In 2017, there was a general feeling that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term would be about delivering on promises and crafting a legacy. But almost two years later, it is becoming clear that Kenyatta has hopelessly lost control of his administration’s agenda. As a result, he is likely to be remembered as the most ineffectual president since 1992.
At the heart of Kenyatta’s weakness is inability to check his own subordinates. After rumours of an impending Cabinet reshuffle, all Kenyans got was the sacking of Cabinet Secretary (CS) Rashid Echesa and demotion of Amina Mohammed from Education to Sports Ministry. Thinking Kenyans were baffled by this move. Is there any reasonable Kenyan out there who upon examination of myriad ills ailing the Kenyatta administration would have concluded that Mr Echesa was the weakest link? If anything, Echesa’s appointment was a strong indictment of Kenyatta’s judgment. Throughout his tenure, Kenyatta has shown a knack for hiring men and women of questionable character.
While the President keeps talking about his desire to fight corruption, his actions speak loudly about his real intentions. He maintains in his Cabinet and administration men and women with dubious public records. He refuses to fire non-performing individuals. He has demonstrated contempt for ordinary Kenyans via his cavalier approach to policymaking (a process controlled by tenderpreneurs). And not a single one of his major projects has not been tainted by grand corruption. At some point, Kenyans would be forgiven to conclude that Kenyatta is a bad administrator.
Let us not lie to ourselves. Public Service is not kids’ play. It is a sacred duty for those so honoured to serve, and it should be about improving our collective material and social conditions. The President’s acts of commission and omission are costing Kenyan lives and futures.
Does Kenyatta still have time to salvage his legacy? Perhaps. To do so he has to pull up his socks. First, he must end talk of 2022 politics. The fact that we are already in full electioneering mode barely two years after elections is partly his fault. It is common knowledge that in 2013 the president committed that after serving his two terms he would support Deputy President William Ruto for the presidency. It is the height of perfidy that he refuses to unequivocally state his position on this matter one way or the other. Kenyans are a reasonable thinking people. We deserve a president who tells us the truth, and whose promises are credible. If Kenyatta wants his administration to deliver for Kenyans and to securehis legacy, he must put to rest the question of 2022 politics by growing a backbone and making known whether or not he will back Ruto’s candidacy.
Second, the president should credibly show he values high-performing individuals and sound policymaking. Doing so will require more than making Fred Matiang’i into a de fact Prime Minister. He must fire subordinates implicated in corruption. He must end the culture of criminal schemes masquerading as “policy” and “programmes.” And he must invest his timeand effort in ensuring that the object of policy and major development initiatives is to improve Kenyans’ lives.
Finally, the President should put money where his mouth is. In 2017 he promised that he would focus on the Big Four Agenda. What has he done over the last one year to achieve the goals of the Big Four? Back then we were promised detailed plans in due course, none of which have so far materialised. As a result, most thinking Kenyans have concluded that Kenyatta has yet again lied to us. We deserve better.
- The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Twitter: @kopalo
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