Revenue vote got Ruto new friends as Raila appeased the Mountain gods


What will be the political fallout from the failure of the “third basis” county revenue sharing formula to muster enough support in the Senate? Ahead of the Tuesday vote, Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata had rashly threatened a linkage with the BBI and the ‘Handshake’. That won him few friends in the chamber, especially among ODM senators who resented this as crude blackmail.

Trashing BBI would be an over-reaction, and may not happen. After all Raila Odinga, the BBI’s leading proponent, had largely met his part of the bargain with President Uhuru Kenyatta when he signalled to his ODM senators to back the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) formula, though many of them didn’t have their hearts in it. However, none of the senators who defied him was from his Luo-Nyanza powerbase.

Across parties, those voting ‘No’ were either from the counties facing reduced allocations, or those acting in solidarity with the ‘losers’. There will be a fallout of some kind in the days ahead, no doubt, but it’s unlikely whether this will sever the Uhuru-Raila relationship.

Whereas Raila was clear and forthright, his rival William Ruto kept largely mum throughout the fight, save for a tweet he posted about a “win-win” proposition, which was decidedly vague.

Proposed formula

That notwithstanding, his immediate political backyard of Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties were going to be the top net gainers in the proposed formula, followed by Nakuru. Ruto’s Jubilee clutch of Kalenjin senators, with the exception of Kipchumba Murkomen of Elgeyo-Marakwet, voted for the CRA formula because their counties stood to gain.


(An amendment by Kang’ata sought to delay the formula’s implementation for two years in an unsuccessful effort to mollify the No side).

What, however, did not escape notice was that certain of the DP’s aides as well as many of his Tangatanga supporters, especially from the North Rift, quite openly wanted the government side to lose the CRA vote.

The three Ukambani senators – Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Boniface Kabaka (Machakos) and Enoch Wambua (Kitui) – also voted ‘No’ despite Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s public backing for a population-centred formula.  None attended a meeting Kalonzo had earlier called at his Yatta ranch.

Mt Kenya senators, for their part, solidly closed ranks behind the proposed revenue-sharing formula under their “one-man-one-vote-one-shilling” mantra, their Kieleweke-Tangatanga differences temporarily set aside.

The only senator from there to break away was Tharaka-Nithi’s Kithure Kindiki, whose county was among those staring at decreased allocations in the new formula.

Meanwhile, the commentariat of North-Eastern origin had gone berserk as Mt Kenya became their new object of demonisation.

I am not sure of the wisdom of the Mt Kenya group obsessing so much on making population their non-negotiable baseline in revenue sharing. It looked selfish. As a corrective, Mandera County – a poster boy of the ‘marginalised’ – has actually more residents than Nyeri County and would benefit either way.

A less hardline approach on the revenue sharing issue as taken by Nyanza and Western regions – who also stood to benefit from the CRA formula – would have served Mt Kenya better. Playing up the prevalence of poverty – in absolute numbers – in the populous counties, including Nairobi with its sprawling slums, would have made for a more nuanced argument.

Raila took a stand knowing full well it posed great risk. It meant going against the wishes of Coast, North-Eastern and a sizeable part of Eastern, regions where he has been scoring well electorally. It meant supporting increased allocations for Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, where he fared poorly in the past two elections. There was something else at work.

Mind games  

Tangatangas from Mt Kenya and North Rift had quietly decided to vote Yes as they waited to see which side Raila’s troops would go, which they had assumed would be ‘No’. If the ODM leader had not issued that fateful statement supporting the CRA formula, the anti-Raila Tangatanga propaganda would right now be defeaning. For Tangatangas, the ultimate hope was to see the ‘Handshake’ die.

The logic behind Ruto’s posture was simple: a defeat for the Uhuru-Raila position was what mattered most, over and above whatever else.

It was vital, too, to curry favour with the disadvantaged counties, with an eye to when to call in the chips in 2022.

Raila’s reasons were also straightforward, primarily to safeguard the ‘Handshake’. He has invested a lot in this ‘Handshake’ and BBI and was not going to let the CRA quarrel jeopardise that.

The scorecard? Ruto has made valuable new friends among the ‘marginalised’. By the same token, Raila has won new respect in key circles in the Mt Kenya region. Raila’s gain there comes as a downside to his rival, which is almost certainly what the ‘System’ wanted all along.

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