Toying with benevolent dictatorship a bad idea

Incorrigible tribalists, corruption gurus, selfish despots, catalysts of social disorder and reckless fomenters of anarchy have no claim to enlightenment; leave alone to inspirational leadership of their nations.

Instead they are a curse to the people they lead. They subject citizens to pain, underdevelopment and uncertainty. Such cannot and should not try to compare themselves to benevolent dictatorship which is the best known form of enlightened leadership only next to proper democracy.

Renown originators and practitioners of “Benevolent dictatorship”, that form of enlightened autocracy that is credited with uniting and transforming some countries socially, politically and economically, would riot in their graves if presented with its experimentation of the same in Kenya today.

The example of Asian tigers

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Most of the Asian Tigers including Singapore and Malaysia owe their rapid modernization and economic revolution to benevolent dictators. These were leaders inspired by unmatched patriotism and love for both country and citizens, hence seized power with sole purposes of using it for positive socio-political and economic transformations of their countries. They succeeded tremendously.

As much as most dictatorships are infamous for unconstitutional power grabs and proceed to operate like criminal entities, often earning pariah status in the community of Nations, benevolentdictatorships have stood out as people-centred, focused, disciplined regimes which earned tremendous approval from their citizenry and the world for their enormous successes and value addition to society. They are famous for entrenching constitutionalism, the rule of law and industry.

In Africa, Thomas Sankara’s short-lived regime in Burkina Faso and Paul Kagame’s regime in Rwanda have attempted to be close to benevolent dictatorships. In his older age, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi who had grabbed power initially as a rogue blood-thirsty dictator had gotten transformed into some semblance of a benevolent dictator. 

Otherwise, the rest of the dictatorships on the continent are sorry cases of beastly devouring of whole nations through incompetence, looting of public resources, violent repressions of the citizens, breakdown of law and order, political mismanagement and economic decay.

Could it be possible that the latest repression by the Jubilee government targeting the Opposition, the media and the civil society is its actualization of previous agitation from cronies of the President to convert into a “benevolent dictator”?

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Kenyans recall vividly during the run up to the 2017 General Election, sections of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s closest allies going to the media severally and urging the President to resort to benevolent dictatorship if re-elected. To those in the corridors of power, only such a move would help him deal firmly with many problems that had bedeviled and slowed down the UhuRuto government in its first term.

During that first term:- 2013-2017 the Jubilee government was so overwhelmed by high level corruption, negative ethnicity, runaway insecurity, emasculation of  independent commissions and mismanagement of public resources that often it resembled a dysfunctional administration.

Whereas many Kenyans and the Opposition blamed the entire mess on the incompetence of the top wielders of the Presidency and their unpreparedness to serve in the high office, these later day agitators for benevolent dictatorship alongside other Jubilee insiders intellectualized with various explanations including:- blaming the Opposition for allegedly undermining and sabotaging the government’s programmes, and even claimed a delicate balancing act by President Uhuru Kenyatta worried of possible fallout between his the party TNA and URP of his deputy William Ruto which had made Jubilee’s first term a tribal coalition of sorts.

However, what is coming out, if at all it be the attempt at benevolent dictatorship is a regrettable reconstruction of Kenya’s past dictatorships that thrived under the founding ruling party Kanu from Independence (1963) and the close of the last century. It was only temporarily interrupted with the National Rainbow electoral revolution (NARC) and the 2010 enactment of the new Constitution before negative ethnicity crashed the dream.

Disobedience of court orders

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Rigging elections, presiding over massive corruption, institutionalization of disobedience to court orders, brutal repression of democracy proponents including civil societies, extra-judicial killings by the police, failure to ensure food security for citizens, undermining the workings of the Judiciary and manipulation of Parliament are the hallmarks of Jubilee.

What all those Jubilee pretenders to benevolent dictatorship should admit is that they are a dishonest lot in power, determined to circumvent the Constitution for selfish gain and entrenchment of tribal domination of other Kenyan communities. No single benevolent dictator has operated outside the constitutional order and destroyed public institutions nor generated anarchy in their motherland as Jubilee is doing today.

Timothy Bosire is ODM National Treasurer and former MP for Kitutu-Masaba

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