WHY UHURU KENYATTA SOUGHT (OR WAS FORCED INTO) POWER.
By Dorcas Sarkozy
Shortly after Barack Obama wrote “Dreams From my Father”, he penned the absolutely wonkish “Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream”.
The book is described as “Barack Obama’s vision of how America can move beyond its divisive politics and comet together to address common problems including economic insecurity, racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats—from terrorism to pandemic—that gather beyond our shores.”
Simply stated, America’s 44th POTUS came into office with a clear vision and set of guiding principles that he was going to use to guide his presidency.
Reasonable people can agree/disagree whether that vision and set of principles was good for America, good for African-Americans, for the world writ large but the man knew what he wanted to accomplish – in details – were he to ascend to the top office in the land.
Donald Trump came into office with the amorphous “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) and while many still wonder whether he even understood what the expression meant and/or whether he knew how to go about accomplishing that goal – MAGA – few can question his vision.
Most American politicians – especially those vying for higher office – write books.
They write books that detail their life; their world view and their policy proposals and for wonks like us, these books are treasure troves to pore over and extract evidence, quotes, details of their vision and core principles.
Beyond that, most politicians, indeed leaders of some repute, have a desire to learn and grow into their position – this true to the adage that one ought to live their lives in preparation for their next job or next assignment.
Most are able to gather new information and course-correct – even as they stay true to their core principles – what some refer to a person’s “North Star”.
Most leaders have given pundits and researchers enough material to argue both sides of the “Are leaders Made or Born” divide – and compellingly so.
I write this because of this morning’s banner:
“Was Uhuru Kenyatta Even Ready to Lead Kenya – Ever?”
Even allowing for the theory that most presidents are front men (and increasingly women) for the various (monied) interests who fund their respective campaigns, was the Amherst-educated “loutish playboy” ready to be the front man for the various shadowy cabals that run Kenya’s fractured and unbalanced society? (Vanguard, August 2017: “Uhuru Kenyatta: from millionaire playboy to Kenyan president”)
Beyond being ready to assume Kenya’s top job, can anyone say that the demonstrably mercurial and supposedly “approachable down-to-earth” scion of the person responsible for the deep divisions and ethos of public-office-as-a-conduit-for-self-enrichment sought the top office because he sought to be a servant/leader to Kenyans?
And importantly, has Uhuru made the necessary and correct adjustments over his first (and now second) term in office to make sure that his stewardship of the country benefits the diverse majority of Kenya’s 43+?
Some have offered that Uhuru Kenyatta had no desire to lead Kenya. They cite his initial refusal AND alternatively, offer of support for fellow baby boomer Musalia Mudavadi in the 2012 race – as evidence of his recalcitrance towards the top job.
For whatever reason, he apparently had a change of heart.
In what is now referred to as the “Madimoni Speech”, Kenyatta supplicated himself before unknown/unnamed supporters and told them (in Kikuyu) that “ndiraminya ni ngoma iriku cianyitire (I don’t (sic) what demons possessed me to sign the MOU.” (“How President Uhuru Kenyatta fell out with UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi” – The Standard, May 26, 2013.
From agreeing to support another candidate to claiming that said decision was made while he was “possessed”, the picture that emerges is that of the man Kenyans have seen leading the country since 2013; not any different from the “millionaire playboy” of his youth: a conflicted disinterested person whose performance in office has also been conflicted and disinterested and wholesomely incompetent.
A reluctant and woefully unprepared Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was pushed, maybe forced into the presidency – for two main reasons:
One: Along with Ruto, the two paired up for their first run at the presidency in 2013 because they were both facing crimes-against-humanity charges at The Hague.
That decision proved to be a master-stroke.
Both men effectively dared the world court, known for its lack of its own enforcement powers other than the due diligence of member states, to try and convict the leaders of arguably the two largest ethnic groups – Kikuyu and Kalenjin – in Kenya, a country that for all its dark and sordid history BUT its strategic location in the never-ending “global war on terror’ (GWOT), remained a favorite of the west.
Rather than risk Kenya degenerating into ethnic violence as had variously happened throughout its history, the ICC (read west) blinked and the two suspects escaped conviction.
Many, present company included, can accept the “racist history of the ICC” and “tool of colonialists” argument that Uhuru, Ruto and their acolytes, then-CS for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed in particular, (successfully) pushed at every turn. Unfortunately, it was also her (Amina’s) perceived toadyism and malleability to the whims of Uhuru Kenyatta that resulted in rejection of her candidacy for SecGen of AU.
As offered by Zubeidi Ali, Amina’s “….. spirited anti-ICC crusade…..made a number of AU member-states apprehensive of how she will deal with future issues of impunity….. (it also) put doubt on her respect of global institutions and raised suspicion that she would use her position as the AU chief diplomat to eviscerate the ICC and other international bodies that questioned the creeping “Big Man syndrome” in Africa.” (“Reality check on why Amina Mohamed lost AU election” – Daily Nation, February 2017)
The second reason why the two men – Uhuru in particular – were lifted into the presidency, was (unwittingly?) unveiled during the 2017 funeral of former KANU stalwart and minister Nicholas Biwott.
Both Uhuru and his deputy vowed to “protect the estate” of the late minister “…..against past allegations…..(because) he was a ‘clean man’……” (“President Uhuru, Ruto Vow to Protect Nicholas Biwott’s Wealth” – John Wanjohi, Mwakilishi, July 21, 2017). In my view, this IS the reason Uhuru Kenyatta became president of Kenya despite his sparse intellect, lack of discernable vision and of curiosity and evidence of indolent behavior/bon homie.
An Arap Moi appointment borne more out of the need for self-preservation than any distinct achievement, Uhuru was promptly implicated in a KSh.9B graft scheme.
His term as Deputy VP in the coalition government of Kibaki and Raila – where he barely learnt anything from the two experienced coalition partners – was yet another appointment that was a function of his pedigree.
All told, it was the desperate need perpetuate his position of privilege along with protecting the economic interests of the country’s old guard that paved the way for Uhuru Kenyatta, one of their own, to become president.
Any experience, intellect, discernable vision or distinguishing policy proposals be damned.!
Unfortunately, it is Kenya and Kenyans who continue to pay the price as Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, an incompetent greenhorn retains his training wheels and muddles through as the most powerful man in the country.