President Kenyatta is sounding increasingly forlorn and helpless even as he ramps up the tough talk against corruption.
All signs are of a president going into premature lame duck phase in his final term as he is deserted by key allies, presides over a government that is divided and directionless and watches a support base becoming disillusioned and disgruntled.
The President’s unstinting show of support for Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji are undermined by the fact that powerful elements in the Jubilee government grouped around Deputy President William Ruto very publicly have the knives out for the two men who stand out as the frontline soldiers in the war against graft.
The Head of State’s promises to ensure the corrupt end up behind bars are displaying more bark than bite.
Mr Kinoti and Mr Haji do not help their cause by prosecuting much of their efforts on leaks that are gratefully picked up by a naive or compliant media but which, ultimately, come to a whimper as little of the juicy details can stand up in court.
The now very clear split in the government cannot be hidden or denied. When President Kenyatta chastises those bent on politicising the anti-graft fight by seeking shelter under ethnic mobilisation, his deputy does exactly that.
In publicly likening the anti-corruption effort to an ethnic and political witch-hunt, the DP is indirectly taking potshots at President Kenyatta, who has made the campaign one of his final legacy projects.
Such comments, directly or through proxies, incite increasingly restive supporters lapping up propaganda to the effect that the anti-corruption campaign is designed to undermine their man.
The DP has always been careful not to be seen directly challenging or defying the President. He has, over the past few months, restrained the sometimes excitable MPs from his political strongholds given to violent rhetoric, threats and insults.
But it now seems the attack dogs have been let loose.
Dr Ruto’s supporters have taken to the public platform to angrily accuse President Kenyatta on the two issues that make then see red: The anti-corruption campaign and the budding partnership with Opposition leader Raila Odinga under the Building Bridges Initiative ‘handshake’.
To them, the investigations, arrests and prosecutions are focused on Dr Ruto’s supporters and kinsmen and are, therefore, aimed ultimately at the DP. They see President Kenyatta cosying up to Mr Odinga as a plot to isolate the DP and wreck his prospects of ascending to the presidency despite the Jubilee power sharing and-transfer pact.
They are fighting back on the political platform through the strident and angry rhetoric seen over the past few days.
Some of the Jubilee social media warriors that did battle for the UhuRuto presidential campaign have been reactivated at the service of the DP. Even the popular Gikuyu singers who were paid to release hate songs targeting Mr Odinga are back in business — only this time the target is Mr Kenyatta.
Dr Ruto has taken off the gloves and gone for direct attacks in response to Mr Odinga’s taunts, employing the extreme language last heard during the presidential campaign. The interesting thing now is that, while Mr Odinga — presumably Dr Ruto’s principal rival come the 2022 elections — is the direct target, the assaults also aim missiles at President Kenyatta.
Questions over the anti-corruption campaign and Building Bridges amount to direct rejection of projects close to the Presidents’ heart. Dr Ruto’s ‘hustler-versus-dynasties narrative cannot be anything by an attack on the Uhuru-Raila bromance.
It is ironic that the mercenaries President Kenyatta deployed against Mr Odinga are now being turned against him from within Jubilee. Most visible are the keyboard warriors and the singers, but it is apparent that MPs and other key political leaders from his central Kenya bastion have virtually abandoned him to camp at the DP’s well-oiled front door.
Although they have not dared challenge the President publicly, that is changing. In the coming days and weeks, we can expect strong and direct attacks on President Kenyatta from his political backyards in Kiambu and other counties in the wider Mt Kenya region.
Many of those will capitalise on the hardships Mt Kenya constituents face, which will be blamed on President Kenyatta’s economic policies and lack of support, while Dr Ruto will be depicted as the development-conscious leader always ready to support projects and dispense financial favours.
The question now is probably not if Jubilee will implode, but when.