One of the biggest TV hits these past few months is ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor’.
It provides unparalleled insights into the running of the US government, particularly the line of succession where the presidency is concerned.
The US has a very mature democracy and with a history of presidential assassinations, it was paramount that a clear order of succession be determined. The result is the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which goes 18 layers deep.
Here in Kenya, the constitution has not provided clear provisions after the Vice President and Speaker of the National Assembly. Beyond the speaker, everything else is a matter of speculation and can be challenged.
In the US, those listed on the line of succession should never all be at the same event, in case something catastrophic happens. That’s where a ‘Designated Survivor’ comes in.
It appears that security forces have borrowed this practice, as witnessed during the inaugural Madaraka Express ride.
On Wednesday, Speaker Justin Muturi woke up like any other day, only that today he was to be among a select group to ride on the inaugural SGR train.
As the Standard reports, Muturi left his house in a 3 car motorcade, dropped by Parliament Buildings to sign a few papers and hold some short meetings, cleared his diary and was ready to hop onto a chopper and depart for Mombasa.
However, security agencies had other plans. The moment his location was confirmed, officials were sent to inform him that he would not be allowed to leave Nairobi.
“They told him there was no way he was going to ride that train. They also told him the only time he will leave his office was when his motorcade will be headed to Syokimau. He stayed at Syokimau for several hours waiting to welcome the President and his deputy aboard the train from Mombasa,” one source told the paper.
The speaker was upset, but the thought of being third in succession was a bit comforting.
It is not uncommon for the president, deputy and speaker to be at the same venue… after all, they still linked up at Syokimau. So why was it different this time?
Normally, Presidential security is predictable. When the president and other VIPs are moving by road, all roads will be cleared, the advance measures and counter-measures are most often adequate.
However, when the President is in a train moving at 120km/hr, a lot can go wrong. Unlike his official car, the train coaches are not armoured, and the fact that the line passes inside a national park presents the real danger of collision with wildlife.
That explains why 7 police and air force choppers were used during the historic ride. Some were flying directly above or on the side, while others flew a few miles ahead to ensure the track was clear.
You may also have wondered why there are few pictures of Deputy President William Ruto inside the train, yet he addressed the crowd at every stop. It turns out that the DP was actually in a police chopper that dropped him off at every station. He is obviously one of a few political orators in the country, and leaving him behind on this launch would have been missed points. But at the same time it was risky to have him in a fairly untested train together with the president.
But if things fell apart, Justin Muturi was ready to serve as your president.
Additional reporting by Standard.