president doesn’t want to believe it’s over – it’s the people who are tired with the Kenyatta family, for taking them too much for granted and ensuring they are economically finished.” The politician said that the Kenyatta family replaced the British masters who had ruled Kenya for 70 year, as the new black Kenyan colonisers.

“All what the Kenyattas want is to expand and ensure their business empire is intact and thriving going forward, the rest are details. Everybody else could be eating cake for all they care. The only thing that has grown in this seven years is the Kenyatta family businesses. As its empire grew, the converse has been happening to the Kikuyu people and the rest of Kenyans.”

The politician, who knows Uhuru since his formative years, says the president is living in the past: “He’s used to getting his way, doesn’t listen to [wise] counsel, but worse still, and more ruefully, to hide his ineptitude, his stupefying reaction is to be bombastic, dictatorial, lose his temper and throw tantrums. He cannot believe Kikuyus are no longer enamoured by the Kenyattas, much less him. He wants to be feared, just like his father and Moi wanted. When that doesn’t happen, he becomes abusive and insults everyone. He wants to be feared and loved at the same time.”

The BBI (II) is a dynastic elite pact between the Kenyatta and Moi families that is assisted by Raila Odinga to retain their stranglehold on the country’s political power, surmised a senior from Rift Valley and a close friend of the deputy president. “For Uhuru to hang onto power, he has to expand the executive to accommodate and calm the aspirations of several other ethnic kings to assuage his own power grab.”

To this extent, said the politician, BBI (II) wants the executive expanded into having a president and his two deputy presidents, an executive prime minister and his two deputies and finally regional governors. “In short, BBI (II), by proposing the new positions of regional governors, is resorting to the old format of a provincial administration structure of provincial commissioners, district officers and local chiefs reporting to the centre.” The politician hinted that the centre has never been comfortable with devolution. The recent unconstitutional transfer of powers from the Nairobi County to the executive is just a curtain-raiser of things to come.”

For this to happen, the grand architects of BBI (II) cannot escape a referendum. “Änd this is where their real problems will begin,” said the Ruto ally. “Why? Because Ruto has stolen the thunder from President Uhuru and Raila. His strategy is to fight within the BBI territory and not without. As his close friend told me, he is better off peeing inside than outside, which is why Ruto and his team decided to not openly fight the proponents of BBI and their document.”

“But the 60-million-dollar question is this,” posed the politician, “Do you think if it came to the referendum question and Ruto decided to oppose it, the BBI (II) proponents would defeat him in a straight fight?” The Ruto ally told me that the deputy president was toying with several options in his efforts to tame BBI (II). One of them is to, at the appropriate time, assemble a team of between 30 to 50 legal experts who would have scrutinised and scoured the document with a toothcomb before going to court and arguing that the document is neither anchored in the Kenyan law nor recognised by any constitutional statutes.

The beginning of the year saw BBI (II) commence its popularisation campaign meetings in what one Jubilee Party mandarin cheekily described as NASA zones: Kakamega, Kisii, Mombasa and Kitui. “Let’s see how they are going to fair on in Eldoret, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Nakuru and Nyeri.”

The BBI (II) is a dynastic elite pact between the Kenyatta and Moi families that is assisted by Raila Odinga to retain their stranglehold on the country’s political power, surmised a senior from Rift Valley and a close friend of the deputy president. “For Uhuru to hang onto power, he has to expand the executive to accommodate and calm the aspirations of several other ethnic kings to assuage his own power grab.”

A friend who works at the Makueni County governor’s office in Wote told me he recently accompanied the governor to inspect some county projects and the people who generally are happy with their governor, Prof Kivutha Kibwana, did not fail to put him to task over his apparent cozying up to BBI (II) mandarins.

“Musomi withinwa ni kyao yiulu wa BBI? Na yiikwaatene na maundu ma andu onthe. Nitwisi BBI nikyau…tikwondu wa mathina maitu…indi ni kwa kuaana maunini kwa ala oi nakumuthingii Uhuru silikalini.” Professor, why are you getting entangled with this BBI politics? We know what BBI is all about…it’s not about our welfare…it’s about elite power sharing and sneaking Uhuru back to power.

On January 20, 2019, Jubilee Party MPs and senators who are aligned to the deputy president, after congregating in Naivasha town for two days, issued a raft of ultimatums concerning the ongoing BBI (II) meetings. They styled their meeting like a Parliamentary Group meeting, which the party Secretary-General and Cabinet Secretary without portfolio, Raphael Tuju, objected to by issuing a press statement saying the MPs’ meeting was not a Jubilee Party affair. “We have noted with great concern the manner in which BBI popularisation rallies have been conducted so far,” said part of the Naivasha memo. “The discussions have mainly been on personalities and positions for the political class.”

