President Uhuru Kenyatta sat by and watched his Mt Kenya bastion slip away

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) virtual special summit at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

When President Kenyatta ascended to power in 2013, one thing was crystal clear. He was the undisputed kingpin of Mt Kenya region. He bestrode the region like a colossus casting his influence over the entire region. His word was law and those who went against him paid a heavy political price.

Ten years down the lane, he casts an image of a dejected leader forlornly staring in the face of unprecedented rejection in his Mt Kenya region.

He has failed, terribly, in his succession politics; Mt Kenya voters responded with an emphatic "NO!" to his pleas to them to support his favourite presidential candidate; former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and overwhelmingly supported Mr Kenyatta's erstwhile bosom friend turned nemesis-Deputy President William Ruto.

This they did notwithstanding his repeated warnings against election of his perceived rogue deputy.

While it might be argued that President Kenyatta is a peace crusader and a conscientious kingpin who fell prey to the thankless nature of his people, I find him more of an architect of his own misfortune than a victim of betrayal. It is a case of a spider entangled in its own web.

Let me explain.

For starters, political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli advises that a prudent leader shouldn't keep his word if doing so works against his interests. To walk away with it, Machiavelli notes that the leader must be foxy and a good liar.

President Kenyatta's breaking of his promise to his deputy - to support the Raila's presidential bid - wasn't a big deal, failing to convince his people of the necessity of his betrayal was!

As President Kenyatta relished in his new found union with Raila after the handshake of March 2018, his beleaguered deputy; a perfect courtier, unrelentingly beguiled Mt Kenya voters - playing the loyal deputy that fell victim to the president's treachery.

He kept a close touch with the president's people, fundraising for their schools, churches, women and youth groups and eventually warmed himself into their hearts. While this happened, the President remained aloof and unreachable.

Tax burden

Secondly, President Kenyatta's unrivalled infrastructural development track record and his fight against counterfeit goods; something that should have won him praises among his people achieved the contrary.

The former was achieved through heavy internal and external borrowing, the repercussions of which was increased tax burden on Kenyans as well as unbearable cost living! The latter saw disruption and closure of many businesses.

With many of those affected being people from Mt Kenya region, this didn't sit well with them. Dominated by frustrations, the people fell prey to President Kenyatta's detractors and their duplicitous narratives against the President and they hit back through the 2022 protest votes.

Thirdly, President Kenyatta had qualms with accepting good advice and positive criticism. Any leader who told the president unpalatable truth offended him and was dealt with ruthlessly.

When the then-Senate Majority Whip, Irungu Kang'ata, wrote letter warning the president against the unpopularity of the contentious Building Bridges Initiative, the president dismissed him and apparently orchestrated his removal from the office.

Other Mt. Kenya leaders who criticised the president faced his wrath, leaving them to seek refuge in his deputy's camp and unrelentingly worked towards Kenyatta's downfall.

This left the president surrounded by fawners who couldn't tell him that his deputy's political overtures in the region were having a great sway on the people.

In the end, President Kenyatta was isolated, outflanked, outmanoeuvred and had to helplessly watch as his deputy pulled the carpet from under his feet! When all is said and done, history will be harsh to President Kenyatta.

It will judge him as a political chess master who couldn't read the signs leading to his inglorious exit from political arena.

Mr Mwangi is a public administration and policy analyst. [email protected]