Did former President Uhuru Kenyatta hold back too much of what is in his heart about the Kenya Kwanza government? Listening to his speech at the Jubilee National Delegates Conference (NDC) which at some point was punctuated by chants of “toboa, toboa” (spill the beans), it was evident that Uhuru’s repeated statements of “we are peaceful people” were loaded with deeper meaning.
The furthest Uhuru drove home the peace clarion is to say that even peaceful people deserve respect, adding that if people in government behave as thugs towards others they will also be treated with thuggish behaviour.
Uhuru’s statements were uttered with a degree of measured jokes and analogies revealing an unhappy man. One would wonder why he comes so close to saying what he feels and thinks but just holds back. Even when he defended himself saying “mimi sitaki kuongea” (I don’t want to speak) the crowd shouted back wanting him to say that which he was holding back. But he stuck to his word.
The one thing that came through the speech actually as a passing phrase is that he still wants a follow up on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). That tells a story by itself. A little bit of unfinished business in his mind.
Not that he did not want to complete it but the political storms of the time were against the initiative. So he has a beef with the current regime which, ironically, was anti-BBI but now is implementing it piecemeal beginning with the creation of the position of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.
Being the immediate former President, Uhuru is probably advised to take a back seat and watch the Kenya Kwanza government build its own image and ply whichever route it discerns. This advice is old school thinking much as it carries some wisdom.
In his judgment, the current government “ina matusi” (abuses others) portraying others as cowards. Said differently, the current government is directionless spending its time abusing opponents, stealing property and buying elected leaders against the law that the same government claims to uphold.
I do not know what the participants in the NDC wanted Uhuru atoboe. But given the tenor of the conference, the Jubilee members want to make a point to the Kenya Kwanza government. They want to revisit the question of who actually has majority in the National Assembly. They are unhappy with the way their members and others elected leaders under Azimio have blatantly violated the law to cross over to the government side.
The law is simple: If someone stops to advance the goals of the party through which they were elected, they cease to be members of that party, effectively sending them back to the electorate to decide a new. However, the very House that passes such laws is the very House that is upholding illegalities.
This is a war that Kalonzo Musyoka, speaking on the same forum, said the government must agree to right the wrong or else the bipartisan talks will collapse, effectively bringing back maandamano.
The delegates would have wanted to hear their party leader pronounce himself strongly on his position with the legitimacy of the current regime. His attempt to say that he knows a lot that he was not willing to say is precisely the point that drove home the understanding that he was being vague on this matter.
They also wanted him to invite the members to maandamano because that is what, according to the speakers, Kenyans are longing for. They want to carry sufurias like other Kenyans dissatisfied with the current regime a point firebrand Rachel Shebesh alluded to in her short speech.
Uhuru strengthened his party which was crumbling. But he chose to hold back his fangs when it mattered most. Both Jubilee and Azimio Coalition will benefit from a more engaged and hands-on Uhuru Kenyatta to advance the shrinking democratic space in the country. His ardent supporters want him on the frontline.
Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication