Does anybody really take Uhuru Kenyattaâ€™s run for the Kenya presidency seriously? He is currently the butt of many jokes on chat-rooms on the Internet, most of them originating in Kenya.
Critics point to his lack of expertise, his never having won an election, his overindulging social habits, and the general absence of any likeable attributes, apart from his having the right surname, of the businessman-currently-turned-politician. Some have even questioned his sexual preferences, and have paid with their jobs for that.
But Daniel arap Moi, Kenyaâ€™s President of 24 years, is determined that Uhuru would be his successor. Why? Because Uhuru is â€œ... a young man who can be guided,â€ as Moi introduces him at public rallies, although the â€˜young manâ€™ of 42 has reportedly yet to say anything at those rallies.
The eldest child of Mama Ngina, the youngest wife of the late President Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru has had the fastest rise of any politician Kenya has ever seen.
Ten years ago, he was complaining about the ethnic cleansing that preceded the 1992 elections, when thousands of Kikuyus were displaced from their homes in the Rift valley Province, then and always a Moi stronghold. Hundreds more were killed in the attacks.
In the process, the Kenyatta family lost large tracts of land, and Uhuru issued a statement condemning the violence. According to analysts, the emergence of Uhuru as a potential opposition politician greatly alarmed Moiâ€™s government. So efforts were made to bring him into the government, but these were at first rejected, as the Kenyatta family was said to be behind the formation of the Democratic Party led by veteran politician Mwai Kibaki. Eventually, a â€˜safe seatâ€™ for Uhuru was curved out of his late fatherâ€™s constituency, Gatundu.
But the rookie politician then went and lost in a landslide to a little known local politician. It was something of a shock: who could dare stand, and beat, Jomo Kenyattaâ€™s own son, in his own turf? To salvage something, Uhuru was then nominated to various government bodies, including the 1999 appointment as Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Authority. From there,
Moi nominated him to Parliament and later made him a Cabinet Minister. The real decider, which threw a big wrench in the works for many KANU presidential aspirants, came early this year during the ruling partyâ€™s annual convection. Four Vice-Presidents of KANU were chosen, among them Uhuru, who had been a minister for less than a year and a politician for a little more than five years.
All of a sudden, Uhuru was the front-runner for the Presidency. That brought the first major split in the party since it gained power at independence in 1963. Moi sacked George Saitoti, who has been Vice-President for 14 years, after the latter criticised his support for Uhuru.
Raila Odinga, who had dissolved his own National Development Party and joined KANU in hopes of the presidency, was also not amused. The two, together with other politicians opposed to the Uhuru ascension, have now formed what they call the Rainbow Alliance, for the express reason of opposing Uhuru.
Apart from the fact that he is married with two children, and that his surname is Kenyatta, very little is known about the front-runner who has yet to declare his candidacy. And, unlike the other candidates, not a full profile on Uhuru exists on the Internet. â€œWhat has Uhuru ever done?â€ an e-mail doing the rounds in Kenya poses the question.
â€œThe Kenyatta family owns Brookside, Kenya Aerotech, and other businesses. But not even Kenyattaâ€™s immediate family will entrust Uhuru to run any of these family businesses. Why should we trust him to run Kenya?â€
What about the accusations of social impropriety? In its brief profile on Uhuru posted on its website, the BBC lists among his shortcomings: â€˜likes his beer and chain smokes.â€™ Then there was the Assistant Minister who threatened to reveal some â€˜very nasty thingsâ€™ about Uhuru. The Minister, Peter Odoyo, was sacked the very next day. Apparently the â€˜very nasty thingsâ€™ happened in Boston, Massachusetts when Uhuru was a student there. But nobody is willing to reveal what these were, at least publicly.
There is also the questionable presence on political rallies of some of Moiâ€™s closed advisers, people who have a somewhat questionable reputation in Kenya. Among these is Nicholas Biwott, said to be the second most powerful man in Kenya, and thought to have been involved in the murder of former Foreign Minister, Robert Ouko.
So, is Uhuru Kenyattaâ€™s candidacy really serious? Why does Moi insist on pushing for Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed him, in spite of strong opposition that threatens to tear the party apart?
Rival candidate Odinga says Uhuru does not have any credentials, and suggests that in backing him, Moi wanted to keep effective power in retirement.
â€œHe (Moi) has been very open about it. He said Kenyatta is trusted because he can be guided and he never does anything without first asking. So, we will have a president who has to ask the ex-President each time he takes a decision,â€ Raila Odinga Oginga was quoted as saying.