Mount Kenya people hankering for elusive quality political leadership

When Jubilee Party leader and former President Uhuru Kenyatta stormed the Party Headquarters after a faction tried to take over on April 26, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The people of Mount Kenya region seem to be lost in the wilderness of political identity, looking for a ‘Matiba’, but finding none. Although those who imagine themselves to be leaders are many, the Mountain is experiencing leadership poverty.

The source of this poverty is the collective loss of spiritual and cultural well-being; the neglect of the iregi injunctions and belief in basic human decency which guide the two principles of ugima and kihooto. While ugima is the ability to display maturity and proportionality after going through adult initiation rituals, kihooto is upholding sense of justice and fairness in everything.

Instead of exhibiting these qualities, supposed leaders compete to become super-rich by excelling in sycophancy and being pre-occupied with the crab mentality of pulling each other down. In doing so, leaders disillusioned the public with their greed, cowardly inclinations, and failure to observe ugima and kihooto. That public, having lost confidence in those claiming to be leaders, is in search of elusive quality leadership.

There is lamentation in the Mountain and several groups crop up claiming to lead, only to cut their legs. They rarely confront the origins of the collective predicament, which is failure to adhere to the ugima and kihooto principles. The failure, making people easy to manipulate in the spiritual and political arena, negatively affects the general wellbeing. In the spiritual arena, some of Kenya’s competing religious outfits have evil spirits. Religious bosses specialise in abusing faith, exploiting followers, quarreling over money or power and benefits.

Some are proxies for political power barons. In the name of religion, they tolerate cults, some of which encourage defiance of civil/parental authority and promote ignorance by discouraging good education. The unfolding disaster associated with the Malindi cult symbolises national spiritual decay and poverty in civic leadership. While the intelligence was available, the consumers of the intelligence were either irresponsible or lacked the requisite capacity to act.

Those who should know better appear to glorify ignorance and incompetence, which destroys the country in two ways. First, glorifying ignorance and incompetence discourages the pursuit of excellence because the youth can see that the country has downgraded learning through its inability to absorb trained youth and its contempt for teachers/professors. The country, claims former JKUAT VC Ratemo Michieka, is incapable of long-term thinking.

Second, glorification of ignorance intensifies underdevelopment by appointing incompetent cronies and relatives to positions they cannot handle. Various claims that the country was short-changed in incurring certain debts points to the incompetence of those entrusted with high positions. The public, seeing through such concocted incompetence despair and wonder what happened to kihooto or ugima. With supposed leaders having no answers, the lamentation increases.  

Those aspiring to become leaders, captive to either Raila Odinga or William Ruto's political whims, leave people in the political wilderness. Some, taking people for fools, are guilty of knowingly misleading the public. They show they lack ugima, do not believe in kihooto and therefore cannot be trusted. They did or do that partly because they are scared of appearing to question their supposed boss. Irrespective of the camp that they find themselves in, each is terrified of being free to offer alternative thoughts just in case the leader gets offended; the sceptical public can see it.

Not being credible, they seemingly enjoy being noisy cheerleaders for their respective captains. They subsequently are incapable of being independent or of generating and restoring the lost trust. In the meanwhile, the people of the Mountain wait for a leader to emerge. Since the occasion has not presented itself, they anxiously remain in the wilderness of political identity.