HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsOpinion: Uhuru Kenyatta’s tiki-taka politics won the day

Opinion: Uhuru Kenyatta’s tiki-taka politics won the day


The recent election of Jubilee Coalition leader, Uhuru Kenyatta as the fourth President of Kenya has forced many of us to retrospectively look at how he defied the ‘odds’ rather than focus on what went wrong for CORD’s Raila Odinga a supposedly hot favorite before the election.

Opinion By Arnold Chamunogwa

It is only when you take a closer look at Kenyatta’s campaign trail that you are grudgingly mesmerized by his political style which can be likened to the ‘tiki-taka’ footballing style of Barcelona Football Club and the Spanish national team.

The tiki taka style of play is characterized by possessing the ball for large portions of the game, moving the ball quickly from one player to the next and in and out of the opponent, breaking them down with short passes. Essentially, the key idea with tiki taka is to always keep the ball away from your opponent and then to deliver that killer pass to score a goal.

The Jubilee Coalition, born out of an International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment and led by ICC indictees Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto applied the tiki-taka style in their campaign- ‘keep the ball when you have it and get it back quickly when you don’t’.

They ensured that they became omnipresent by being central to the national political sentiment as most public discourses evolved around the suitability of their candidature rather than the currency of their political rival, Raila Odinga.  

Reckless sentiments by top western diplomats such as Johnnie Carson and the ICC indictment in itself aided their appeal to the electorate.

However it is Kenyatta’s witty and skillful manipulation of the ICC indictment and the West’s sentiments towards his candidature that broadened his appeal beyond his strongholds and allowed him to significantly claw into Odinga’ s strongholds.

This is typical of the tiki-taka football style were short and accurate passes ensure that you maintain possession whilst at the same time tearing apart your opponents defense.

Kenyatta’s response to the ICC indictment was and still remains different from the afro-radicalism which we have seen in the likes of Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF. Rather he persuasively appealed to a new generation of Kenyans who believe in Pan-Africanism premised on a balance between self-determination and loyalty to the global community.

Kenyatta, as part of his tiki-taka style of politics set up a broad campaign team beyond the Jubilee Coalition which not only mobilized youth to register but also implored them to go out and vote in large numbers. As such there was a higher voter turnout in Kenyatta’s strongholds as compared to voter turnout in Odinga’s strongholds.

Kenyatta was also able to harvest more votes in Odinga’s strongholds than the numbers harvested by Odinga in Kenyatta’s strongholds.

Kenyan analysts highlighted “Kenyatta’s use of modern tools like social media and slogans such as ‘Dunda na Uhuru’ (Dance with Uhuru) which appealed to young people.”

Kenyatta’s speeches show humility and magnanimity in victory whilst at the same time reaffirming self-assertion of the Kenyan people by invoking a sense of pride which was lost in 2007.

Arnold Chamunogwa is a political economist based in Harare.
The article first appeared on the blog www.ticharwamarwadzo.wordpress.com

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