On that same day, the president, feeling the heat of the Naivasha meeting, summoned Ruto to his office at State House, Nairobi. According to my sources, the president was breathing fire. Why are Jubilee Party MPs rebelling against him? asked a worked-up president to his deputy. The president also wondered loudly why Kikuyu MPs were taking him on. Convene a parliamentary group meeting and call the MPs to order, was supposedly his deputy’s answer.

Indeed, even as 2022 fast approaches and the political temperature in the country rises amidst hard economic times, food insecurity and locust invasions, it is crystal clear that BBI (II) inspires little confidence, especially in the president’s own backyard where people are tired of being held hostage by the Kenyatta family. It is a reminder that Kenya is stuck in a deep political rut and held hostage by a cabal of ethno-chauvinists who have perfected the art of subverting democracy by introducing a new cast of enemies-turned-allies.

Support The Elephant.

The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.

Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.

By

Mr Kahura is a senior writer for The Elephant.

Politics

The Campaign that Remembered Nothing and Forgot Nothing

Once a master of coalition building, Raila Odinga killed his own party and brand, handed over his backyard to William Ruto, threw in his lot with Uhuru Kenyatta, ended up being branded a “state project”, and lost.

Published

on

The Campaign that Remembered Nothing and Forgot Nothing
Download PDFPrint Article

The Original sin

A seasoned Nairobi politician, Timothy Wanyonyi had cut a niche for himself in the Nairobi governor’s race that was filled with a dozen candidates who had up to that point not quite captured the imagination of Nairobians. Some candidates were facing questions over their academic qualifications while others were without a well-defined public profile. In that field Wanyonyi, an experienced Nairobi politician, stood out. On 19th April, the Westlands MP’s campaign team was canvasing for him in Kawangware. They had sent pictures and videos to news teams seeking coverage. But that evening their candidate would receive a phone call to attend a meeting at State House Nairobi that would put an end to his campaign. Before Tim made his way to State House, insiders around President Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters that Wanyonyi was out of the Nairobi governor’s race.

Wanyonyi’s rallying call “Si Mimi, ni Sisi”—a spin on US Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Not me. Us” 2020 presidential campaign slogan—distinguished him as a candidate who understood the anxieties of Nairobians. “They were looking for someone who would see the city as a home first, before seeing it as a business centre,” one of his political consultants told me. But the Azimio coalition to which Wanyonyi’s ODM party belonged was very broad, with several centres of power that didn’t take into account—or maybe didn’t care about— Nairobi’s political landscape. Wanyonyi’s candidacy was hastily sacrificed at the altar of the coalition’s politics. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the coalition’s chairman, had prevailed on Raila Odinga, its presidential candidate, to essentially leave Nairobi to Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party in exchange for ODM picking the presidential candidate.

That was the only consideration on the table.

However, it was a miscalculation by the coalition. Azimio failed to appreciate the complex matrix that is a presidential election in Kenya. While the top ticket affects the races downstream, it can be argued that the reverse is also true. It is ironic that Raila Odinga, a power broker and a master of coalition building who was running for presidency for the fifth time, was choosing to ignore these principles. His own ascension in politics had been based on building a machine—ODM—that he used carefully during every election cycle. Yet in this election he was killing his own party and brand. The Azimio La Umoja coalition party was built as a party of parties that would be the vehicle Raila would use to contest the presidency. However, the constituent parties were free to sponsor parliamentary candidates. It sounded like a good idea on paper but it created friction as the parties found themselves in competition everywhere. To keep Azimio from fracturing both itself and its votes, the idea of “zoning”—having weaker candidates step down for stronger ones, essentially carving out exclusive zones for parties—gained traction, and would itself lead to major fall-outs, even after it was adopted as official Azimio policy in June.

However, beyond the zoning controversy, Wanyonyi’s candidacy served as a marker for a key block of Odinga voters—the Luhya—assuring them of their place within the Azimio coalition. Luhya voters have been Odinga’s insurance policy during his last three presidential runs. With Nyanza and the four western Kenya counties of Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga and Busia in his back pocket, he would be free to pick up other regions. Odinga claimed 71 per cent of the Luhya bloc in 2017 but this time, western voters were feeling jittery about the new political arrangements.

There is also another consideration. The Luhya voting bloc in Nairobi is also significant, and Odinga had carried the capital in his previous three presidential runs. The Nairobi electoral map is largely organized around five big groups: the Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba, and Kisii. For the ODM party, having a combination of a Luo-Luhya voting bloc in Nairobi has enabled Odinga to take the city and to be a force to reckon with.

