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Why the next Kenyan president might become a dictator

By Babere Kerata Chacha | May 9th 2022 | 2 min read
By Babere Kerata Chacha | May 9th 2022
Presidential debate 2017 at Catholic University on July 24, 2017. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Over the weekend, I saw DP William Ruto publicly chewing sugarcane at a public rally in Busia while inviting leaders to speak to the people. That was a creative idea and perhaps a way of embracing the Luhyia way of life and, certainly, a good campaign technique. In normal circumstances, however, do the people of western Kenya eat sugarcane like that? Or does cane eating require less disturbance and privacy? Can Dr Ruto eat the cane outside campaign platforms?

Right now Ruto and Azimio presidential aspirants Raila Odinga are managing their images because they are persuading Kenyans to vote them. Their true characters will only emerge after they have been handed the instruments of power. At the moment, they are showing us their public face- their ability to create rapport with the common people. During campaigns, we hear them promising us good things and criticising their opponents.

But my argument here is that the next Kenyan president could be very brutal. Brutal not because of his choice, but as a result of the environment he will be operating under.

The way we have handled the Presidency and in particular how we have treated Uhuru Kenyatta in public, which has seen his position relegated to an emblem of ridicule, and how we generally handle the transition would create a next monster president. In Kenyan history, we have never witnessed the humiliation and scorn of a president as we have in this era. All these is as a result of experimenting advanced constitutions on young democracies like Kenya. We have abused our rights and privileges.

I have previously said here that Uhuru is man under siege; from his own deputy, his own ministers and even kinsmen. But I can say without fear of contradiction that Uhuru is a gentleman because of the way he has handled criticism, disrespect and insults. He would have easily detained people, jailed some and even sacked many. But he has remained calm amidst all these. 

However, I think no future president will accept this kind of treatment without stamping their authority or even seeking to change the Constitution in order to have sustained power unto themselves.

By the way, dictators are created. They have indeed arisen among prosperous, educated and cultured people. But it is the public that creates them. Kenyans are increasingly becoming difficult and politically agile citizens. As Moi predicted, the next Kenyan president will have it rough.

This is why I think the next president could turn authoritarian. To begin with, Kenya is going into a most expensive and highly contested election under difficult economic times. Bad economic moments can easily cause crises with dangerous political consequences. To lead people, a leader would not be diplomatic.

In hard times, many leaders often support terrible things that would be unthinkable in good times - runaway government spending, high taxes, more conflicts, inflation and economic collapse.

Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University

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