November 16, 2015 Lone Felix

THE UHURU PRESIDENCY: WHY THE CENTER IS NOT HOLDING

Uhuru KenyattaTalking of shadowy characters, the President allowed too many centers of power to establish themselves. I think Uhuru’s is a government where a total stranger, who has no designation or does not fall within any defined structure, is capable of giving official government position. It is easy to pick up government’s minds from irrational bloggers who enjoy state warmth, columnists who are in suspect intimate relationship with government or simply marauding brokers and this with a particular notoriety around the President’s Deputy.

Yesterday must have been a sad day for President Kenyatta, Somalia Parliament voted to throw KDF out of Somalia; this coming hot on heels of a report accusing KDF and the Jubaland government of illegal trade. The Commander in Chief had given his entire backing to the forces, but clearly this is such a Foreign Policy failure under his watch. Infotrak on the other hand told him that his popularity dropped by close to 20% to 33% while his erstwhile competitor, Raila Odinga has gained marginally to close to 29%; 62% of Kenyans feel the country is headed to the wrong direction; this but a day in what has been a sustained period of all things going wrong with the Presidency.

The unfavorable perception being compounded by skyrocketing corruption allegations, with even the foreign missions acknowledging that graft is now a crisis, an economy that is underperforming with the effects spiraling over to the public and a ballooning public debt. Many laws have been passed that claw back on constitutional gains, the presidency appears more determined to centralize power as opposed to institutionalize governance. The laws being proposed by his government to handle historical issues like land are deeply flawed and so are the laws passed around security.

Uhuru Kenyatta, born to the Founding Father of Kenya, he is a prince, handed over the Presidency through machinations of the system, to those who oppose him, to those who adore him, he is a self made son of soil, who earned his place in the hearts of his people. Either way you look at it, his is a career dotted by truly exemplary streaks of either luck or spectacular political calculations.

In 2013, he struck a bargain with Ruto and handed Raila Odinga a defeat, albeit contested. No one can doubt that that the duo’s campaign was way organized, resonating with the pulse of the voting constituency than CORD’s.

When he ascended to the Presidency, there was a guarded optimism. I for instance, while acknowledging that his presidency would sustain ethnic division, not because he is tribal, but by the fact of him being a Kenyatta, I was more than happy to opine that the economy would be in relatively good steering. Commanding an impressive majority in both houses, his Presidency would have been way smoother.

The numbers suggest that the country responded well to his Presidency. On Mo Ibrahim Index, Kenya moved up the governance Index, the economy received very positive reviews and there was a general sense of guarded enthusiasm.

And today as we write this, those very numbers are speaking a different language. Just why does the center seem not to hold for the Uhuru Presidency?

He took the reigns of a country with an entirely new dispensation, and so in many ways, His Presidency was to pioneer new governance. At the start of his term, I opined, that Uhuru would secure his legacy if he came out as greatly pro-devolution or adopting a greatly Bipartisan approach to governance.

He did neither. And in my view set up himself for an inefficient presidency in several ways.

Uhuru did not manage the transition from the cool politician to the head of state effectively. He maintained the Mr. Nice tag, kept his campaign mandarins who are more effective at running a campaign than government and concentrated on sustaining his popularity. As the weight of government set in, with its frustrations, the government’s craves to sustain an invincible image has become its main undoing.

From throwing around statistics about how many people they had touched, to allegations of running a syndicate of fake social media accounts to dominate the digital space, the desire to remain popular clouded many initial decisions.

At the start of his tenure, the President was either launching one thing or the other. And as this happened, the government over committed. To assuage the insatiable crave to appear working, mega projects were launched, without keen regard on what the spiral effects on the economy would be.

The Deputy President in a recent interview on K24 betrayed the excitement that guided government. In a somewhat naïve response he said Jubilee was proud to be a government which had launched very many projects that people were telling them to tone down. He asserted the problem in the previous regimes were very little was being done.

The sad aspect about this crave to perform, the place of technocrats was erased; a somewhat strange conclusion. Because the dynamic duo appointed technocrats to cabinet, but the process of determining government priorities reeks of crude political guidance.

You would otherwise wonder why the Galana Irrigation Scheme is what it is, if it was guided by those who knew the business of Irrigation. Indeed, a few people left government noting that in this regime there was no place technical thought. Decisions are guided by superficial urgency for political convenience.

The Presidency’s little attention to the new institutional framework is largely why corruption has skyrocketed especially in the second quarter of 2015.

