Uhuru changes tack as time to secure legacy running out

President Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of office administered by Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi during the swearing in for the second term at Kasarani stadium,Nairobi. [File, Standard]
Three years into the end of his second and final term, President Uhuru Kenyatta is shedding his happy-go-lucky demeanour that has characterised his tenure.

The bubbly personality, often the fodder for Kenya’s crafty social media, is slowly being replaced by a much more official mien, one of less movements and focused on delivery.

Lately, and since returning from a trip to China, the President comes out as more focused. He no longer has time for political banter and his speeches are short and to the point.

In the last one month, he has significantly cut down on public engagements and thrown his hangers-on off-balance.

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Complaints

Instead of public meetings that he rarely missed previously, he has been making impromptu visits to places of interest and devoid of the fanfare and buzz that surround presidential functions.

Last week, the president inspected the construction of the Waiyaki Way-Red Hill link road in Nairobi, where he was briefed on the progress of other projects, including the second phase of Ngong Road dualling.

Later in the day, he made an impromptu tour of the Parkroad estate in Ngara in Nairobi, where the government is building 1,370 houses.

During the two visits, the President was only accompanied by Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia and his Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich.

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Similar two impromptu tours took him to the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Embakasi this week,  following complaints by traders over delays in clearing their goods from the port.

“Succession politics has created turbulence in Kenya and the only person who can steady the ship is the President, which is why his public demeanour has changed,” Dismas Mokua, a political analyst and vice president of Sadiki East Africa says.

He says the President may be coming to terms with reality that the buck stops with him: “No one will remember who served under his government when he finishes his term, he will be judged as an individual.”

Others feel the fractures wrought on Jubilee by succession politics, simmering rebellion in his backyard, the diminishing time within which to wrap up his legacy, as well as the challenges facing his government, may be weighing him down.

Although the handshake with opposition leader Raila Odinga helped him calm the political temperatures, it has also put him on a high wire in his Jubilee party that is threatened by divisions, says Herman Manyora, a communication lecturer at the University of Nairobi .

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“He is caught between a rock and hard place as he doesn’t want to be seen to be threatening and tearing Jubilee from the inside. But he also wants to remain true to the spirit of the handshake for the sake of the country,” said Manyora.

Deputy President William Ruto, though still pledging allegiance to the President, is preoccupied with solidifying his political base, which he hopes will give him an edge come 2022 presidential polls.

Ruto has attracted support from a number of legislators, which could be irking the President who is focused on building his legacy.

He has maintained a studious silence on political debate, including the gold saga that sucked in his political-foe-turned-ally, Raila Odinga.

With the fight against graft losing steam and Big 4 Agenda projects lagging behind, his administration is facing hard times ahead.

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Debt crisis

The Kenyatta administration has also been beset by challenges in the rollout of the Competence Based Curriculum, pitting the Education ministry against the Kenya Natioal Union of Teachers.

With the debt crisis and talk of a cash crunch threatening to derail government, the President’s modus operandi points to a change of tack in frantic attempts to salvage his legacy.

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Uhuru KenyattaBig Four AgendaSuccession politics