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When a ruler surrenders instruments of State to hangers on, tragedy is never far

By | Apr 25th 2009 | 4 min read

Barrack Muluka

Under different circumstances, leading lawyers like Gibson Kamau Kuria would today ask for legal mechanisms to be put in motion to show that President Kibaki can still continue being relied upon to steer the ship of State.

They would invoke the Constitution to enquire into the wellness and ability of the national CEO. They would seek to know that it is safe to continue trusting him with the heavy, sensitive and critical responsibility of Office of President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya.

But Kibaki is not Daniel arap Moi. People like Kamau Kuria and others know why they were very vocal against Moi. They know why they say nothing on Mzee Kibaki’s atrophied presidency. Instead they praise him, even as the country hurtles most dangerously on Destruction Highway.

But history shows that this is how it has always been with societies that will self-destruct. They have a sleepy, slow and laid back incumbent who quietly surrenders the instruments of State to his courtiers and hangers on. As the nation dithers on Destruction Highway, he is conspicuously missing in action. Only occasionally does he peep outside his hideout to mutter some irrelevant things while the nation slowly smoulders in what will presently become a full-blown inferno.

When France was gravitating towards the apocalypse of revolution in the late 1780s, Louis XVI was an absent-minded, slow and laid back Head of State and Government. He squandered valued time in making door locks and experimenting with guns and chasing after wild animals in the jungle. When he was not doing this, he would be sampling fine wines in the Palace at Versailles, while the spoilt Queen Marie Antoinette massaged his feet. Or he would simply be wallowing in perfumed bathtubs, completely oblivious of the storm building outside. Even when the custodians of public opinion raised the red flag, the drowsy King Louis XVI took no notice. In the proper order of time, France paid the price. But Louis XVI also paid his price, with his head, as did the spoilt Queen.

Elsewhere in Russia, King Nicholas II had for all practical purposes and intents surrendered the country into the hands of his spoilt Queen, Tsarina Alexandria and Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. Rasputin, also known as the Mad Monk, doubled up as the queen’s not-so-secret lover and magic maker. Nicholas would in the proper order of time be forced to abdicate from the throne in May 1917. His reign saw Russia degenerate from one of the greatest powers of the times to an economic and military disaster. Historians have told of how the Bolsheviks ended the Romanov Dynasty with the weakly Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov as the last emperor. The country paid a heavy price.

Weak leaders are bad for any country. And President Kibaki is clearly not a strong willed leader. The religious fraternity has recently ventilated its exasperation with what it calls ‘a moribund president’. What they are saying is simply that the President is not in charge of the affairs of State. At any rate, he does not behave like one who is in charge. President Kibaki leaves you wondering what the presidency is about.

Ugandans are flying their flag on Kenyan soil and the President thinks this is just a practical joke. They tamper with beacons in West Pokot and the President’s voice is missing. Goons slaughter dozens of Kenyans in Gathiathi village and the President is missing in action. Kenyatta University goes up in flames under the charge of hopelessly flawed leadership and the President is nowhere.

The country is in the throes of a frightening constitutional crisis and the President sees nothing wrong with this. We have no electoral commission and no voters’ registers. If this presidency were to fall vacant in the present circumstances the country would burn. But the President is doing nothing to correct this absurdity, which in the first place he should never have allowed.

Make no mistake. The country is in a free fall. The electoral commission collapsed. The Judiciary is tottering on the brink of collapse. The Cabinet has collapsed. At its very best; it is a Tower of Babel. The presidency is ailing and crumbling. The only institution that can save Kenya is Parliament. But Parliament is ailing and facing imminent paralysis. For all its avarice and allied weaknesses, the Tenth Parliament must not be allowed to collapse. A presidency in atrophy requires other organs of State must take leadership. It is on the shoulders of the Speaker Kenneth Marende that the load of saving Kenya rests.

He must begin by saving Parliament. He must not let Parliament collapse. He must ensure there is a Leader of Government Business in the House next week and that this leader is not some whimsical self-seeking opportunist or turncoat who cannot be trusted with the reforms that Parliament must undertake, beginning now. Parliament for its part needs to move swiftly with the reform programme and to lead the way in Agenda Four of the National Peace and Reconciliation Accord.

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Burying your head in the sand, Mr President, won’t solve the impasse
Where are you Mr President? The other day you said no one will deter you and the Prime Minister from the course you are charting for the nation. Whatever course that is; it has paralysed Parliament from carrying out its duties. From the high seat in State House, just point to the direction the country should be taking.
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