If legacy were secured through political rhetoric, Jubilee’s place in the annals of history would surely be secured. When the Jubilee coalition took over office in 2013, it was easy to get lost in the moment; the breezy assumption was that a seemingly young pair of leaders would stake their lives on a great legacy. Legacy is secured through life-altering initiatives quite obvious even to the cynical eye.
What has Jubilee got to show for nearly 10 years in office and Sh15 trillion down?
Economic stagnation (with an average GDP of 6 per cent, many feel much the same way as they did when Mwai Kibaki was president; a lot feel worse off trying unsuccessfully to get a foothold on the economic ladder), a roaring public debt (60 per cent of GDP), high unemployment rate, capital flight as firms shut down operations and a disaffected citizenry undermine that legacy.
So many unmet promises — a clean, efficient government, free laptops for schools, Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme, eight stadiums, water dams, last mile electricity connection, the Turkana oil have all become pipe dreams.
And even the SGR- termed Jubilee’s jewel—is faltering. So even as Jubilee (with the help of Raila Odinga’s ODM) does what its Secretary General Raphael Tuju calls house cleaning so as “to take forward the President’s agenda”, students of realpolitick can’t help rolling back their eyes.
Two things work against Jubilee: It’s inglorious past of unmet promises and time. They promised to stick together. Until Kenyans know what went wrong, the proxy war is not helping matters.
Jubilee has failed to improve the lot of the country’s poorest. After all, didn’t UhuRuto sell transformation as their main agenda in 2013? If a super majority meant anything, then Jubilee would have delivered a miracle in its first term. It was set to fail because rather than encourage consensus and compromise, it used it to push a partisan agenda in Parliament.
The Security Laws (amendment) Bill 2014 that was forced through in the midst of chaotic scenes in Parliament is one such lost chance. It rode roughshod over everyone- the media, the civil society, the Judiciary.
As time lapsed, it must have dawned on the people that Jubilee was offering hollow fixes. Public finance was a mess with corruption, leakages, wastage (in seminars and bench-marking trips) undermining service delivery. In truth, Jubilee profited from a sleek PR machine that overemphasised the quality of the narrative over the desirability of results.
The Jubilee hierarchy needs to appreciate that besides a few cases, most of the disquiet among its MPs is a reflection of what is happening on the ground. Vitu kwa ground ni different as they say.
Indeed, most people view the squabbles in Jubilee as an unnecessary distraction. The acrimony takes away the energy and focus needed to deliver even if there remains little time to salvage things. Ultimately, Kenya’s salvation lies in robust institutions (including parties) that will uphold good governance and reinforce accountability and transparency and the rule of law.
I recall a chat with former Vision 2030 executive director Mugo Kibati at State House in 2013. Jubilee was settling into office. Incensed by the time it took to clear cargo at the Port, the President had stormed the place; henceforth, cargo ought to be cleared within three days. How refreshing, I thought to myself.
Mr Kibati and I talked about a Harvard Business School case study on Costa Rica, a tiny country smaller than the former Coast Province. By streamlining export and import at the country’s seaport, President Jose Maria Figueres transformed Costa Rica into one of the most developed countries in the Caribbean in under a decade.
Figueres flew to the offices of American technology giant Intel Corporation in Texas, who were looking for a location to invest billions of dollars in a microchip plant.
To sway the executives, Costa Rica put in place strategic social investments, macroeconomic stability, a good customs system, a competitive economy and an efficient financial system. Kibati and I indulged our minds with thoughts of a new dawn. We were convinced that something big was about to happen.
Uhuru seemed hands on, anxious and eager to get things moving. What went wrong? Many regret that Jubilee doesn’t seem to rue the missed chances.
And as government breaks apart and as paralysis sets in, the ensuing scrum will leave everyone worse off.
In Kalenjin folklore, the hyena and the hare agree to do away with their pestering mothers. They agree to go home and beat life out of them. The hyena goes and beats its mother to death; the hare beats a hide.
Raila makes a happy ending less, not more likely.
- Mr Kipkemboi is The Standard’s Associate Editor Partnerships and Projects