October 23rd 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Top leaders promote relatives into politics, creating a nobility class

Musalia Mudavadi, the Opposition Amani National Congress (ANC) leader first entered Parliament as the MP for Sabatia Constituency on a KANU ticket in 1989 following the death of his father Moses Mudavadi.

By Nyambura Muthoninmuthoni@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 23 Feb 2017 10:30 EAT

From top, clockwise: Rosemary Odinga; Muhoho Jomo Kenyatta (being introduced to President Yoweri Museveni by his dad); Klein Musyoka; and Nick Ruto. (Graphic: Edward Musungu/Kenya Free Press).

All the top political leaders in Kenya are currently grooming their sons and daughters for political office. President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, CORD leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka and even some little-known senators have lined up their sons and daughters for constituency seats in the upcoming election.

The list of connected relatives angling for political office is so long that Kenyans are, in the words of a politics professor interviewed by this website, creating a nobility class without the requirements of an hereditary political system. Political dynasties are as old as the Kenyan state. Right in the colonial period, when the British cobbled together the desperate tribes that make the country into a nation-state, they relied on traditional chiefs who had ruled the communities, conferring authority and privilege that the client administrators enjoyed and perpetuated.

Kenya's founding president Jomo Kenyatta took over the leadership and perpetuated it further, promoting the sons and scions of British-favoured chiefs to cabinet and senior governmental positions. Powerful ministers Mbiyu Koinange, Charles Njonjo, Simeon Nyachae, Munyua Waiyaki, and other top administrators appointed in the Kenyatta era were sons (no daughters) of colonial era chiefs.

Jomo Kenyatta was also the first Kenyan leader to bring his family directly into control of the state, enabling the election of his son, daughter, nephew in Central Kenya parliamentary seats and Nairobi mayoral office, and appointing his in-laws to senior public positions. When Moi succeeded Kenyatta in 1978, he retained sons of the powerful chiefs and brought in important positions sons of the first generation of post-colonial leaders who had died in office.

A closer look into the Kenyan political sphere today shows a game that fields players belonging to the families that have led the country for years, and in some cases decades. There is also a close affinity of interest of the top leaders. For example, the first four presidents have belonged to a club of political/business class that formed around President Jomo Kenyatta in the early 60s. Kenya's second president Moi was Kenyatta's trusted deputy for 12 years. The third one, Mwai Kibaki, was Kenyatta's finance minister for 10 years and Moi's vice president for another 10. The fourth, Uhuru, is the first Kenyatta's own son.

The Kenyatta family has dominated Kenyan politics for decades. Before Uhuru became the president there were other sons, daughters and cousins. Ngengi Muigai took over from his uncle and founding President after he died in 1978. Ngengi won the Gatundu seat by a landslide to join his cousins, Kenyatta’s first-born son, Peter Muigai Kenyatta and first daughter Margaret in politics.

Peter was then the Juja Member of Parliament while Margaret was Nairobi’s first female mayor between 1970 and 1976. Nominated Senator Beth Mugo is a cousin of President Kenyatta and she has used her family networks well in power, serving as MP for Dagoretti from 1997-2013 before being nominated as a senator. Under the grand coalition government, she also served as minister for health.

The family of former head of state Daniel Arap Moi has also seen his sons play major political roles. Gideon Moi took over as Baringo Central Member of Parliament after senior Moi's retirement from politics in 2002. He is the current Baringo Senator while his brother Raymond is the MP for Rongai constituency. Moi's other son, former rally driver Jonathan Toroitich, has twice unsuccessfully vied for a parliamentary seat.

Likewise, the family of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Kenya's first vice president) has seen Jaramogi's sons Raila Odinga who is the opposition leader and Nominated MP Oburu Odinga serve in Parliament for over 20 years each. Jaramogi's daughter Ruth Odinga is now the deputy governor for Kisumu County.

The three also come from the same family line with Gem legislator and deputy minority leader in the National Assembly Jakoyo Midiwo who is their cousin. Rosemary Odinga, eldest daughter of Raila has expressed interest in joining politics and is an aspiring candidate for the Kibra parliamentary seat which her father held for 20 years when it was called Kibera constituency.

In 1974, two years after former prominent politician from the Coast and minister in founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyata’s government Ronald Gideon Ngala died in a road accident, his son Noah Katana Ngala entered parliament in 1974 and served as Ganze MP, in Kilifi County, until 2002 when he was defeated by Joseph Kahindi Kingi. Moi appointed Katana as cabinet minister throughout his tenure.

Two sons of former senior cabinet minister in both Kenyatta and Moi governments Jeremiah Nyagah – Joseph and Norman – also joined politics and served as MPs in the Eighth Parliament. At one time, the Nyagah family had three sons serving in senior government positions, with Joseph as a cabinet minister, Norman as a government chief whip in Parliament while their brother Nahashon was governor of the Central Bank.

Musalia Mudavadi, the leader of opposition party Amani National Congress, first entered Parliament as the MP for Sabatia Constituency on a KANU ticket in 1989 following the death of his father Moses Mudavadi. The current senator for Vihiga, George Khaniri, was only 26 years old when he succeeded his father Nicodemus Khaniri, who died in 1994.

In Narok County, sons of the late paramount chief Lerionka Ntutu won two seats in the 11th parliament. Stephen Ole Ntutu won the senatorial seat while his younger brother Patrick Keturet Ole Ntutu took the Narok West MP seat. Patrick is now running to become governor of Narok.

The immediate former Kwale Senator late Boy Juma Boy who died early this month took over from his father, after he died in 1984. And now the family has picked his young brother Issah Juma Boy to succeed him. Mr Issah, has also been endorsed by elected leaders including Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori, County Assembly Speaker Sammy Ruwa and several MCAs.

However, none of these dynastic achievements is as important as the one about to unfold in the August election, where all the top leaders are now pushing their children into political office. Former vice president and Wiper Party leader Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who did not inherit political leadership from family roots is reportedly grooming his son Klein to contest for the Mwingi North parliamentary seat which he served for 35 years.

While Rosemary Odinga's campaign in Kibra has generated so much heat among the ODM aspirants there, DP Ruto's grooming of his son Nick isn't well known beyond their family's Uasin Gishu backyard. But President Kenyatta's son, Jomo Muhoho, has made forays into the national politics right from the start of his father's administration. Last year, Nairobi senator Mike Sonko, who will run for the governorship in the upcoming election, indicated to his supporters that he was intending to have the junior Kenyatta as his running mate.

A professor of politics told this website that sons and daughters of top political leaders are finding it easier to get into office due to growing inequalities in access to political influence among candidates, with the wealthy and already known having an advantage.

"Corruption permeates society. The rich feel like we all owe them a favour by always honouring them. Journalists don't prioritise news from below, and the political process is driven by ethnicity rather than ideas," he said, explaining that in the circumstances Kenyans look for solutions from familiar places, only that, in this case, these happen to be the places that created the problems Kenyans want resolved.

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