Uhuru should now get beyond lip service

Professor Michael Walzer of Princeton identified four obligations, in order of descending importance, of any country in the world. A country’s first priority is to protect the life and liberty of its own citizens; if it fails to do that, it cannot put itself into a position to help others. This informs the usual military might exhibited by superpowers, even in the absence of any war.

The second duty is not to inflict any harm of any degree on the people it protects. Its third duty is; when possible, to help people avoid man-made and natural disasters. The fourth duty is to assist those who want aid in building better and less repressive political systems.

Another way to roughly apply these four concepts is to define as moral those actions that produce a net increase in what we associate with good: life, liberty, justice, prosperity, health and peace of mind - as opposed to death, repression, lawlessness, poverty, illness and fear.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s four point agenda, commonly referred to as legacy projects, derive direct connotation from the above four obligations as enumerated by Walzer.

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This is the time when talking stops and actions begin. Sweeping rhetoric of political leaders must be confined to the back-burners.

That is when the gap between what we intend and what we actually accomplish can become painfully evident, clouding the distinction between wrong and right; success and failure.

True growth is not a magic pill people can swallow at night and awaken with all problems solved, nor can it be imposed from outside. The government must adjust the lens through which it views the country.

Fighting graft in Kenya is the right war in the right place at the right time. We must all support higher standards of commercial ethics. Policy makers, public officers and Kenyan citizens should try to keep corruption walled off from amongst us.

The perils

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Our President publicly chastises his Cabinet Secretaries for slow-paced execution of projects under their dockets and to some, for engaging in premature 2022 politics. Others have their offices caught up in corruption scandals. With the public spat by the country’s CEO, some argue he conveys a sense of Kenyan intentions that millions find exhilarating, others ill-advised.

I belong to the latter. The president’s supporters suggest that his leadership is ideally, even heroically, suited to the perils of this era and in keeping with the best traditions of our country. Whereas critics have an obligation to be fair and to offer constructive ideas, the top leadership is equally duty-bound to give us a government as good as we are, or at least we claim to be.

As Dr Martin Luther King once said, “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe, nor popular; but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right”. We believe Mr Kenyatta has engaged in too much lip-service to rein in on errant Cabinet Secretaries.

Entertaining corruption as a vice, has sucked in most Kenyans into having too much faith in the corrupt, and unpopular surrogates. We should remember that promoting good governance is a policy, not a mission, and policies must be tested on the hard ground of diplomacy, practical politics and respect for norms. This yields proper relationship between the government and the governed.

His vision

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Even though those who have never held the highest job in government do not know how hard these jobs can be, and those who retire from them, tend to forget quickly, our president committed to do his best for Kenya.

He pledged to repay that debt by ensuring that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private/public morality. He needs a team that is intinsically consistent with his vision.

He must therefore immediately sack all those ministers and other officials who are incongruent with his views and derail his agenda. He must tone down rhetoric and act now, because even smart and well-meaning people can make moral assumptions that turn out wrong.

The president’s elevation of Fred Matiangi to “super” minister through a gazette notice to chair an implementation committee of other CSs was in line with his mandate. That is why no Kenyan has rushed to court to challenge this Executive Order No. 1 of 2019. It’s, however, reported that some cabinet secretaries have dared not to respect this decision.

In as much as its true, we shouldn’t have a  political ideology that is fully factual and allows us to penalize, coerce, or abuse those who believe differently, but in the absence of an illegality the president’s line must be toed.

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Anyone opposing must be punished. Failure by the head of state to offload naysayers, corrupt and inept now, and his continued showcasing of bravado and empty threats will easily pass as another joke.

Mr Okello is the Member of Parliament for Nyando Constituency.

President Uhuru KenyattaProfessor Michael Walzerlegacy projects