Mr President, Central Bank of Kenya appointments indicate ethnic balance lacking

Mr President, I want to speak to you in vernacular. When Nigerians say they want to address a person in vernacular, what they mean is that they want to tell that person the naked truth without fear or favour.

Last week, in the columns of this paper, my colleague, Senator Billow Kerrow, wrote to you a passionate letter on insecurity in northern Kenya, reminding you of some commitments you made to them as leaders from that region on certain matters that were to be done urgently to address this grave matter.

Apparently little action had been taken while the wanton loss of life continues unabated. I want to follow in that senatorial tradition and raise with you an equally urgent matter of national cohesion which you committed yourself to when you assumed the presidency more than two years ago.

Mr President, your dear wife held the Holy Bible for you as you were sworn in as the fourth President of the Republic of Kenya, pronouncing to the whole world that you would uphold, defend and protect the Constitution “so help you God.” Article 10 of our Constitution is dedicated to national values; in other words the values on which public policy and governance must be based. Our national values provide the sinews which should hold our republic together and provide a sense of purpose for our government and our society led by you.

For the sake of clarity let me reproduce Article 10 on “National Values” here.

It says: (1) “The national values and principles of governance in this Article bind all State organs, State officers, public officers and all persons whenever any of them-
(a) applies or interprets this Constitution;
(b) enacts, applies or interprets any law, or
(c) makes or implements public policy decisions.
“(2) The national values and principles of governance include:-
(a) patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people;
(b) human dignity, equity, social justice, INCLUSIVENESS, equity, human rights, non-discrimination, and protection of the marginalised;
(c) good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and
(d) sustainable development.

Take a few minutes and look at the history of the Central Bank and the kind of people who have served as governors.

In May 1966 when the Central Bank of Kenya was established, Dr Leon Baranski became the first governor. He served for only one year when your father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, named Duncan Ndegwa as his successor.

Ndegwa, the longest serving governor, ran this institution for 15 years, and handed over to Philip Ndegwa in December 1982 in the early years of President Moi’s rule. It took six years before there was a new appointee by Moi called Eric Kotut, my old school mate at the Alliance High School, climbed to the helm of the bank in January 1988. Eric, too, stayed for six years, giving way to Micah Cheserem in July 1993.

Micah, on his part, did seven years, handing over to Nahashon Nyagah who, unfortunately, served a brief stint of two years from April 2001 to March 2003 when, during the NARC government led by Mwai Kibaki, Andrew Mulei was named governor and he served a four-year term that ended in March 2007. From then Prof Njuguna Ndung’u took over; he recently completed eight years as you named Dr Patrick Njoroge to take over from him.

Mr President, if you take stock of the last 49 years that the Central Bank has been in existence you will find that 29 of these years the bank has been headed by individuals from the Kikuyu community. Eric Kotut and Micah Cheserem, coming from the Kalenjin community, took 13 years.

One can then conclude that from the rest of the Kenyan communities, only Nahashon Nyagah and Andrew Mulei have shared between them a mere six years. Being committed to promoting national cohesion and inclusiveness — as indeed you must be — I am surprised you named Dr Njoroge to succeed Prof Ndung’u given the past history of the bank in a nation where the politics of ethnic exclusion has always shaken our foundation as a nation.

Let me ask another question in vernacular: can you convince the 42 million Kenyans that you could not find a Mijikenda, a Luhya, a Njemps, a Masai, a Kisii, a Muhindi, an Elgon Masai, a Teso, a Taita, a Taveta, a Turkana, a Pokot or a Luo to become Governor of the Central Bank so that other Kenyans can also believe that they can feel at home in their country, let alone under your government?

Your father was a great man; he was lionised in Kenya and in Africa as a great nationalist and pan-Africanist. But when he presided over the Gatundu tea parties in the latter half of 1969 his reputation took a terrible nosedive. He lost the script on national unity and cohesion.

Indeed it was after 1969 that the appointment of people from the Kikuyu community in key institutions of financial significance accelerated in earnest.

The result was a rapid concentration of capital accumulation in the hands of a small Kikuyu elite through the aegis of the state. Some deliberately ran down state-owned enterprises only to appropriate their assets when such enterprises were no longer going concerns. The state quickly came to their protection and they emerged as business magnates.

I am sure you are also under pressure from some young individuals from your community who would like to take this opportunity when you are President to become business magnates through this state-aided route.

In this regard, both the Treasury and the Bank become handy. But imagine that tolerating this process of accumulation that excludes other Kenyans actually violates national values and casts your leadership in very bad light. Karl Marx once said that history, in the life of great men, usually likes to repeat itself: first as a tragedy and then as a farce! I would hate to see your presidency in tragic or farcical terms.

You recently penned an essay in the newspapers announcing that Lee Kwan Yew, the Singaporean legendary Prime Minister, is your role model. Sir: I humbly urge you to emulate him in word and deed. You will remember how Lee Kwan Yew integrated the various ethnic communities in Singapore, deliberately bridging the gaps of economic and social disparities among them? You remember how he created opportunities for those disadvantaged on the basis of race and tribe, creating one Singapore where cultural diversity is celebrated within a nationally cohesive society in terms of equitable economic opportunities.

If you really want to model yourself after the late Singaporean leader, your leadership must be a game changer. So far it is not: it is business as usual and as resurrected from the past.