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By MIGUNA MIGUNA* - 1 September 2007

Finally, the presidential election has reached the last stretch where speed, agility and tactics matter more than endurance. This race is now a sprint in its classical sense. The first portion of the race was a marathon where doggedness, strategy and patience were the key determining factors.

From now on, the candidate that can marshal enough energy and dash like lightning to the finishing line will certainly take the coveted price. Who will that person be? And what electoral vehicle shall he use?

Although President Mwai Kibaki has declared his intention to seek re-election, he has not yet found or constructed a political party on which to run. The party that he rode to victory in 2002, Narc, is safely in the pocket of Charity Ngilu, who has refused to hand it back to Kibaki. Some speculate that Ngilu might actually be joining Raila in ODM very soon. If that happens, the ODM vehicle will have gained more glitter and toque. Both are desirable when courting voters.

However, in the off-side chance that Ngilu delivers the party to Kibaki, it is unlikely that it will perform in the same manner that it did in 2002.

At the moment, Narc as a party is just a name. The shell that remained after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) contingent left Kibaki's government cannot start, leave alone finish the race. That is because many "important" members of Kibaki's cabinet, who also double up as members of his campaign team - people like Simeon Nyachae, Njenga Karume, John Michuki, Raphael Tuju and Moody Awori - do not actually belong to the same party as the President.

Nyachae came into the so-called "Government of National Unity" through Ford-People. Karume is a Kanu elected member of parliament while John Michuki belongs to Ford Asili. As for both Tuju and Awori, they were sponsored to parliament by LDP, which they got estranged from in 2003.

Recently, most pro-Kibaki politicians have been gravitating around Narc-Kenya. However, based on the numerous tactical and strategic mis-steps by Narc-Kenya and the raging rivalry between the flower party and a new group of deep-healed and shadowy business figures calling themselves the "Kibaki Tena", it is becoming evident that neither Narc-Kenya nor Kibaki Tena are certified political vehicles capable of mounting successful presidential and parliamentary campaigns.

Interestingly, the Kibaki Tena group that tried to organize an obscene luncheon-cum-fund raiser for Kibaki last week has characterized their involvement to be limited to the presidential campaign. They have clearly sought to distance themselves from politicians surrounding the president as if the presidential campaign is a business rather than a political process.

Then there is the headache of dealing with Kibaki's apparent reluctance to openly identify with Narc-Kenya, or his fear of a constitutional crisis should he join a party that did not take him to State House.

There is now animated discussion over possible names of political outfits that the president can ride back to power. Names that have been thrown into the mix are: "The Party of National Unity" and the "Grand National Alliance."

Less than three months before elections (assuming that they will be held in December), the President still does not have a well oiled, primed and certified vehicle. In fact, many believe that without a mechanically sound and TESTED vehicle, Kibaki's re-election bid will be a pipe dream.

Without a political vehicle, Kibaki is unable to unveil his vision and platform for re-election. This must be a God-send for the Authentic ODM.

There are those who believe that the so-called "power of incumbency" is enough to win an election. Those making this assertion forget that Kibaki was president when he lost the 2005 constitutional referendum to the ODM team. As well, those still mesmerized by the allure of state power concentrate too much on the fact that a sitting president (regrettably) has unfettered access to public/state resources that he will use for his campaign without public or parliamentary approval; that the president has full control over the Provincial Administration, the police, the national intelligence service and a galaxy of state infrastructure; and finally, they rely on the nebulous argument that "in Africa, very few incumbents have lost elections."

The foregoing are good talking points for an incumbent who wants to lose an election. In 2002, Moi used both massive state resources and private wealth in order to transform Uhuru Kenyatta into the third president of Kenya. Yet, despite all the money, power, media coverage and the myth that incumbents do not lose elections in Africa, Moi's proxy lost. There are other examples elsewhere that we can cite to debunk the foregoing myths.

So, Kibaki is likely to lose this year's election; just like he lost the referendum. And just like before, the person who might prove unbeatable is Raila Amolo Odinga.

In 2002, it was Raila who acted as the Captain for the National Rainbow Alliance Team that installed Kibaki into power. In 2005, it was again Raila who championed the Orange Campaign and led it to victory. Given his stellar record, stamina, commitment, ability to mobilize and his unmatched connection with the ordinary people of Kenya, it might be a grave error to write-off the Agwambo.

Today is Raila's day. Raila's spectacular triumph over his ODM opponents, Musalia Mudavadi, William Rutto, Joseph Nyaga and Najib Balala demonstrates the fact that in modern Kenyan politics, he has become an unstoppable phenomenon. There are those who believe, with very good reasons, that Raila has become an institution; a political juggernaut that will triumph this year!

Unlike the other decimated ODM presidential candidates, Balala proved to have been more politically prudent when he threw in the towel before the main contest and publicly backed Raila. Going by the official numbers, Raila trounced his opponents, not because they were political novices as one misguided anti-Raila commentator announced even before the counting was over; it was due to the fact that he took every step that needed to be taken, mobilized all ODM members without any regard to regional, ethnic or sectarian reasons, and was overwhelmingly accepted as the most experienced, courageous, focused, trusted and reliable. In choosing Raila, the Orange Battalion has passed a vote of confidence in his abilities and assured him that he is up to the task.

The Orange brigade also wanted to signal to the rest of the country that the time for primitive, primordial and sectarian myths is gone and buried forever. Raila is an agent of change. His entire vision encapsulates the people's desire for positive fundamental changes for the country. A desire for a people-oriented constitution that devolves power from the centre (Nairobi) to the regions; that shares out presidential powers with the vice-president, a prime minister and cabinet;and an administration that entrenches true checks and balances.

Both during the launch of his Vision and in his acceptance speech, Raila extolled his strong commitment to the rule of law; fiscal responsibility; job creation; a national housing plan; massive infrastructure development; security for all; and an end to tribalism and corruption.

The battle lines are becoming defined. The two dominant teams are warming up to the race. Raila has the star studded ODM to ride to victory. On the other hand, Kibaki has state power behind him but he lacks an electoral vehicle. In addition, Kibaki's stars like the former president Daniel arap Moi, Nicholas Biwott, Simeon Nyachae, Njenga Karume and John Michuki are old, tired and ill-equipped to run this race.

Kibaki is hobbled further by reports in both the world and local press that hundreds of billions of shillings belonging to the Kenyan public - money capable of transforming our country into a second world - remain stashed abroad, not because we are unable to trace them; but simply because selfish political deals and interests have conspired against us.

Luckily, the final decision belongs to The Majestic People of Kenya who will conduct a careful audit of all the parties and candidates and determine who it is that they can trust with power and their destiny.


*The writer is parliamentary aspirant for Nyando Constituency in Nyanza Province



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