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Delay in Cabinet choice a clash between legacy and succession

By Mohamed Guleid | Published Thu, January 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 10th 2018 at 22:10 GMT +3
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the nation at State House, Nairobi. [Photo/Standard]

Last Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a surprise announcement of a section of his Cabinet and also made sweeping changes at the National Police Service.

The grapevine has it that the announcements caught everyone by surprise including the President’s strategic messengers (PSCU). Close confidants claim the press conference was for issuing a policy statement in support of the new education system. Attempts by the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) to give a nuance on the position of the currently serving Cabinet secretaries indicates they were also caught off guard.

Indeed, it is what informed the announcement and the curious picks that has continued to intrigue. Consider first that the President persuaded the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko (a man who enjoys security of tenure) to resign and named him a Cabinet secretary designate.

Secondly, the absence of his deputy went against tradition; the President’s closest confidant has always been by his side whenever he is making far-reaching pronouncements. Never mind that the DP has had to wade into the discussion of his whereabouts then. His absence was symbolic.

The President’s move can be analysed from two perspectives.

Watching him, his body language exuded a commander-in-chief bent on working on his legacy. No one wants to retire/exit without leaving a mark, least of all presidents. The retention of some of his close confidants such as Henry Rotich indicates he intends to get people loyal enough to help succeed in achieving the Big Four development agenda at the centre of his legacy.

What is not yet clear is how Mr Kenyatta plans to prioritise the strategy for implementing his legacy-oriented development agenda. In the initial steps it appears the priority has been placed on issues regarding security. Even though the President emphasised affordable housing, food security, universal health care and job creation through manufacturing during his Jamhuri Day speech, security is a cross-cutting sector. Which if not fixed, renders the rest unattainable. And it is for no reason then that security must become the foundation on which the Big Four development agenda should be based. Another school of thought is that in addition to strengthening the security apparatus, the President intends to wage a full scale war on corruption.

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The resignation of Mr Keriako and the removal of the Director of Criminal Investigations indicates the new appointed officers are expected to ensure the war on corruption does not falter. In the past five years, the prosecution of those suspected of engaging in corruption can be best characterised as half-hearted and even total flop. I guess for legacy, it is time to turn over a new leaf. The changes announced in this reorganisation therefore points to a deliberate effort to lay the proper ground to fight graft.

The other side of the coin is the paradox of succession versus legacy. The President and his deputy in my view, now see issues from different angles. Realistically, for Deputy President William Ruto, it is all about 2022. Yet for a last term President, image and legacy is the main preoccupation.These two approaches are mutually contradicting.

Frankly, this also presents a headache to the President. In his first term, President Kenyatta was very dependent on Ruto to win a second term. The cozy relationship could be explained by that expectation. In the second term, roles and purpose are changing; it is Ruto who needs Uhuru.

The President of course will feel duty bound to support his deputy or at least show an indication of a willingness to pay back the favour. For no doubt, Mr Kenyatta owes Ruto that support. At the same time, the President’s advisers especially from the Mount Kenya region are likely to insist that the President concentrates on his legacy at the expense of the succession plan.

Depending on how they agree, the balancing of these two acts are not easy both for the President and Mr Ruto. The delay in appointing the remainder of the Cabinet and other members of the Government can partly be explained by these complexities.

Other pundits of course have also thrown the ‘St Mary’s lads factor’ into the mix; the old school boy network that stretches farther than the TNA/URP alliance of 2013.

Actually, there are many who think that this fraternal relationship is behind the push for legacy and the uncaring attitude on who succeeds their comrade. Whatever the case, Uhuru must contend with this faction that carries a little weight in the corridors of power. Whichever way one looks at it, I for one would not like to be in the President’s shoes, I can just imagine the intense pressure he is going through.

Mr Guleid is a governance consultant.

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