Anxiety as the nation awaits 'real' William Ruto in newlook regime

One particular irony here is that the Kenya Kwanza manifesto he later championed centres on five pillars (agriculture, MSMEs, housing, healthcare plus digital & creative) that essentially mirror, at least in overall structure, Uhuru's own Big Four and digital agendas, and his support for creatives.

There is definitely something to the idea that Kenya's transformation imperative is less about the "what", and much more about the "why" (before the "what") and the "how" (after the "what").

That is done and dusted. The election is over. Issues were more prominent this time around, but identity was still a vital part of the election-winning calculus. Now that the time for "campaigns in poetry" is over, Kenyans are watching expectantly for signs of how President Ruto "governs in prose". Let's pursue a thought experiment as we consider his "theory of government".

By theory of government, we mean the way to organise government to advance Project Kenya.

Before we go there, President Ruto is already confronted with the realities of our first-past-the-post, winner-takes-it-all electoral system. It is a challenging framework that probably works in more settled circumstances than Kenya's multi-national (ethnic) diversity. It is a zero-sum game with no safety net for the loser.

Welcome to our "we want to be in government" moment!

Not, "we wish to help you govern", or "we will offer you support as you lead".

It is a moment that reflects the nine most dangerous words in Kenyan political lexicon - "I'm in politics, so I must be in government". After all, it is necessary to be in government, because, as is said "it is too cold out there (on the streets)". For those unfamiliar with the language, the conventional wisdom is one is either "in government, or on the streets", with nothing in-between.

State vs markets

Consider this to be the "inclusion" baseline Dr Ruto faces as he crafts his own theory of government, while noting his visceral reaction to any suggestions concerning a "handshake".

President William Ruto (left) takes over from Uhuru Kenyatta during his swearing-in ceremony at Kasarani, Nairobi. [PSCU]

A final one on legislators. With a cushy pay package and potpourri of allowances and travel junkets, why would you still want to be on the "correct" side of the aisle? Might it be that being "in government" offers you easier AGPO - access to government procurement opportunities? Now that's a leadership theory of government that makes sense, in the name of "reaching out", right?

Executive appointments

The real place for this theory of government lies in the design of executive arrangements, including appointments. It is fair to observe that, as the first full-term national leader elected under our 2010 constitutional dispensation, President Uhuru milked this theory to its absolute limits.

He started off on a positive note with a well-designed organisation of government circular, and a comprehensive review of our state corporations. Very soon, ministries, departments and agencies were infested with all manner of consultants and advisors in lieu of long-serving civil servants.

By the time we got to his second term, we had the unusual innovation of chief administrative secretaries, and eventually use of the military to run civilian functions, even with a seat in the Cabinet. We had specialists such as the President's Delivery Unit, and super-committees for development. It seemed to matter little that several of these actions, including a host of parastatal appointments, were struck down by the courts. Clearly, they didn't like his fast-changing theory of government.

Notwithstanding these lessons, it will be interesting to see which of these arrangements President Ruto chooses to retain, or reform. Add to this new pressures from various ethnic delegations paying him homage to remind him that "we all want to be in government", plus demands from his own people. Do these delegations represent "we, the people?" Here are two final thoughts.

First, Kenyans deserve a government that delivers. While a legislative majority is key to getting this done, getting the Executive to work is the greater task. There's no point in passing the laws if implementation, execution and delivery continues to be a challenge that must still be outsourced.

What lesson could he take from Mwai Kibaki's success in transforming the public service inherited from President Moi? Empowerment is the word - set out goals, incentivize people, leave them to work and keep constant track of progress.

What lesson might he take from Uhuru's tougher experience? Recognition is the word - involve and don't ignore public servants, or replace them with outsiders.

Second, Kenyans deserve a country that works. This flows from the idea that government delivers and more. It works backwards from the needs of the people to the design of his government - what some call Government 2.0 - not as an inward-looking entity of the faceless and the forms, but as an outward-facing platform that engages and empowers the people as the ones "in government".

President Ruto's theory of government for Project Kenya begins tomorrow. It will start with the order and machinery of government in Circular No 1. Might it also be different? We are watching.