How constitution, Covid-19 have hurt Uhuru's presidency

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his remarks during the signing of the National Digital Masterplan at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

This year marks the end of Uhuru Kenyatta's presidency. For many historians, it is too soon to estimate his place in Kenyan historiography and as such, most will hesitate to write about it. He has had the most controversial and misunderstood term of office.

Against the backdrop of increased criticism of his incumbency, it is a perfect time to reevaluate his performance. This is happening at a time the nation is healing from the vagaries of a global pandemic, political turmoil, uncertainty and economic recess.

Conversely, Kenya is in an era of enlightenment featuring democracy, free social media, enthusiasm and hope for many. In other words, Uhuru's decade at the helm should be understood against this background of a generation of ideas and optimism.

To me, Uhuru emerges from the climate of comparative disfavour to which the passing time temporarily condemns him for all the ills and woes that have afflicted Kenyans; when the very machinery of the economy seems to have come to a stop and a sense of depression settling on our major urban areas - a condition that may be found in a beleaguered country in time of crises. For me, there are three major issues that have been placed on his shoulders but have had nothing to do with him, yet shaped his presidency.

One, in 2010, Kenya adopted a dream constitution that has had massive support from the global West. However, this constitution stripped off the rights and powers enjoyed by the presidency, making Uhuru's presidency vulnerable. The Constitution has thus consumed, captured and tamed the man and rendered him a helpless victim.

Second, Kenya's economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19, which has severely affected incomes and jobs. A crisis compounded by corruption, climate change, and poor rains. Uhuru bore much of the blame in the minds of the Kenyan people. The fact that trade and travel were particularly disrupted means that key foreign currency earners such as agriculture and tourism were impacted directly. I feel that it has been unfair to equate these eventualities to Uhuru's mismanagement of the economy and Jubilee failures.

Third, Uhuru's presidency was further dampened by his deputy who led a coup against Kenyatta's state, or rather a mutiny. Again, framers of the 2010 Constitution created a controversial office of the presidency and that of his deputy. I believe, no one at that time, including the framers themselves, had a clear vision of what the outcome of this would have had on the president as a symbol of national unity.

Uhuru is today leaving office without having enjoyed or oozing power as Moi did. His words no longer carry the sanctity they ought to have. The symbolic power of the presidency was no longer devoted to the preservation of the nation's collective memory but rather an emblem of ridicule. If we proceed like this, the next president will be much weaker.

-Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University