However, it appeared that all these factors were of no importance in 2022. So, Tim Wanyonyi was forced out of the race. He protested. Or attempted to. Western Kenya voters were furious, but who cared?

Miscalculation

The morning after the State House meeting, a group calling themselves Luhya professionals had strong words for both Odinga and Azimio.

“We refuse to be used as a ladder for other political expediencies whenever there is an election,” Philip Kisia, who was the chairman of this loose “professional group” said during a press conference that paraded the faces of political players from the Luhya community. The community had “irreducible minimum” and would not allow itself to “to be used again this time.” Other speakers at that press conference—including ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna—laid claim to what they called the place of the Luhya community in Nairobi. The political relationship between Luhyas and Luos has not been without tensions; in the aftermath of the opposition’s unravelling in the 90s, Michael Kijana Wamalwa and Raila Odinga fought for supremacy within the Ford Kenya party. Wamalwa believed the throne left by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was his for the taking. However, Odinga’s son, Raila, mounted a challenge for the control of the party, eventually leaving Ford Kenya to build his own party, the National Development Party (NDP). The Luhya-Luo relationship was broken. Luhya sentiment was that, having been faithful to Odinga’s father, it was time for Wamalwa to lead the opposition.

These old political wounds have flared up during every election cycle, and Raila Odinga has worked for decades to reassure the voting bloc and bury the hatchet. This time, however, he was different. He didn’t seem to care about those fragile egos. After the press conference, a strategist in Odinga’s camp wondered aloud, “Who will they [Luhyas] vote for?”

The next 21 days were to be pivotal for Kenya’s presidential election. Azimio moved on and introduced Polycarp Igathe as their candidate for Nairobi. A former deputy governor in Nairobi who had quit just months after taking office, Igathe is well known for his C-suite jobs and intimate links to the Kenyan political elite. His selection, though, played perfectly into the rival Kenya Kwanza coalition’s “hustlers vs dynasties” narrative which sought to frame the 2022 elections as a contest between the political families that have dominated Kenya’s politics and economy since independence. The sons of a former vice president and president respectively, Odinga and Uhuru were branded as dynasties while the then deputy president claimed for himself the title of “hustler”.

These old political wounds have flared up during every election cycle, and Raila Odinga has worked for decades to reassure the voting bloc and bury the hatchet.

But, William Ruto’s side also saw something else in that moment—an opportunity to get a chunk of the important Luhya vote. Ruto first entered into a coalition with Musalia Mudavadi, selling their alliance as a “partnership of equals”, and then followed that up with the offer of a Luhya gubernatorial candidate to Nairobians in the name of Senator Johnson Koskei Sakaja.

Meanwhile, Wanyonyi’s half-brother, the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetangula, was a principle in Ruto’s camp. Up to this point, Wetangula had struggled to find a coherent message to sell Ruto’s candidacy to the Luhya nation. But, with his brother being shafted by Azimio, Wetangula saw a political opening; he quickly called a press conference and complained bitterly about the “unfair Odinga” whom he said the Luhya community would not support for “denying their son a ticket to run for the seat of the governor of Nairobi”. His press conference went almost unnoticed and it is not even clear if Azimio took notice of the political significance of Wetangula’s protestations.

Azimio had offered their opponents an inroad into western Kenya politics and Ruto wasted little time trying turn a key Odinga voting bloc. With Sakaja confirmed as the Kenya Kwanza candidate for the Nairobi governor’s race, Wetangula and Kenya Kwanza made Western Kenya a centrepiece of their path to presidency. Tim Wanyonyi was presented as a martyr. The Ford Kenya leader took to all the radio stations, taking calls or sending emissaries, to declare Odinga’s betrayal. In the days and weeks that followed, William Ruto would make a dozen more visits to Luhyaland than his rival, assuring the voters that there would be a central place reserved for them in his administration. In contrast, on a visit to western Kenya, Raila Odinga expressed anger that an opinion poll had shown him trailing Ruto in Bungoma. “He is at nearly 60 per cent and I am at 40 per cent. Shame on you people! Shame on you people! Shame on you!” he told the crowd. He would eventually lose Bungoma and Trans Nzoia to William Ruto.

To be sure, Odinga won western Kenya with 55 per cent of the vote, but William Ruto had 45 per cent, enough to light his path to the presidency. He would repeat the same feat in Nairobi and coast regions, traditionally Odinga strongholds where he would have expected to bag upwards of 60 per cent of the vote. Azimio modelling had put these regions in Raila’s column but Kenya Kwanza took advantage of the mistake-prone Odinga. And wherever Odinga blundered, Ruto mopped up. As Speaker, Wetangula is today the third most powerful man in in the country. Yet just four years ago, he was an Odinga ally who had been stripped off his duties as a minority leader in the Senate by Odinga’s ODM party. At the time he warned that the divorce “would be messy, it would be noisy, it would be unhelpful, it would not be easy, it would have casualties”. It was the first of many political blunders that Odinga would make.

