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Why Uhuru should be a ‘benevolent’ dictator to protect his legacy

By Abraham Talel | Feb 15th 2018 | 4 min read
Uhuru Kenyatta with Lillian Kwamboka as he sews disciplined forces uniforms at the National Youth Service (N.Y.S) Textile and Garment Technology Institute in Ruaraka, Nairobi [File, Standard]

‘What an Augean Stable: …. where does one begin? With the masses? Educate the masses? …. Not a chance there.  It would take centuries.  A handful of men at the top, or even one man with vision … an enlightened dictator. People are scared of the word nowadays. But what kind of democracy can exist side by side with so much corruption and ignorance?  Perhaps a half-way house, a sort of compromise.’

This is was true of Nigerian in the last three decades of the 20th century as it is true of Kenya presently. Chinua Achebe in No longer at Ease saying that Africa’s solution to leadership is in an “enlightened” dictator or a “benevolent” autocratic rule. He also observed that Africa’s democracy was not as pure as that in the US, but a compromised one, an “in-between” democracy and dictatorship.

The Singapore model

By using the words ‘enlightened dictator’ Achebe could as well have borrowed the word dictablanda in Spanish language which is used for dictatorship conserving some liberties and mechanisms of democracy. The analogy of shepherd and his sheep come to mind.

The shepherd has full control over his sheep and yet ensures that they get well pastured, watered and protected.  The dictator not only leads in the provisions of the public goods and services that transforms the society economically and socially, but also preserves the sovereignty of the state.

Two of the acclaimed benevolent dictators may fit in analyzing Kenya’s situation. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and France Albert-Rene of Seychelles. Yew implemented laws that were seen as dictatorial. He completely weakened the opposition and had a total grip of the country.

Yet it is in this environment of absolute control that he transformed Singapore from poor agrarian society into one of the richest and admired countries in the world. Albert Rene also ruled absolutely through his one – party in Seychelles yet he nearly eliminated poverty, created a universal health care system and brought national literacy rate to 90 per cent.

Kenya’s political situation is now in limbo. It is an ‘Augean Stable’. The 2010 Constitution introduced the winner-takes it all; it is the time for the winners to eat and the Opposition to salivate. Yet the Opposition is half of the country. How does one expect a country divided down the middle to move on? Jesus   warned us that a house divided against itself shall not stand.  Moreover, how do we expect the president to continue ruling as usual. The opposition is planning more street protest and calling for elections in August.

The deported ‘general’ of NRM Miguna Miguna   is planning to force himself back into the country. ‘The people’s ‘deputy President’, Kalonzo Musyoka is planning to swear himself in.  The opposition has broken the law with impunity. They have rubbished Article 2 of the Constitution. Illegality after illegality is committed in the name of democracy?


No, the Kenyan democracy has gone awry. It is like in the ‘Animal Farm’ where the animals agreed that ‘in fighting against man, they must not come to resemble him, live in a house or sleep on a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco or touch money, or engage in trade’. Yet in a short while, the faces of the pigs had changed to resemble man.  ‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to say which was which’.

The political solution lies in change of tack. The President needs to adopt a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship. Benevolence also means live and let live. Let the president allow amendments in the Constitution to create room for Leader of Official Opposition with watchdog institutions such as the Office of Ombudsman and EACC under him.

The President should rule with an iron-fist. He hould deal ruthlessly with tribal incitement, hate speech and tribalism in public service. Not forgetting corruption in all its forms.

Let him be magnanimous and promote equity in distribution of State resources. But let him clampdown on extreme dissenters and power hungry oppositionists; let there be one centre of power, and that centre is himself. Let him rule alone; not even with “with my brother William”. He has a duty to preserve and transform the nation. Ultimately, the buck stops with him alone.

Mr Talel, a former teacher is a businessman in Nairobi.

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