The term “deep state” in Kenya has often been used in reference to a system of people comprising official, non-official public officers, and established business people with a firm grip in the government, intelligence agencies, financial institutions, the police, military and state parastatals.
According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, a deep state is a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.
The Cambridge dictionary defines the deep state as organisations such as military, police, or political groups that are said to work secretly in order to protect particular interests and to rule a country without being elected.
As the country heads into the 2022 general elections, the term has since emerged and used to refer to a group of individuals plotting the succession of President Uhuru Kenyatta in next year’s general elections.
Deputy President William Ruto and his allies have often alleged that the so called deep state is working to ensure the DP does not become President in 2022.
ODM Leader Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo have in the past often alluded to the existence of a cabal of individuals controlling power in Kenya.
Raila’s elder brother, Oburu Odinga alluded the existence of the deep state in Kenya after he backed the former premier to succeed President Kenyatta.
“We have always lost the election because the deep state did not want us to win. This time we have the deep state. We are sure of victory,” Oburu was quoted by the Standard as saying.
In Kenya, names of senior government officials, and prominent tycoons/businessmen especially from the Mount Kenya region have often been tossed around as members of the deep state.
The government agents and individuals have been responsible for making and enforcing critical government policies and regulations.
In Kenya, members of the deep state are categorised into two;
- Heads of government agencies
These are a key and major component of the deep state, especially those entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with security and corruption.
The security apparatus is important as it holds tyrannical power over other agencies as well as the ordinary citizens.
Police officers and the military can be used in the achievement of political goals.
Most recently during the recently concluded by-elections in the country, the ODM Party, UDA Party alleged that the police were used to intimidate them during campaigns. This was backed by a series of meetings that were disrupted and shut down in the name of stemming the spread of Covid-19 through eradication of public gatherings.
The home of Kisii Governor James Ongwae was raided by police while he treated Kisii Senator Professor Sam Ongeri and ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna to a cup of tea. The police alleged that they had been informed of an illegal meeting.
The Interior Principal Secretary has often been on the spot for his alleged meddling in government and public affairs.
Kibicho was accused by ODM leaders of meddling in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process. Senator Orengo stated that Kibicho was working with other senior government officers to assume responsibilities of the BBI secretariat.
“The PS for interior (Kibicho) was feeling like he should let go of the secretariat appointed by the two leaders to stir this phase of the BBI, and it is now an open secret that the BBI is not being run from the secretariat,” Orengo had stated.
The senior counsel further alleged that certain individuals in the Office of The President were keen to block Raila from ascending to the presidency in 2022.
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko had also on several occasions accused Kibicho of meddling with operations of the Nairobi County Government.
Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli
The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Francis Atwoli is another powerful individual who is believed to be in the deep state. The way he talks with authority affirms to this. He has access to the powers that be, including the Head of State.
The Jubilee vice chairman is a man who doesn’t make empty threats. His proximity to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the influence he wields has made many believe he is in the deep state.
2. Business tycoons and highly influential lobbyists
This category often comprises faceless bureaucrats who influence Kenyan politics, including policies and laws passed by Parliament.
In Kenya, the most common name linked to the “system” or deep state is the Mt Kenya Mafia, a group of rich individuals from Central Kenya that have for the ages controlled policing and tendering within government.
In a layman’s, they retreat to a table and plot a winning political coalition in every electoral cycle, they fund their campaign, in exchange for specific positions at the helm of state agencies or parastatals and government tenders.
During the funeral of the late billionaire Chris Kirubi, former Nairobi County deputy governor Polycarp Igathe revealed that Kirubi was the mastermind behind the Sonko-Igathe ticket.
The two contested on a Jubilee ticket in the 2017 general elections and dethroned former governor Evans Kidero.
3. The leadership and the winning coalition
In Kenya, we have seen politicians control masses and in most cases considered favourites to win an election, only for somebody else to be declared president. Well, remember Kenneth Matiba in the 90s? Better yet, ODM leader Raila Odinga?
The 2007 general elections were marred by irregularities and on an unofficial capacity, inside sources have often alleged that Raila won the election but Mwai Kibaki became president.
A head of state in some instances is considered a member of the deep state, and in Kenya, President Kenyatta has often been slotted to the club. Being a member of the Kenyatta family and one of the wealthiest individuals in the country, the head of state commands a massive following.
Politicians from DP Ruto’s camp have often launched attacks at President Kenyatta, Gideon Moi of the Moi family as being members of the deep state.
It was even alleged that President Kenyatta is grooming Gideon to succeed him in 2022. This has often been attributed to former president Daniel Moi’s support of the Uhuru presidency.