Unforced errors

Looking back, Odinga’s 2022 run for the presidency had all the hallmarks of a campaign that didn’t know what it didn’t know; it was filled with assumptions, and sometimes made the wrong judgment calls. By handing over his backyard to Ruto and choosing to ally with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila ended up being branded a “state project”.

In 2005, Odinga had used the momentum generated by his successful campaign in a referendum against Mwai Kibaki’s attempt to foist on the country a bastardized version of the constitution negotiated in Bomas to launch early campaigns for his 2007 presidential run. However, this time, as the courts hamstrung his attempt to launch the BBI referendum, Ruto was already off to the races, having begun his presidential campaign three years early.

“He is at nearly 60 per cent and I am at 40 per cent. Shame on you people! Shame on you people! Shame on you!”

With the rejection of constitutional changes, which were found to be deeply unpopular among many Kenyans, Odinga was finally in a strange place, a politician now out of touch, defending an unpopular government, a stranger to his own political base. The failure of BBI as a political tool was really the consequence of Odinga’s and Kenyatta’s inability to understand the ever-changing Kenyan political landscape. Numerous times they just seemed to not know how to deal with the dynamism of William Ruto. He would shape-shift, change the national conversation, and nothing they threw at him seemed to stick, including, corruption allegations. For a politician who created the branding of opponents as his tool, Odinga had finally been branded and it stuck.

Bow out

In the final day of the campaigns, both camps chose Nairobi to make their final submissions. Azimio chose Kasarani stadium. It was, as expected, full of colour, with a Tanzanian celebrity musician, Diamond Platnumz, brought in to boot. Supporters were treated to rushed speeches by politicians who had somewhere else to be. Azimio concluded its final submission early and the speeches by Odinga and his running mate, Martha Karua, weren’t exactly a rallying call. It was as if they were happy to be put out of their pain as they quickly stepped off the stage and left the stadium. In contrast, Ruto’s final submission was filled with speeches of fury by politicians angered by “state capture” and the “failing economy”. Speaker after speaker roused the audience with their defiant messages. They ended the meeting an hour before the end of IEBC campaign deadline. A video soon appeared online of William Ruto sprinting across the Wilson airport runway to catch a chopper and make it to one final rally in central Kenya before the IEBC’s 6 p.m. campaign deadline.

Pictures of the deputy president on top of a car at dusk in markets in Kiambu were the last images of his campaign to be shared on social media. Ruto won because he wanted the presidency more than Odinga and was willing to work twice as hard as both Odinga and Kenyatta.

Continue Reading

Politics

Lagos From Its Margins: Everyday Experiences in a Migrant Haven

From its beginnings as a fishing village, Lagos has grown into a large metropolis that attracts migrants seeking opportunity or Internally Displaced Persons fleeing violence.

Published

on

Lagos From Its Margins: Everyday Experiences in a Migrant Haven
Download PDFPrint Article

Lagos, City of Migrants

From its origins as a fishing village in the 1600s, Lagos has urbanised stealthily into a vast metropolis, wielding extensive economic, political and cultural influence on Nigeria and beyond. Migration in search of opportunities has been the major factor responsible for the demographic and spatial growth of the city as Lagos has grown from 60,221 in 1872 to over 23 million people today. The expansion of the city also comes with tensions around indigene-settler dynamics, especially in accessing land, political influence and urban resources. There are also categories of migrants whose status determines if they can lay hold of the “urban advantage” that relocating to a large city offers.

A major impetus to the evolution of modern Lagos is the migration of diverse groups of people from Nigeria’s hinterland and beyond. By the 1800s, waves of migrants (freed slaves) from Brazil and Freetown had made their way to Lagos, while many from Nigeria’s hinterland including the Ekiti, Nupes, Egbas and Ijebus began to settle in ethnic enclaves across the city. In the 1900s, migrant enclaves were based on socio-economic and/or ethnicity status. Hausas (including returnees from the Burma war) settled in Obalende and Agege, while the Ijaw and Itsekiri settled in waterfront communities around Ajegunle and Ijora. International migrant communities include the Togolese, Beninoise and Ghanaian, as well as large communities of Lebanese and Indian migrants. The names and socio-cultural mix in most Lagos communities derive from these historical migrant trajectories.