The extra-constitutional dismantling of the EACC, certainly with his tacit approval, in my opinion was misguided. I opined, that in the absence of a fully functioning commission, corruption would hit the roof. It was my opinion, and still is, that EACC’s independence was greatly compromised when left in the hands of the CEO who by all indications is at the beck and call of the Executive. I think people in government may be comforted with the knowledge that the President can let it pass, and so engage in wanton graft.

It would not be entirely far-fetched to suggest that the EACC was dismantled to compromise certain cases that were under investigations, but even more strategically, to create a looting season.

I am interested to suggest that an audit be undertaken of government transactions, transfer of government property, especially from corporations to private persons for the season from when EACC was dismantled till now.

It does not make any sense, legal or otherwise why a government would believe that subjugating the independence of EACC to the Public service Commission, would make it more effective. It is either abetting corruption is the official government position, or the government is a prisoner of a shadowy cartel that is guiding this arm-twisting.

Talking of shadowy characters, the President allowed too many centers of power to establish themselves. I think Uhuru’s is a government where a total stranger, who has no designation or does not fall within any defined structure, is capable of giving official government position. It is easy to pick up government’s minds from irrational bloggers who enjoy state warmth, columnists who are in suspect intimate relationship with government or simply marauding brokers and this with a particular notoriety around the President’s Deputy.

The trouble of running government like this is instructions are issued with the same nonchalance, and you cannot get surprised when the effect is plunder and impunity.

Constitutionally, Uhuru’s Presidency is the most light of all the four office holders. In comparison to Kibaki for instance, the President’s powers was split into 21 constitutional commissions all managed by highly qualified people. Functions have been devolved, leaving less weight at the national level. With proper coordination and stewardship, Kenyatta’s Presidency should be way easier.

The mistakes that have happened around the Presidency, casting it as inaccurate and even light suggest that in the end those who whisper the last word to the president are a shock. I am unable to imagine for example why the President would pronounce himself with a sense of finality on a matter before the court, just to change the tune a little later like it happened with the Police recruiting fiasco.

The person Uhuru is definitely inseparable from the person Kenyatta. Just how soon does he respond, the teachers strike for example it festered for too long. The corruption allegations, he just could not speak until the outrage was a pile, his response to security. You sometimes get an impression that he prefers to be led by public opinion as opposed to offering leadership.

On Saturday, while speaking at Kibabii University, in response to Senator Wetangula’s suggestion that the opposition was tough because they wanted him to perform, the President betrayed what lies at the center of how he responds to the opposition; a somewhat unfortunate and ill-advised ego.

To the President, as long as anything comes out as an insult, he would but sit there and wait to see how far you can push it. He would only listen, if criticism was criticism and not insults. Indeed, Uhuru the person gets almost overwhelmed when his person is attacked.

Still my opinion has been, the Kenyan opposition is too eager to appear like they are being reached out to. It will not make the President, less of a President if he intentionally fashioned out a bipartisan spirit. Political temperatures in the country have been heightened because the Presidency is more ready to express its might by hauling through parliament or other forums their agenda, as opposed to listening to the divergent voices.

The Foundation of this Presidency seems to have been acutely compromised. From allowing cartels and an almost mafia-like culture to establish itself, to pursuing a craze of undefined and coordinated raw ambitions that have seen the economy burst its seams out of pressure.

Those who live in Nairobi, will acknowledge that it is not uncommon to find a criminal being escorted by police chase cars as they head into clubs. The feeling that those who are close to the center of power can get away with anything has been entrenched and the inevitable outcome is excessive corruption and runaway impunity.

I am hesitant though to say that Uhuru is a deliberate architect of these chaos. From interacting with him, I think he is genuinely interested in seeing a transformed Kenya, the challenge in my view is that the institution, the Presidency has people keen on scoring political goals as opposed to serving Kenya or even securing his legacy and he too himself, hopes that the country can move without his firm and deliberate guidance, what Raila perfectly termed as placing the country on Auto-pilot.

I doubt other than his Father; any other politician has enjoyed having such a personal connection with the people of Kenya. While even his supporters can see that Kenya is headed in the wrong direction, they still keep a hope for redemption, while in the first quarter of his presidency he came back from these crises with political punches, he just appears overwhelmed lately.

In the end though, he must just re-organize. The President enjoys truly great goodwill from his core support base that continuing this chaos is such a hurting betrayal. And sometimes, personal reasons create a better philosophy for leaders, I think somebody needs to whisper in the Kings ears, his presidency in many ways was a chance to redeem the legacy of the Kenyatta name, what is happening by now, is a little more soiling.