It never ceases to amaze me, the complexities involved in Kenya’s politics.

Never mind the reality that politics in Kenya is completely intertwined with everyday life, but the deeply rooted belief system where certain individuals acquire almost godlike reverence from their supporters, baffles me. And when the reaction is hate, it is a total hatred that can spark off a civil war, if not carefully managed by brink men masterminds who litter either side of the political divide.

But what intrigues me most about politics in Kenya is the behind the scenes wars fought from one election cycle to the next.

There are almost always two forces behind these wars: sustaining corruption networks and selecting a winning candidate for the next election.

In Kenya, like most nations around the world, diversionary tactics are used to distract the collective national attention from a serious issue.

Right now there is a serious effort mounted by President Kenyatta to develop the regions while combating historic corruption. Many casual observers say that this campaign against corruption is widening a rift between the President and his Deputy, William Ruto, who has been adversely mentioned in several newspapers and tabloids as a corruption czar.

However, this ongoing push by Kenyatta is likely to see many of the old guard involved in corruption exposed or out in the cold by the time the next elections come around. So they have begun election-mongering early and by doing so, united themselves against the President on just about every issue.

A few years ago, the expression ‘kutanga tanga’ was introduced to political speak by President Kenyatta.

It was a coded reference to DP William Ruto who was at the time touring the country in a campaign mood. The word itself means to aimlessly wander about and it displayed perfectly that while the President was focusing on development (he was issuing title deeds to disenfranchised local residents at the time), other politicians were focusing on the wrong agenda for the time since the next election is 4 years off.

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Legislators affiliated to Tangatanga faction of Jubilee Photo/Courtesy

So what do the Tanga tanga politicians really want?

The first aim is to discredit President Kenyatta in his own Mt. Kenya backyard. It is no secret in Kenya that the region overwhelmingly supports the President and any open opposition to him could be politically suicidal for anyone in the region. The main thrust of this plan is to blame the President for the apparent lack of development in the region. Like any other pedestrian observer, I was shocked to be told that the area is barely developed. But yesterday afternoon, I sat with a friend of mine, Wairuri wa Mwaniki, who shed some light on this propaganda.

Ever since Kenyatta took office, Mt. Kenya region has received over Ksh. 174 Billion earmarked for development projects. These include roads, dams, irrigation, electricity connection, hospitals and schools. The region is more developed than Western Kenya and the North Eastern region combined. Kiambu County alone has more kilometers of tarmacked roads (1,385) than the entirety of Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga combined (700 for all Western Kenya Counties). There are 1,145 primary schools in Kiambu to 289 primary schools in the entire North Eastern region. There are more hospitals in Central Kenya than you can find in the Rift Valley region.

Deputy President William Ruto and former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu during Waititu's daughter wedding in Kiambu in July 2019

Deputy President William Ruto and former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu during Waititu’s daughter’s wedding in Kiambu in July 2019 Photo/Courtesy

So it is not that the region is not developed. Central Kenya is so grossly over-developed compared to the rest of Kenya that an examination of the facts and figures makes you appreciate the conscious effort made by President Kenyatta to fast-track development of the rest of the country.

This is just a symptom of a silent war. This war is being waged not in the Kenyan Parliament where it can be muted easily by fact, but in Tanga tanga territory; public rallies, funerals and fund raisers. The speakers at these events are familiar faces including Moses Kuria and Kimani Ngunjiri. They will almost always be in the company of DP William Ruto and the bossom topic will be, the 2022 election (the distraction) and the launch of a mundane project which will scarcely be remembered by the press in a week’s time.

A cursory glance of the headlines reveals that these MPs have launched 68 ‘development projects’ in 2018, all of which have vanished into thin air at the time of writing this.

The projects of course are a smoke screen. It is common knowledge that William Ruto will be a tough sell to Central Kenya but it is also calculated that by securing him as a president, those who will have aided his rise will be allowed special favors in the new administration.

More often than not, these new favors are linked to protecting corruption empires which have been under the spot light, thanks to President Kenyatta’s war on corruption.

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Kenyans are not the political ignoramuses of a decade ago where anything said by a local mheshimiwa was gospel truth. A majority of Kenyans actually know that the push for local development comes from local leadership and the devolved government system.

The real ‘washenzi’ are the leaders who politick without a development track record and are like a guardian, protecting the corrupt.

While an unoccupied minority screams on social media, it would be a good time to keep your eyes on the bigger picture. Kenyan drug dealers have fingered the judiciary as complicit in the drug trade in Africa; mega-corruption cases are working their way through the court system (and threaten to take down some well-connected politicians, some of whom are Tanga tanga members). One Governor has already been impeached and two others are in the out-tray.

Conspiracy is taking shape to cripple investigations carried out by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on these Governors’ cases.

Legislators allied to Ruto’s Tanga tanga faction are hell bent to protect the corrupt lawmakers with threats to impeach the President, a task which is equivalent to an exercise in futility.

The swamp must be drained