Permanent temporalities

A study on coordinated migrations found that, as a destination city, Lagos grew 18.6 per cent between 2000 and 2012, with about 96 per cent of the migrants coming from within Nigeria. While migration to Lagos has traditionally been in search of economic opportunities, new classes of migrants have emerged over the last few decades. These are itinerant migrants and internally displaced persons.

Itinerant migrants are those from other areas of Nigeria and West Africa who travel to work in Lagos while keeping their families back home. Mobility cycles can be weekly, monthly or seasonal. Such migrants have no address in Lagos as they often sleep at their work premises or in mosques, saving all their earned income for remittance. They include construction artisans from Benin and Togo who come to Lagos only when they have jobs, farmers from Nigeria’s northern states who come to Lagos to work as casual labourers in between farming seasons (see box), as well as junior staff in government and corporate offices whose income is simply too small to cover the high cost of living in Lagos.

While people from Nigeria’s hinterland continue to arrive in the city in droves, the wave of West African in-migration has ebbed significantly. This is mostly because of the economic challenges Nigeria is currently facing that have crashed the Naira-to-CFA exchange rates. As a result, young men from Togo, Ghana and Benin are finding cities like Dakar and Banjul more attractive than Lagos.

Photo. Taibat Lawanson

Photo. Taibat Lawanson

Aliu* aka Mr Bushman, from Sokoto, Age 28

Aliu came to Lagos in 2009 on the back of a cattle truck. His first job was in the market carrying goods for market patrons. He slept in the neighbourhood mosque with other young boys. Over the years, he has done a number of odd jobs including construction work. In 2014, he started to work as a commercial motorcyclist (okada) and later got the opportunity to learn how to repair them. He calls himself an engineer and for the past four years has earned his income exclusively from riding and repairing okada. Even though he can afford to rent a room, he currently lives in a shared shack with seven other migrants.

He makes between N5000 and N8000 weekly and sends most of it to his family through a local transport operator who goes to Sokoto weekly. His wife and three children are in the village, but he would rather send them money than bring them to Lagos. According to him, “The life in Lagos is too hard for women”.

Since he came to Lagos thirteen years ago, Aliu has never spent more than four months away from Sokoto at a time. He stays in Sokoto during the rainy season to farm rice, maize and guinea corn, and has travelled back home to vote every time since he came to Lagos.

 

The second category of migrants are those who have been displaced from their homesteads in Northern Nigeria by conflict, either Boko Haram insurgency or invasions by Fulani herdsmen. The crises have resulted in the violent destruction of many communities, with hundreds of thousands killed and many more forced to flee. With many who initially settled in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) dissatisfied with camp conditions, the burden of protracted displacement is now spurring a new wave of IDP migration to urban areas. Even though empirical data on the exact number of displaced persons migrating out of camps to cities is difficult to ascertain, it is obvious that this category of migrants are negotiating their access to the city and its resources in circumstances quite different from those of other categories of migrants.

IDPs as the emerging migrant class in Lagos 

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, two of every three internally displaced persons globally are now living in cities. Evidence from Nigeria suggests that many IDPs are migrating to urban areas in search of relative safety and resettlement opportunities, with Lagos estimated to host the highest number of independent IDP migrants in the country. In moving to Lagos, IDPs are shaping the city in a number of ways including appropriating public spaces and accelerating the formation of new settlements.

There are three government-supported IDP camps in the city, with anecdotal evidence pointing to about eighteen informal IDP shack communities across the city’s peri-urban axis. This correlates with studies from other cities that highlight how this category of habitations (as initial shelter solutions for self-settled IDPs) accelerate the formation of new urban informal settlements and spatial agglomerations of poverty and vulnerability.

While people from Nigeria’s hinterland continue to arrive in the city in droves, the wave of West African in-migration has ebbed significantly.

IDPs in Lagos move around a lot. Adamu, who currently lives in Owode Mango—a shack community near the Lagos Free Trade zone—and has been a victim of forced eviction four times said, “As they [government or land owners] get ready to demolish this place and render us homeless again, we will move to another area and live there until they catch up with us.”

In the last ten years, there has been an increase in the number of homeless people on the streets of Lagos—either living under bridges, in public parks or incomplete buildings. Many of them are IDPs who are new migrants, and unable to access the support necessary to ease their entry into the city’s established slums or government IDP camps. Marcus, who came from Adamawa State in 2017 and has been living under the Obalende Bridge for five years, said, “I am still managing, living under the bridge. I won’t do this forever, my life will not end like this under a bridge. I hope to one day return to my home and continue my life”.

