My sabbatical is over. I am back today, and every Friday as has been the case over the past decade. I took a six-month break from writing. I watched the post-electoral drama and final rapprochement between the two main rivals from the sidelines, merely as an editor trying his best to satisfy readers or while enjoying the village breeze.
It is from the sidelines that I witnessed, with my TV remote control in hand, the surprise handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his fiercest rival Mr Raila Odinga that dramatically changed the direction and vibe of our simmering political under-currents. One could say the handshake put our eyes on vive (Virtual Reality Beyond Imagination) as the young say of their new multi-dimensional movies.
It is from this vantage position that my reflections sprouted. It was watered by the serenity and innocence of the village where political discourse isn’t coated with pretensions we are a country that is rich in focus and is as innocent of corruption and tribalism bugs as The Netherlands. Here I gathered that it was unimaginable that the fate that befell three presidents hauled before the courts to face corruption charges, including that boisterous and unbridled bull Jacob Zuma, would happen in Kenya. Not today, maybe in a century after we’re all gone.
Why? It is simple, the definition of corruption down here is translated loosely as a smart career move (not a CLM – career limiting move!). It is a self-help effort by leaders to acquire, share a little and bolster their political lifeline. Money, wealth and power have an incestuous relationship and their symbiotic relationship is the fibre that makes every leader throb with energy, vigour and might.
So you would understand why my cousin told me to the face that Uhuru-Raila handshake must have come with mguu ya mbuzi (goat leg). It is unforeseeable to them that this can come out of a man embittered and who had sworn never to recognise Uhuru’s presidency, for free. It would also, they claim, have been so hard for Uhuru to warm his way into Raila’s heart!
Truckloads of cash, to soothe his ego and to repair the financial dent from the grueling campaigns, must have been silently flagged off towards the man’s home in Karen. That of course could in all likelihood be another of the political falsehoods that have an affinity with our ears, from the political rostrum. My take is that, and which his party mandarins have hinted and which has triggered Deputy President William Ruto’s flight-or-fight hormone, Tinga has been promised 2022 backing, with PM post as the icing on the cake.
But what is important is a pervasive feeling that with the handshake, ostensibly for unity’s sake, the Opposition has been turned into a political eunuch in the King’s court, but that the merchants of bad governance, looting, oppression and self-seeking, have finally found a position on the high-table without a single voice to disturb their gulp and munch of the national cake. The only fear remaining is that of choking, being caught, reprimanded or sidelined.
Then comes the next arduous task Uhuru and Raila must balance; political friendship and the usual check-and-balance relationship between the Government and the Opposition. Is it any wonder that thereafter only Senator James Orengo tried to remonstrate about certain excesses of Jubilee but quickly went silent?
As happened under President Kibaki and the nusu mkate (half-loaf) querulous government, Kenya suffers the most when there is no Opposition. This is because we quickly become a one-party state, devoid of the seven-bearded sisters of yesteryear, and then the door opens for what Metternich told disintegrating Europe in the 18th Century: “Everyone for himself (and herself) and God for us all!”.
The signs are there; the NYS angelet is cat-walking with her one-time tormentor. It is raining but Ndakaini Dam is not filling up. Electricity bills are soaring and we all know why but no one speaks. The ‘ghosts’ have their drinking straws in the national granary and no one bothers, probably those who should are also jostling for a vantage position to push theirs into the pot. In my county, FGM is back in full swing and even the wife of a chief who has been battling it, has gone for it and is recuperating at home.
There are worrying signs everywhere. That is the bitter after-taste of the handshake whose proponents argue is reuniting and healing Kenya’s torn social, economic and political fabric. This is, quite obviously, not what Uhuru and Raila intended. Luckily for Uhuru, he is in his last term. He should now move his hand to the gear stick and change the direction and pace of the vehicle called Kenya. Only then will the handshake have meaning.
Mr Tanui is Deputy Editorial Director and Managing Editor, The Standard
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