‘Deep State’ will decide direction of BBI debate

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 07:47 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left), with his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI taskforce chairman Yusuf Haji during the launch of the BBI report at Nairobi’s Bomas of Kenya. Photo/PD/FILE

There are three things that you need to win an electoral contest, a political cynic commented recently. 

Winning an election is not a straight forward exercise as idealistic proponents of democracy tend to believe. 

The first requirement to win an election is the numbers at the ballot box. It should be a straightforward issue that whoever garners the largest number of ballots should emerge the winner. 

It is, however, not as simple as that. Seasoned politicians note that having the numbers is not critically important. You can have the numbers and still lose.

The second requirement to win an election is money to fund a campaign, pay for campaign materials and staff and buy campaign advertising space and airtime. But that, too, is not critically important. You can have all the money but still lose an election. 

The third is the system and the system is everything. 

In a recent interview, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka appeared to support this view. Kalonzo should know better, having been in the system for long. 

In the interview he made reference to what he called the “deep government” or “Deep State” as an important factor in election outcomes.

He made a reference to a conversation he had with Raila Odinga when he was the latter’s running mate in a presidential election. He apparently was concerned that Raila would not win and that, even if he won, the Deep State would not allow him to assume power. 

It is this third cog, the Deep State, that organises the handing over of the instruments of power.

US President Donald Trump has constantly ranted against what he calls the Deep State and how it is frustrating his presidency. Trump was a rank outsider when he ran for president in 2016.

What then is this Deep State?  While there are visible agents of State who wield power, they sit at the apex of a much more complex system that, like the tip of an iceberg, is deeply entrenched and invisible. 

The tip of an iceberg can melt but as long as the part immersed in water remains intact, then essentially nothing changes. 

The television series “Yes Prime Minister” that aired in the UK a few decades back gave a peak into how the Deep State works. It can, while appearing to be loyal, run rings around a prime minister until the Deep State gets its way.

It is the system of bureaucracy created to ensure the status quo is preserved. It is a complex web of rules, procedures, processes, power networks that are oblivious of what the masses could be saying. In any case they would care less what the masses are saying. This system can smell disruption from far and make self-preserving decisions.

Among the agencies that Trump thinks are scheming against him include the FBI, CIA, the Federal Reserve Bank, the network of diplomatic corps and Congress among others. Add the military to this mix. 

What this system is in the case of Kenya is only known to those who have been insiders such as Kalonzo.

Part of the strength of Deep State is the ignorance of the masses. 

As the Fourth Estate, the media is wise enough to know where its bread is buttered. Media is part of the Deep State. 

As we enter 2020, the pointer that will dictate the direction of the BBI debate is the position of Deep State rather than the masses.

— The writer is Dean, School of Communications, Daystar University

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