In the run-up to the 2022 general elections, the Kenyatta 2.0 succession battle was very hot.
My, prophesy as I first reviewed this book, came to pass.
William Ruto, a rejected Kalenjin stalwart, is now the president.
Covering the political happenings in Kenya in the 1970s, the book, The Kenyatta Succession is an account by two journalists, Joseph Karimi and Philip Ochieng, on the happenings in that time past when Kikuyus and especially ‘the family’ wanted to retain the presidency in their ranks seeing that Jomo Kenyatta’s health was failing and he was spending little time in Nairobi.
‘The Family’ according to the book is, ‘the group around the late president, they were related by blood, financial and other interests”, mostly Kikuyus. They wanted to ensure the post of the Vice President, then held by an outsider Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, reserved for a Kikuyu. They wanted a quick replacement.
The 2022 General elections had a striking resemblance to the 1970s happenings
The Kenyatta Succession, talks about the Nairobi mayorship race, as much as it covers the presidential succession race.
The book has some striking resemblance to what is currently happening. In a bid to try to have the Nairobi mayorship remain with the Family, the Kenyattas underestimated the deputy mayor Andrew Ngumba’s ‘muscle’ to stay on even when the constitution was flouted to try to get Margaret Kenyatta back at City Hall.
In 2020, Uhuru succeeded where his father failed by illegally appointing General Mohamed Badi ‘in place’ of duly elected Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.
The change the constitution movement of the 70s is akin to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) where there are rumors of trying to change the constitution to have, as some quarters argue, Uhuru Kenyatta, the current president stay on as Prime Minister after his term limit expires.
In the 70s, a section of politicians was intent on the same, they sought to change the constitutional order that stated that a Vice President would take over for 90 days in case the president died in office. Kenyatta 1.0 was not going to retire, he wasn’t going to be defeated in elections, and there were no term limits. The problem was that Kenyatta was old, getting in and out of comas, so they wanted a vice president from the family.
In 2020, they seek to remove William Samoei Ruto as the Deputy President, to replace him with ‘a family’ member or you can also argue ‘a Kikuyu’.
Note that the current ( I mean 2018-2022) ‘family’ is all about interests. But the motive remains the same.
“Retain the presidency in ‘the family’ by all means”– James Erastus Mungai
The book is heavy on details and sometimes in the middle chapter it becomes boring. However, as it reaches the end, there’s an interesting history about the men who tried to plot a coup so that Kenyatta can be succeeded by one from ‘The Family’.
The story of James Erastus Mungai, the senior assistant commissioner of police in charge of Rift Valley is an interesting one. He formed a paramilitary private army (Ngoroko) that terrorised residents, army men and leaders (especially Vice President Daniel Moi). He built a base, complete with tunnels which were to be used for gassing (Nazi-style) opponents in case Kenyatta died.
The Ngoroko was to assassinate over 300 Kenyan leaders in order to allow ‘The Family’ to take power. With all the intricate planning, Kenyatta died in Mombasa instead of the planned Nakuru, the base of the Ngoroko. The plans went up in flames as Mungai fled by car to Sudan.
He sought asylum in Switzerland but came back, got detained for a month, was forgiven by Moi and the late Attorney General Charles Njonjo and has lived in peaceful quiet in Nakuru, shunning media interviews till date.
It is a good read for all students of political science and those that wish to know about this particular history of Kenya.
The book is written in good, easy-to-understand English.