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Uhuru Kenyatta's bag of goodies to secure his legacy and shape succession

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the handover of title deeds at KICC Nairobi on June 22, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Days to his retirement, President Uhuru Kenyatta is doling out goodies ahead of the General Election. From State appointments and commendations, title deeds and promotion of servicemen, the president is pressing the line on his unilateral powers.

Rather than take a back seat in his sunset like his predecessors, the president is traversing the country and bestowing honours to people and institutions that have played a significant role during his ten-year tenure.

But, according to political analyst Prof Edward Kisangani, unlike Kenya’s third President Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru cuts the image of an outgoing leader using goodies to convince the electorate to vote in Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga - his preferred contender in the upcoming polls.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta is using his bag of goodies as a campaign tool. He has demonstrated desperation to make Raila president and condemn William Ruto to political oblivion,” says Prof Edward Kisangani.

However, another political pundit Tom Mboya, disagrees. “President Uhuru’s timing of these activities is strategic and not suspect as many people would think. He wants to finish his tenure on his own terms so as not to be seen as a lame duck president like some have called him,” said Mboya.

Among recent beneficiaries of the president’s reach into his bag of treats is Lt Gen Peter Mbogo Njiru. The former Aide de Camp (ADC) to President Kenyatta, was on Wednesday sworn in after being promoted by to serve as the Commander of the Kenya Army.

He was promoted from the rank of Major General to Lieutenant General - a position previously held by Lt Gen Walter Koipaton Raria. Lt Gen Mbogo took over after Lt Gen Raria retired on completion of four years tour of duty.

His promotion also came a fortnight after he was awarded the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) commendation by the president.

On Tuesday, President Kenyatta was in Naivasha where he launched the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The groundbreaking of the SEZ set the stage for construction of six factories which would create jobs and advance the industrialisation agenda.

While chiding his deputy, Uhuru insisted that the SEZ was to complement other projects in the area such as the Inland Container Depot (ICD) and the Standard Gauge Railway line.

“We did that to attract investors who will create jobs for Kenyans. It is unfortunate that some people have the guts to stand before Kenyans and tell lies about these projects,” the president said.

Conferment of State honours has also dominated President Kenyatta’s last days in office; on July 13, some 328 Kenyans received top State honours, with 180 of them being civilians.

Key notables in the list were Uhuru’s nephew Jomo Gecaga and niece Nana Gecaga. Jomo, who has served as President Kenyatta’s personal secretary, was feted with the Moran of the Order of the Golden Heart (MGH).

Nana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), was awarded the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) alongside 31 others, including Stanley Kamau, the Director General of the Public Investments and Portfolio Management Directorate.

Others on the list included State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo, Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu, Supreme Court Judge Isaac Lenaola and Court of Appeal President Daniel Musinga. The four were among nine recipients of the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS).

Prior to the commendations, Uhuru named 142 to head boards of various State agencies. A majority of the appointments will run for three years meaning they will outlive Uhuru’s presidency. Then there is doling out of title deeds where his administration targets a million deeds before the lapse of his presidential term. In Samburu and Nairobi counties, the Commander-in-Chief has taken the opportunity to campaign for Azimio la Umoja One Kenya flag bearer Raila Odinga.

While in Nairobi’s Embakasi, Uhuru was garlanded by a host of leaders including former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and MP Babu Owino. He issued 6,000 title deeds. In Samburu, he said his administration had allotted 20,000 title deeds since 2018.

It is these appointments that Prof Kisiangani however has an issue with. “These appointments are a big tool by Uhuru to assure people that he is a good president and prove to them that once Raila gets into office, he will continue creating more jobs for the people, which might not be necessarily true.”

He said Uhuru is also using the appointments to show the beneficiaries of the same that should they vote for Ruto, they are going to be affected at a personal level given.

On the flip side, Mboya opines that Uhuru’s bag of goodies is not a campaign tactic but a deliberate attempt to safeguard his legacy.

“…the president wants his legacy to remain intact in the hearts and minds of Kenyans. Unlike his predecessors, he is exiting office fairly young meaning he will still be around and with this in mind, he wants to leave a positive mark even on those in positions of influence.”

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