Blending in or not: Urban integration strategies 

Urban integration can be a real challenge for IDP migrants. Whereas voluntary migrants are often perceived to be legal entrants to the city and so can lay claim to urban resources, the same cannot be said about IDPs. Despite being citizens, and despite Nigeria being a federation, IDPs do not have the same rights as other citizens in many Nigerian cities and constantly face stigmatisation and harassment, which reinforces their penchant for enclaving.

The lack of appropriate documentation and skillsets also denies migrants full entry into the socio-economic system. For example, Rebekah said: “I had my WAEC [Senior Secondary school leaving certificate] results and when Boko Haram burnt our village, our family lost everything including my certificates. But how can I continue my education when I have not been able to get it? I have to do handwork [informal labour] now”. IDP children make up a significant proportion of out-of-school children in Lagos as many are unable to get registered in school simply because of a lack of address.

Most IDPs survive by deploying social capital—especially ethnic and religious ties. IDP ethnic groupings are quite organized; most belong to an ethnic-affiliated group and consider this as particularly beneficial to their resettlement and sense of identity in Lagos. Adamu from Chibok said, “When I come to Lagos in 2017, I come straight to Eleko. My brother [kinsman] help me with house, and he buy food for my family. As I no get work, he teach me okada work wey he dey do.”

The crises have resulted in the violent destruction of many communities, with hundreds of thousands killed and many more forced to flee.

Interestingly, migration to the city can also be good for women as many who were hitherto unemployed due to cultural barriers are now able to work. Mary who fled Benue with her family due to farmer-herder clashes explained, “When we were at home [in Benue], I was assisting my husband with farming, but here in Lagos, I have my own small shop where I sell food. Now I have my own money and my own work.”

Need for targeted interventions for vulnerable Lagosians

“Survival of the fittest” is an everyday maxim in the city of Lagos. For migrants, this is especially true as they are not entitled to any form of structured support from the government. Self-settlement is therefore daunting, especially in light of systemic limiting factors.

Migrants are attracted to big cities based on perceived economic opportunities, and with limited integration, their survival strategies are inevitably changing the spatial configurations of Lagos. While the city government is actively promoting urban renewal, IDP enclaving is creating new slums. Therefore, addressing the contextualised needs of urban migrant groups is a sine qua non for inclusive and sustainable urban development.

“I am still managing, living under the bridge. I won’t do this forever, my life will not end like this under a bridge. I hope to one day return to my home and continue my life”.

There is an established protocol for supporting international refugees. However, the same cannot be said for IDPs who are Nigerian citizens. They do not enjoy structured support outside of camps, and we have seen that camps are not an effective long-term solution to displacement. There is a high rate of IDP mobility to cities like Lagos, which establishes the fact that cities are an integral part of the future of humanitarian crisis. Their current survival strategies are not necessarily harnessing the urban advantage, especially due to lack of official recognition and documentation. It is therefore imperative that humanitarian frameworks take into account the role of cities and also the peculiarities of IDP migrations to them.

Lagos remains a choice destination city and there is therefore need to pay more attention to understanding the patterns, processes and implications of migration into the city. The paucity of migration-related empirical data no doubt inhibits effective planning for economic and social development. Availability of disaggregated migration data will assist the state to develop targeted interventions for the various categories of vulnerable Lagosians.  Furthermore, targeted support for migrant groups must leverage existing social networks, especially the organised ethnic and religious groups that migrants lean on for entry into the city and for urban integration.

*All names used in this article are pseudonyms

Continue Reading

Politics

It’s a Nurses’ Market Out There, and Kenyans Are Going For It

Nurses are central to primary healthcare and unless Kenya makes investments in a well-trained, well supported and well-paid nursing workforce, nurses will continue to leave and the country is unlikely to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals in the area of health and wellbeing for all.

Published

on

It’s a Nurses’ Market Out There, and Kenyans Are Going For It
Download PDFPrint Article

Nancy* is planning to leave Kenya. She wants to go to the United States where the nursing pastures are supposedly greener. I first met Nancy when the country was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic that tested Kenya’s healthcare system to breaking point. She was one of a cohort of recently graduated nurses that were hastily recruited by the Ministry of Health and thrown in at the deep end of the pandemic. Nancy earns KSh41,000 net with no other benefits whatsoever, unlike her permanent and pensionable colleagues.

When the then Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui announced in early September 2021 that the government would be sending 20,000 nurses to the United Kingdom to help address the nursing shortage in that country, Nancy saw her chance. But her hopes were dashed when she failed to raise the KSh90,000 she needed to prepare and sit for the English language and nursing exams that are mandatory for foreign-trained nurses. Nancy would also have needed to pay the Nursing Council of Kenya KSh12,000 for the verification of her documents, pay the Kenya Medical Training College she attended KSh1,000 in order to get her exam transcripts, and apply for a passport, the minimum cost of which is KSh4,550 excluding the administrative fee. Nancy says that, contrary to then Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe’s disputed claims that a majority of applicants to the programme had failed the English language test, most nurses simply could not afford the cost of applying.

