Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi, both come from a royal family of post-independence Kenya. Uhuru is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President. Mudavadi is the son of Moses Mudamba Mudavadi, arguably one of the most powerful Minsters for Local government in independent Kenya. For Uhuru and Mudavadi, being in the shadow of their fathers, and constant comparison with their fathers, sometimes unfavorably, must have been burdensome.
Opinions about Uhuru are split, to his supporters, he is the second coming of Kenyatta, and, as such, they view him as a visionary leader. To his detractors, Uhuru offers nothing more than the Kenyatta name behind him. Mudavadi, on the other hand, is seen as a mild mannered, conciliatory and non-confrontational. Others, however, see his diplomatic mien as a mask of his lack of conviction and political stamina.
In terms of personality, both Uhuru and Musalia have conducted themselves with civility in the public eye. However, Uhuru seems to be cracking under pressure after he was indicted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, for allegedly sponsoring the 2007-2008 post-election violence. Recently, he engaged in public spat with Raila Odinga, something he has so far avoided since joining politics reluctantly.
The three Families, Kenyatta’s, Moi’s and Mudavadi’s have played significant political roles in post-independence Kenya. And together, they share a rich collective history. The thread that binds all the three families is Moi, who served under Kenyatta as a Vice President and succeeded Kenyatta when he died in 1978. Both Uhuru and Musalia were both given their first crack at politics by Moi.
However, Moi’s entry into politics was inadvertently done by Moses Mudavadi, Musalia Mudavadi’s father who was then serving as a school inspector based in Kabarnet and was in charge of Baringo, Koibatek, Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot during the colonial time. In 1955, when the people of Rift Valley were looking for a new representative in Legislative Council, the precursor to the current parliament, the then District Commissioner, H.J Simpson turned to Moses Mudavadi. Mudavadi however, turned it down saying the people of Rift Valley should be represented by one of their own, and he was not the right person because he’s from Western Kenya. After he disqualified himself, they turned to Moi.
In the beginning, Moi felt that he was not cut for politics, and instead he had his eyes focused on a career in education. Although, he went ahead and had the longest political streak, ruling Kenya for 24 years as a President, earning himself the title of Professor of politics. For his longevity in politics he survived coup attempts, the end of the Cold War and introduction of multi-party politics- something he opposed vociferously, before finally relenting.
One of the barriers that stood in the Moi’s way in joining politics was he had to resign his teaching job. However Mudavadi assured him that he can still keep his job as a teacher while still being involved in politics. Such that, in the event he losses the election, he can still get back his teaching job. In the end, there was need for that because Moi was elected. Since joining politics Moi’s star has been on the rise. He has been appointed to several senior government positions, which culminated in the presidency.
Mudavadi also joined politics, and after two failed attempts, clinched the Sabatia Parliamentary seat in 1976. By then Moi was already the Vice President. Two years later when Kenyatta died in 1978, Moi became the president. Moi appointed Mudavadi to various cabinet positions until his death. Mudavadi went ahead and curved a power base for himself in Western Kenya earning the title the King of Mululu”. And when he died, his son Musalia took over from where his father left.
Musalia entered politics in 1989 upon his father’s death. He contested the Sabatia seat and was elected unopposed. Just like he did to his father, Moi appointed Musalia to various cabinet positions including the Vice Presidency, where he served for the shortest period. Appointment to the Vice Presidency, though a heartbeat away from Presidency, carries with it an immense risk, because you’re expected to be seen, not to be heard.
In 2002, Moi was constitutionally barred from contesting in the elections. But, in preparation for his political exit after 24 years, he was not going to go out quietly, so, he set in motion a succession plan. It involved putting Uhuru and Mudavadi on the ticket, with Uhuru being the Presidential candidate and Musalia Mudavadi as the running mate. But this plan has been in the works for a while.
While Musalia was already in politics, Uhuru was involved in running the family’s vast business empire. However, Moi thought that with the transitional election years away Uhuru entry into politics had to be fast tracked. It all began in 1997, when he was elected as the KANU Chairman for Gatundu constituency, the same constituency his late father represented in parliament. This was done with an express intention of him running in the general election which was due in 1997. When the election was held, he lost to a little known politician Moses Muhia, whose only qualification was being in the opposition party. Unlike Uhuru who ran on the incumbent party, KANU’s ticket.
The loss didn’t deter Moi’s drive to have Uhuru elected. After the loss in Gatundu, Moi wanted a non-political route for Uhuru, albeit, temporarily. Moi wanted him to have an apprenticeship elsewhere. With that in mind, Moi appointed Uhuru as the Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board in 1999. This was three years before the general election was held, in 2002. Which Moi felt was sufficient time for him to learn the ropes
Three years later, Moi, in the October of 2001, nominated Uhuru to Parliament, and subsequently to a cabinet position. This was one year before the transitional election. Uhuru’s rise within the party caused friction with the party’s rank and file who felt bypassed in the succession. This generated discontentment within the party. This however did little to deter Moi
In a surprising move, on March 2002, during KANU’s National Conference, Moi single mindedly coerced the delegates into voting for Uhuru as the National Chairman, and in effect the Presidential candidate. This was the last nail in the coffin for old guard KANU politician’s ambitions. Afterword, majority left in a huff and joined the opposition party. One man didn’t- Musalia Mudavadi. And he was put on the ticket with Uhuru.
The thinking behind Musalia being on the ticket, aside from building a dynasty, was such that Musalia can bring in the populace Luhya votes into the Uhuru/Mudavadi ticket. However, the move not only floundered, as the Luhya’s voted en mass for the opposition, the Uhuru/Mudavadi ticket lost in the election. The opposition led by Kibaki won in the election in 2002.
To Mudavadi the Vice Presidency turned out to be a poisoned chalice; he not only lost in the national election, he even lost his parliamentary seat while Uhuru despite the national loss was elected as a member of parliament. As such he took a break from politics. But Uhuru also remained as the Chairman of KANU and the leader of the opposition in parliament.
When Musalia returned political scene in 2005 he didn’t join Uhuru Kenyatta led KANU, he instead chose Orange Democratic Party, ODM. As such they were effectively on the opposite side of the political divide. In 2007 Uhuru did not contest the presidency, he told his KANU supporters to vote for Mwai Kibaki.
The election was marred by violence, and no single party was declared the winner of the presidential elections. This led to political violence in which an estimated 1500 people lost their lives and 500,000 people became internally displaced. After months of negotiation the two opposing sides formed a coalition government. Uhuru was appointed as a cabinet Minister and Musalia was appointed as a Deputy Prime Minister. Just like before Uhuru and Musalia turned a full circle and both of them sat in the same government, as Deputy Prime Ministers although they came into parliament through different parties.
In next year’s election Uhuru and Mudavadi will once again be on the opposite side of political divide for the second time. Assuming the case against Uhuru in the International Criminal Court, ICC will not prevent him running in the next elections.
With only one year separating them, Uhuru was born in 1961 and Musalia was born in 1960, and in their early 50 years, these two politicians are no longer political novices like when they needed Moi to be their minder, and with both their fathers’ dead, and them representing their respective constituencies in parliament, 2012 will be a turning point in their political career that has so far been single handedly propelled by their family connection.