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The ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory tainting Kenya’s elections | News

The ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory tainting Kenya’s elections | News

Nairobi, Kenya – It is election season in Kenya and even beyond the 22.1 million registered voters going to the polls on August 9, the biggest catchphrase of the campaign has been the “deep state”.

Over the last couple of years, the phrase has emerged to convey the notion of a powerful shadowy cabal, not officially elected to government but, nonetheless, contorting the wishes of the people during elections and afterwards in the governance of the country.

Supporters of leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga have always claimed that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of government to deny the former prime minister, who lost the 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, the role.

But in December 2019, former Deputy President Kalonzo Musyoka made possibly the earliest local mention of the phrase, in an interview with local private broadcaster Citizen TV.

“Kenyans must know that there is a ‘deep state’ government,” he said. “A country is never run by these politicians who shout [the] loudest.”

A year later, Musyoka, an influential member of the Azimio La Umoja coalition which backs Odinga, said, “I don’t know if there is a deep [state], what I know is there are interest groups and some of them have [an] enabling capacity.”

In September 2021, yet another member of the ruling party coalition reinforced the now widespread belief of a “deep state”.

In an interview, Francis Kimemia, a former public service head and current governor for Nyandarua county in central Kenya said, “The state exists. I can assure you it is deeper than deep. If you have two candidates at the rate of 50-50, and the ‘deep state’ backs one, you can be sure which one will win. The international community plays a great role in who becomes elected.”

But ahead of Tuesday’s keenly contested polls, the phrase might be assuming dangerous dimensions.

A coalition for power

The term has been popularised by the Kenya Kwanza (meaning Kenya First in Swahili, – over the elite) – a nationalist coalition movement headed by deputy president and the other main presidential candidate, William Ruto.

The so-called cabal is said to have the right of first refusal to influence choice positions and lucrative contracts in government and business.

Members are believed to be in the presidency, the security agencies, the electoral commission and other parts of the civil service that supposedly work in tandem as an “All-Seeing Eye”.

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