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The trouble with Kenya’s ‘test tube’ politicians

The country and its institutions are facing a most serious challenge. This challenge, unless immediately addressed, will scuttle to the four winds the progressive advancement and growth of vital organs of the State.

The challenge needs our collective will and fortitude as a nation to confront it with a view to neutralising it immediately and saving the country.

The challenge is posed by “test tube politicians”. A “test tube” politician is a greenhorn politician no one has heard of before but who suddenly appears with a bang on the national scene after a General Election. He is usually the creation of a powerful politician. He is then elected to the Senate or Parliament or as a governor. He quickly loses the little head he had and makes silly of both himself and his creator.

He becomes an expert on all things from devolution to mineral exploration. He fights all enemies of the regime, real and imaginary, honestly thinking that his master wants him to do so. He then unilaterally but secretly declares himself defender and sycophant number one of the regime. He goes full circle. He becomes a national nuisance.

“Test tube” politicians are more common in the Rift Valley and in Nyanza than in other parts of the country. That doesn’t mean other regions, like the North, don’t have their homegrown “test tube” politicians. In Nyanza and Rift Valley, the prevalence of these politicians is attributed to the grace, eminence and the raw power of two powerful politicians. Deputy President William Ruto is liked, trusted and admired by his people. That explains his enormous influence and power in the past decade.

Raila Odinga has a similar status in his community. These two politicians are the two foremost creators of “test tube” politicians in the country.

Their respective political laboratories have produced some of the most useless and sycophantic politicians in the country. Occasionally, the labs – surprisingly even to the two – produce a national gem!

Because of their agenda and vision for their respective communities, they rarely trust the electorate to make the right choice as to their local leaders. Their political laboratories are designed as a filtering process that ensures accidental and un-vetted individuals don’t assume national offices.


Ruto’s and Raila’s political laboratories take a long period to identify a suitable individual, groom him for life in politics, mentor him, test him in the process and, once satisfied, pick him to represent a given constituency. The laboratories are well run and always use ingredients and specimens that have been tested and tried over long periods.

“Test tube” politicians are most lethal when their political creator is in power. So, for the time being, Raila’s “test tube” politicians pose no danger. But Ruto’s are an entirely different proposition.

Power creates both illusions and paranoia and “test tube” politicians are, by design, inflicted with huge doses of both. Ruto’s “test tubes” are everywhere. They attack governors, they threaten the judiciary with dire consequences, and they cry, wail and weep in both the Senate and Parliament.

At times, as a sign of extreme loyalty to Ruto, they shout unpalatable words.

“Test tube” politicians are not political lapdogs. They are the final product of extreme political engineering. They are pre-programmed by their creator to attack and destroy. A “test tube” politician is a lethal political robot, venomous and vicious.

During this period when we are grappling with the noble task of implementing the constitution, we need sober heads. We need a united country loyal to the constitution. We need all our pistons to be firing at their full potential.

We want owners of “test tube” politicians to recall them for reprogramming.


Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly;



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