Of the targeted 20,000 nurses, the first 19 left Kenya for the UK in June 2022. But even that paltry figure represents a significant loss for Kenya, a country where the ratio of practicing nurses to the population is 11.66 per 10,000. The WHO considers countries with less than 40 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people to not have enough healthcare professionals. Nearly 60 per cent of all healthcare professionals (medical physicians, nursing staff, midwives, dentists, and pharmacists) in the world are nurses, making them by far the most prevalent professional category within the health workforce. Nurses offer a wide range of crucial public health and care services at all levels of healthcare facilities as well as within the community, frequently serving as the first and perhaps the only healthcare provider that people see.

Kenya had 59,901 nurses/midwives in 2018, rising to 63,580 in 2020. Yet in 2021, Kenya was proposing to send almost a third of them to the UK to “address a shortfall of 62,000 in that country”.

The growing shortage of nurses in the UK has been blamed on the government’s decision to abolish bursaries and maintenance grants for nursing students in 2016, leading to a significant drop in the number of those applying to train as nurses. Consequently, the annual number of graduate nurses plummeted, reaching the current low of 31 nurses per 100,000 people, below the European average of 36.6 and half as many as in countries like Romania (96), Albania (82) and Finland (82). Facing pressure to recruit 50,000 nurses amid collapsing services and closures of Accident & Emergency, maternity and chemotherapy units across the country, the UK government decided to once again cast its net overseas. Established in 1948, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has relied on foreign healthcare workers ever since staff from the Commonwealth were first brought in to nurse back to health a nation fresh out of the Second World War.

The UK government’s press release announcing the signing of the Bilateral Agreement with Kenya states that the two countries have committed  “to explore working together to build capacity in Kenya’s health workforce through managed exchange and training” and goes as far as to claim that “with around only 900 Kenyan staff currently in the NHS, the country has an ambition to be the ‘Philippines of Africa’ — with Filipino staff one of the highest represented overseas countries in the health service — due to the positive economic impact that well-managed migration can have on low to middle income countries.”

It is a dubious ambition, if indeed it has been expressed. The people of the Philippines do not appear to be benefiting from the supposed increase in capacity that the exchange and training is expected to bring. While 40,000 of their nurses worked in the UK’s National Health Service last year, back home, according to Filipino Senator Sonny Angara, “around 7 of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a health professional and the nurse to patient ratio in our hospitals remains high at 1:50 up to 1:802”.

Since 2003 when the UK and the government of the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the recruitment of Filipino healthcare professionals, an export-led industry has grown around the training of nurses in the Philippines that has attracted the increased involvement of the private sector. More nursing institutions — that have in reality become migrant institutions — are training nurses specifically for the overseas market, with the result that skills are matched to Western diseases and illnesses, leaving the country critically short of healthcare personnel. Already, in 1999, Filipino doctors had started retraining as nurses and leaving the country in search of better pay.

It is difficult, then, to see how the Philippines is an example to emulate. Unless, of course, beneath the veneer of “partnership and collaboration in health”, lies the objective of exporting Kenyan nurses with increased diaspora remittances in mind – Kenyans in the UK sent KSh28.75 billion in the first nine months of 2022, or nearly half what the government has budgeted for the provision of universal health care to all Kenyans. If that is the case, how that care is to be provided without nurses is a complete mystery.

Already in 1999, Filipino doctors had started retraining as nurses and leaving the country in search of better pay.

For the UK, on the other hand, importing nurses trained in Kenya is a very profitable deal. Whereas the UK government “typically spends at least £26,000, and sometimes far more, on a single nurse training post”, it costs only £10,000 to £12,000 to recruit a nurse from overseas, an externalization of costs that commodifies nurses, treating them like goods to be bought and sold.

However, in agreeing to the terms of the trade in Kenyan nurses, the two governments are merely formalizing the reality that a shortage of nurses in high-income countries has been driving the migration of nurses from low-income countries for over two decades now. Along with Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Kenya is one of the top 20 countries of origin of foreign-born or foreign-trained nurses working in the countries of the OECD, of which the UK is a member state.

Faced with this reality, and in an attempt to regulate the migration of healthcare workers, the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Global Code of Practice on the Recruitment of Health Personnel in May 2010. The code, the adherence to which is voluntary, “provides ethical principles applicable to the international recruitment of health personnel in a manner that strengthens the health systems of developing countries, countries with economies in transition and small island states.”

