December 13, 2021


Politics in Kenya is like rain in the desert, it can be unpredictable, change without warning and sometimes, evident rhyme or reason. So, we wait.

More by Barrack Ombogo

Kenya’s Deep State Cycle

Kenya’s Deep State Cycle

December 12th, Kenya’s official Independence Day, the day when the British Union Jack was lowered and the Kenya’s shield and colours raised at Uhuru Park.

Kenya as a country was colonised by the British Government as early as 1906, when the first British Government reached Kisumu via the railway line which was mainly constructed by Asians, shipped in from India.

Kenya’s First Deep State

The first official Deep State in Kenya was formed. The individuals calling the shots included powerful British statesmen like Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Antony Eden (Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister 1955 – 1957) and Harold Macmillan (Prime Minister UK 1957- 1963).

Opposition Deep State

In 1952 a group mainly from Kikuyu community led by Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi started the Mau Mau, an acronym derived from the words, “Muzungu Arudi Ulaya, Mwa Africa Apate Uhuru”. This was a part of the Opposition’s Deep State. It caused a lot of insecurity in a Kenya.

Among the Africans were Waruhiu Itote, Stanley Mathenge, Dedan Kimathi and General China. Working alongside them, a group given accolades for leading the struggle for independence were the Kapenguria Six which composed of the late President Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai, Kungu Karumba, Paul Ngei and Achieng’ Oneko.

KAU, KANU and Kenya independence

When in 1961, the British finally yielded, and the official handover of power in Kenya commenced, they proposed using the political party the Kenya African Union (KAU) whose chairman was James Gichuru as a vehicle for transferring power. But Jaramogi Oginga Odinga refused and insisted that Mzee Jomo Kenyatta must be released from detention first before Kenya could attain Independence. The insistence went as far as London where at Lancaster House, the word of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga prevailed, and the British Colony agreed to offer Kenya Independence and release Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Two years later in June 1963, Kenya attained internal self-rule and later became a republic on 12th December of the same year under the party Kenya African National Union (KANU)

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the first Prime Minister of the Independent Kenya. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga became the first Vice-President. The Emblem of Kenya as a republic is the Coat of Arms composed of a shield and a cockerel.

Kenyatta, Odinga and the New Deep State

The idea behind this coat of arms came from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. His inspiration for it came from the Luo traditional emblems. In Luo culture, a shield and a cockerel represents building a new home. Kenya was building a new home. With a new Deep State, of which Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga sat at the top of the pecking order.

This alliance though, only lasted for three years. Jaramogi fell out with Mzee Kenyatta and a third Kenyan Deep State was formed. Jaramogi, leaving in a huff, registered his own national party called the Kenya Peoples Union (KPU). Within only two days a total of thirty members of parliament resigned from KANU. This gave a threat to Jomo Kenyatta and his young government. It was apparent that Jaramogi was going to get majority of members which would result in snap General Elections.
The Third Deep State

The Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Tom Joseph Mboya sensed danger and advised the Attorney General, Charles Njonjo to create an amendment to the Constitution which required members who resigned from the Party which granted them the seat in parliament, to seek new support from their own Party. The new legislation also put in place stringent measures which allowed only seven out of the thirty members to return to Parliament. This was the act of the third Deep State. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was one of the lucky ones to return to Parliament.

Moi and the Fourth Deep State

Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi took over as the Vice-President until 1976, when a group of Kikuyu legislators started the fourth Deep State when they attempted to change the constitution to make it impossible for the Vice-President to take over for ninety days in the event of the death of the President. Mzee Kenyatta was ailing, and their fear was that Daniel Arap Moi would inadvertently get a seat at the country’s top position. Their efforts didn’t yield fruit and in October 1978, Vice-President Daniel Arap Moi took over as President.

President Moi went on to run the Country for twenty-four years with the help of a fifth Deep State.

The Deep State After 2002

A sixth Deep State formed after he lost the elections in 2002. This is the Deep State is what Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga found himself constantly battling with, when he first fell out with President Kibaki, after driving the vehicle that put him in power. Much like his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila was forced to form his own vehicle, in an attempt to claim the top seat.

His closest win came in 2017, when The Supreme Court overturned the results of General Elections which had given the victory to President Uhuru Kenyatta. It was a historic moment, not just for Kenya but for much of Africa. Yet, despite this win, Raila did not participate in the repeat elections. President Uhuru retained his victory.

Ruto and the Race for the Deep State

The race to become a part of the next Deep State started early for Deputy President Willam Ruto whose eyes are on winning the next General Elections on the 9th of August 2022. However, he is going against all the Deep States that have existed in Kenya, joining forces. The ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru and Hon. Raila sealed this union: a union which continues to barrel through the corridors of power, sweeping up opposition in its wake. It is perhaps the strongest alliance Kenya has seen, post-independence.

If history serves, William Ruto will be met with more walls than doors in his attempt to overthrow this Deep State.

The Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo on the other hand, seems to have learned that the only way to defeat Deep State is to become a part of it. He appears to be on the right track of finally, getting the crown. The most insurmountable obstacle which has dogged him for years, the Mt. Kenya Troop, seem to have thrown in their vote and muscle behind him. If all constants hold, we are looking at Number 5.

Yet, politics in Kenya is like rain in the desert, it can be unpredictable, change without warning and sometimes, evident rhyme or reason. So, we wait.


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