Article 5 of the code encourages recruiting countries to collaborate with the sending countries in the development and training of healthcare workers and discourages recruitment from developing countries facing acute shortages. Given the non-binding nature of the code, however, and “the severe global shortage of nurses”, resource-poor countries, which carry the greatest disease burden globally, will continue to lose nurses to affluent countries. Wealthy nations will inevitably continue luring from even the poorest countries nurses in search of better terms of employment and better opportunities for themselves and their families; Haiti is on the list of the top 20 countries supplying the OECD region.

“Member States should discourage active recruitment of health personnel from developing countries facing critical shortages of health workers.”

Indeed, an empirical evaluation of the code four years after its adoption found that the recruitment of health workers has not undergone any substantial policy or regulatory changes as a direct result of its introduction. Countries had no incentive to apply the code and given that it was non-binding, conflicting domestic healthcare concerns were given the priority.

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has developed its own code of practice under which the country is no longer recruiting nurses from countries that the WHO recognizes as facing health workforce challenges. Kenya was placed on the UK code’s amber list on 11 November 2021, and active recruitment of health workers to the UK was stopped “with immediate effect” unless employers had already made conditional offers to nurses from Kenya on or before that date. Presumably, the Kenyan nurses who left for the UK in June 2022 fall into this category.

In explaining its decision, the DHSC states that “while Kenya is not on the WHO Health Workforce Support & Safeguards List, it remains a country with significant health workforce challenges. Adding Kenya to the amber list in the Code will protect Kenya from unmanaged international recruitment which could exacerbate existing health and social care workforce shortages.”

The WHO clarifies that nothing in its Code of Practice should be interpreted as curtailing the freedom of health workers to move to countries that are willing to allow them in and offer them employment. So, even as the UK suspends the recruitment of Kenyan nurses, they will continue to find opportunities abroad as long as Western countries continue to face nurse shortages. Kenyan nurses will go to the US where 203,000 nurses will be needed each year up to 2026, and to Australia where the supply of nursing school graduates is in decline, and to Canada where the shortage is expected to reach 117,600 by 2030, and to the Republic of Ireland which is now totally dependent on nurses recruited from overseas and where working conditions have been described as “horrendous”.

“Adding Kenya to the amber list in the Code will protect Kenya from unmanaged international recruitment which could exacerbate existing health and social care workforce shortages.”

Like hundreds of other Kenyan-trained nurses then, Nancy will take her skills overseas. She has found a recruitment agency through which to apply for a position abroad and is saving money towards the cost. She is not seeking to move to the UK, however; Nancy has been doing her research and has concluded that the United States is a much better destination given the more competitive salaries compared to the UK where nurses have voted to go strike over pay and working conditions. When she finally gets to the US, Nancy will join Diana*, a member of the over 90,000-strong Kenyan diaspora, more than one in four of whom are in the nursing profession.

Now in her early 50s, Diana had worked for one of the largest and oldest private hospitals in Nairobi for more than 20 years before moving to the US in 2017. She had on a whim presented her training certificates to a visiting recruitment agency that had set up shop in one of Nairobi’s high-end hotels and had been shortlisted. There followed a lengthy verification process for which the recruiting agency paid all the costs, requiring Diana to only sign a contract binding her to her future US employer for a period of two years once she had passed the vetting process.

Speaking from her home in Virginia last week, Diana told me that working as a nurse in the US “is not a bed of roses”, that although the position is well paying, it comes with a lot of stress. “The nurse-to-patient ratio is too high and the job is all about ticking boxes and finishing tasks, with no time for the patients,” she says, adding that in such an environment fatal mistakes are easily made. Like the sword of Damocles, the threat of losing her nursing licence hangs over Diana’s head every day that she takes up her position at the nursing station.

“The nurse-to-patient ratio is too high and the job is all about ticking boxes and finishing tasks, with no time for the patients.”

Starting out as an Enrolled Nurse in rural Kenya, Diana had over the years improved her skills, graduating as a Registered Nurse before acquiring a Batchelor of Science in Nursing from a top private university in Kenya, the tuition for which was partially covered by her employer.

Once in the US, however, her 20 years of experience counted for nothing and she was employed on the same footing as a new graduate nurse, as is the case for all overseas nurses moving to the US to work. Diana says that, on balance, she would have been better off had she remained at her old job in Kenya where the care is better, the opportunities for professional growth are greater and the work environment well controlled. But like many who have gone before her, Diana is not likely to be returning to Kenya any time soon.

*Names have been changed.

Continue Reading

Trending